Turkish cuisine is one of the true glories of the country. Yet Turkey has no real ‘signature’ theme such as the Italian ‘pasta’ or the Spanish ‘Paella’. Instead, you’ll find a rich and diverse array of dishes, all combined in feast-like meals.
Perhaps the most famous of Turkey’s cuisine is meze, the famous selection of h’ors doevres offering a huge choice of delicious dishes from spicy meatballs, feta cheese, olives and air-dried anchovies to phyllo pies, baked figs with oregano, small egg dishes and garlicky yogurt with dried apricots. All washed down with some great Turkish wine.
Another favourite export is the kebab, a succulent combination of grilled lamb and vegetables usually served with Turkish bread pilafs and ayran (a buttermilk drink).
The coastal location has lead to an appreciation for fish and seafood such as the mussel – deep fried or poached – and octopus. Delicacies such as these can be sampled in many of the fisherman’s taverns along the coastlines of the Black Sea, Marmara Sea, the Aegean and the Mediterranean.
But there’s far more to Turkish food than meze and kebabs. The country boasts an abundance of foodstuffs thanks to its wealth of flora and fauna and its marked regional differentiation. And Turkey’s unique position at the crossroads of the Far-East and the Mediterranean has bestowed upon the country a rich and varied repertoire of dishes which can be prepared and combined with other dishes in meals of extraordinary variety.
Dolma and Sarma (stuffed and wrapped vegetables) are firm favourites, as are warming soups made with lentils and Ottoman spring rolls with cheese and potatoes. Delicious stews with meat and vegetables are served with rice, and juicy lamb chops and kofte are simple yet unforgettable treats. Tempting pilafs are created with chicken, fish and a medley of vegetables, and are usually served with ayran or cacik (an iced soup of cucumber and yogurt). And don’t miss Borek - a plain or raised dough made from egg, milk, yogurt, oil and flour with a delicious filling of meat, cheese, vegetables and herbs.
Then there are the deserts. Most puddings are pastry-based and sweet and sticky with lashings of syrup, honey and sprinkled with nuts. Look out for Baklava, Lokma, Tulumba Tatlisi, Kadayif and Kunefe.