The most important ingredients of Turkish cuisine24/10/2022
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If you are a traveler who enjoys trying different cuisines on your travels, you can find many delicious special tastes in every corner of the world. However, Turkey, where every province and even almost every district stands out with its unique dishes, is perhaps one of the countries with the richest gourmet routes in the world.
The food of Turkey, rooted in hundreds of years of tradition and steeped in rich historical and cultural heritage, is one of the reasons why millions of tourists plan return trips to experience more. It is easy to find a dish to suit every type of palate in Turkish cuisine, which bears deep traces from each period of Anatolia, the geography of civilizations. Of course, it is difficult to choose ten dishes from such a rich cuisine, but there are some tastes that every local and foreign tourist must try.
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When it comes to Turkey’s famous dishes, of course it is impossible not to mention kebab, as almost every city has at least one type of kebab. Although there are thousands of different types of kebabs in the Middle East, Turkey is the representative of kebab in both local and international markets. Adana kebab, perhaps the most well-known of the hundreds of kebab varieties, has a special place among Turkey’s traditional dishes.
Adana kebab, which is best served with lamb, is prepared with salt and pepper, cooked over charcoal fire, barbecued and served with a special pita bread and sumac onions. The soft minced meat melts in the mouth and the flavours of the accompanying delicacies slowly blend with the meat, offering perhaps one of the most enjoyable kebab eating experiences in the world.
The most popular type of ravioli in Turkish cuisine is Kayseri ravioli, which you can find with different names and in different forms in many different cultures from Chinese to Italian cuisine. One of the most important features of Kayseri manti, which requires a little more effort than other types, is its size. So much so that in Kayseri, it was once believed that young women who could not fit 40 manti grains on a spoon could not get married.
One of Turkey’s most famous dishes, ravioli is served with a sauce of spices and butter poured over yoghurt with garlic or plain yoghurt, depending on your preference. The types of ravioli prepared using various cooking techniques in different regions such as Sinop, Thrace, Çorum and Nevşehir are also worth trying.
One of Turkey’s most famous dishes, lahmacun takes its name from the Arabic word “lahm bi ajin”, which means “dough with meat”. Lahmacun, also known as Turkish pizza, has gained an indispensable place on everyone’s table thanks to the Turkish food restaurants and kebab shops that have opened in all cities, especially in the last 50 years, after being consumed in eastern Turkey for centuries. Gaziantep and Şanlıurfa are among the cities most associated with this special dish, which is cooked in a stone oven and has a crispy taste thanks to its unique blend of spices.
Baklava, which is popular in Turkey as well as in the Middle East, the Balkans and South Asia, can be produced with many different ingredients. One of the most preferred ones is baklava with pistachios, the symbol of Gaziantep cuisine. After years of heated debates about its origins, the EU Commission has certified that baklava is a delicacy unique to Turkish cuisine. The pistachio baklava produced in Gaziantep is so famous not only because of the variety of pistachios used, but also because of the special syrup that makes a difference with its consistency.
Like kebab, meatballs are another Turkish dish with hundreds of varieties. İzmir meatballs, Tekirdağ meatballs and Trabzon Akçaabat meatballs are among the first ones that come to mind among the meatball varieties where almost every city has its own unique recipe.
In Izmir, meatballs are prepared and served with potatoes and peppers in addition to its unique sauce, and are known for being cooked in the oven. Tekirdağ meatballs are cooked on the grill and served with beans, onions, olive oil, lemon and piyaz prepared with onion, olive oil and lemon and local hot sauce. The minced meat of Akçaabat meatballs is prepared with forearm meat, rib meat, tripe oil and kidney oil of calves raised naturally in the region and cooked in stoves heated with charcoal.
Hünkâr beğendi is a palace dish that has survived from Ottoman cuisine and is meticulously prepared and served in homes and some restaurants.
Eggplant, which came to Europe from the new continent with the discovery of America, is an important ingredient in this dish. The dish also has a colourful story. According to the story, hünkâr beğendi emerged as an accidental synthesis of two cuisines during the famous meeting between Sultan Abdülâziz, one of the innovative Ottoman sultans, and the French Empress Eugenie. The cooking of the eggplant is as important as the type of meat used in the preparation of the dish. This delicious dish, which is prepared by cooking and adding lamb meat seasoned with various spices to a puree of roasted eggplant paste, milk and flour, is one of the symbolic tastes of Turkish cuisine.
Olive oil wraps are another important legacy of Ottoman cuisine and a dish identified with the Aegean region, which is also known as the olive warehouse of Turkey. Olive oil wraps are prepared by wrapping vine leaves in a filling made of rice and various spices. Although grape leaves are usually used, there are other types of olive oil wraps prepared with different tree leaves. In addition, although the olive oil-based version comes to the forefront, leaf rolls with meat are also frequently made and consumed with love. One of the most special examples is the one prepared with cherry leaves in Malatya.
One of the indispensable tastes of Ramadan tables, pita bread is widely consumed not only in Turkey but also in many parts of the former Ottoman geography, especially in the Middle East and the Balkans. Pide, which sometimes replaces bread, is served alongside many popular dishes such as Adana kebab, Iskender and döner. However, there are also pita types that can replace a meal on their own, such as Trabzon pita. Just like meatballs, it is possible to come across different types of pita prepared with various ingredients in different regions of our country.
The dough of Trabzon pita, also known as Black Sea pita, one of Turkey’s most famous dishes, is rolled out like a pizza, topped with delicious Trabzon cheese and placed in a wood-fired oven. Optionally, an egg is cracked on top when it is close to being cooked or when it is taken out of the oven. You should definitely taste the pleasure of bursting the yolk of the egg in the middle of the Trabzon pita bread and eating the cheese melting in the heat.
Doner and Iskender
Like kebabs, doner and Iskender are among the leading ambassadors of Turkish cuisine abroad. Although Kastamonu and Bursa are at odds over the origins of döner, Bursa, the home of Iskender kebab, stands out as the city where you can taste the best of both döner and Iskender kebab in Turkey.
Prepared by skewering meat mixed with suet and well-seasoned spices and serving it at the end of a long cooking time, doner is named differently depending on the type of meat used and the way it is served. Served with condiments, tomatoes and greens, doner is also sometimes served between bread. Known as a Turkish “fast food”, doner between bread is popular not only in Turkey but also all over the world.
Döner is one of the main ingredients of Iskender kebab, which originated in Bursa in the mid-1800s. Iskender kebab is distinguished from doner kebab by the butter sauce added on top, the yoghurt served with it, the pita bread placed under the meat and the special tomato sauce. From the raising of the animals from which the meat is obtained to the presentation of the meat on the plate, a meticulous care is taken at many important stages, making the Iskender kebab even more delicious. Whatever the reason for your visit to Bursa, we recommend you to taste this delicious dish, which has an unshakable place among the traditional dishes of Turkey, at the historical Iskender kebab shops.
Turkish delight, which has dozens of different varieties depending on the ingredients used in its production, is also known as the traditional accompaniment of Turkish coffee. It is also one of the flavours most associated with Turkey all over the world. This is because Turkish delight was introduced to Europe as “Turkish delight” by British travellers in the 18th century.
Originating from the Persian word “rahat’l-hulkum”, which means “relieving the throat”, the dessert is prepared in almost every region of Turkey with region-specific touches. In terms of recipe and ingredients, Turkish delight from different regions have different consistencies and tastes. For example, the pistachio Turkish delight you will eat in Gaziantep has a harder consistency than the others, while Isparta’s rose Turkish delight is soft, and Afyon Turkish delight is differentiated from its counterparts with a slightly creamier consistency and less sugar.
The diversity of Turkish cuisine is a result of Anatolia’s thousands of years of history and cultural accumulation. Although there are many similar dishes, small regional touches can help you experience dozens of different tastes on a trip to any city in Turkey.