Guide to Turkish Food

March 17, 2012 | Author: | Posted in Travel for Foodies

Turkish food is far more varied and delicious than the late night offerings from UK kebab shops would have you believe. Don’t get me wrong: there are some great restaurants offering Turkish fare, but if you really want a taste of true Turkish food you’re going to have to start looking for flights to Bodrum.

Of all the Eastern European cuisines, Turkish food has been noted as being the most delicious: most likely due to the rich, cultural heritage of Turkey and the abundance of fresh and delicious ingredients from the land and the sea.

It’s fairly easy these days to find cheap flights to Turkey, although if you’re really passionate about what you eat you could pay a little more and fly with Turkish Airlines who recently came top in a survey of the best airline food.

The heritage of Turkish food lies in the cuisine of the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman’s realm stretched across the Middle East, Europe and Central Asia: and each of these regions has influenced the Turkish food that we see today. Arabic favourites of falafel, mezze, and hummus grace Turkish tables whilst Mediterranean vegetables like courgettes, aubergines and tomatoes provide the perfect accompaniment to fish freshly caught in the Aegean Sea.

As Turkey is predominantly Muslim, you are very unlikely to find pork on the menu anywhere. The meats you can expect to encounter are lamb (“the basic meat of the Turkish kitchen”), beef, chicken and fish. In Istanbul you’ll encounter breathtakingly fresh fish dishes due to the proximity of the city to both the Aegean Sea and the Sea of Marmara. The freshly landed seafood is often simply seasoned, with locally grown lemons and olive oil from the vast groves of Western Turkey.

In Turkey you will hear the word ‘kebab’ often: but cast asunder any prejudices you may have of chilli sauce soaked greasy d­­öner meat. In the Anatolia region of Turkey, extreme pride is taken over kebabs with each region having their own special version. To put it simply, in Turkey a ‘kebab’ simply means grilled and seasoned meat (either with or without a skewer).

Kebabs range from the familiar ‘?i?’ kebab, skewered meat grilled over an open flame, to the more exotic Alinazik kebab from the Gaziantep region. Alinazik kebab features grilled baby lamb, sat atop a bed of smoked and spiced aubergine puree.

Vegetarians need not worry about what to eat in Turkey: many main courses are meat free and the selection of fresh, ripe and juicy Mediterranean vegetables will be enough to tingle even the most dedicated carnivore’s palette. Stuffed vegetable dolmas, fried aubergine and pepper with yoghurt sauce, and of course the famous dish Imam Biyildi (“the holy man has fainted”).

Turkish desserts are a delight: again, there is a heavy influence from the Middle East with firm favourites helva and baklava appearing on many menus. If you’re visiting Turkey during Ramadan you might be lucky enough to sample some Güllaç: phyllo dough layers soaked in milk and rosewater then sprinkled with chopped walnuts and pomegranate seeds.

Put simply, the cuisine of Turkey needs to be sampled to be believed.

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