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Some say that the greatness of a country is also measured by its cuisine. I don’t know if that’s true, but if that were the case, Turkey would be infinite. Typical Turkish cuisine is said to be one of the most important cuisines in the world, and now I’ll tell you why.
The History of Turkish Cuisine
The Turkish peninsula includes in its history, the passage of some of the most important civilizations. Akkadians, Hittites, the Persian Empire that lost control of the territory in favor of the great Alexander the Great. Greeks and Romans also influenced this territory, and thanks to the latter the Byzantine Empire was created which fell at the hands of the Mongols and the Turkish population of the Seljuks, giving life to the most prosperous Turkish Empire: the Ottoman Empire.
It is precisely during these 623 years of reign that Turkey expanded its borders from the Balkans to North Africa, becoming a prominent commercial port, so much so that it rivaled Venice. Incorporating so many territories and cultures, a large number of different ingredients spread, including those from the Americas. Thanks to so many cultural and gastronomic diversity, Turkish cuisine has at its disposal various ingredients such as tomatoes, aubergines, meat, green peppers, garlic, onions, beans, yogurt and the wheat used for various preparations. In addition to them there are a large number of spices sold in the bazaars including parsley, cumin, black pepper, dill, paprika, mint, oregano and thyme. The abundance of so much variety gave life to a varied, refined, complex cuisine rich in many dishes, that is to say the Typical Turkish Cuisine.
The Diversity of Typical Turkish Cuisine
As in many other states, Typical Turkish Cuisine is diversified according to the products available in the area:
- In Istanbul, the old Ottoman traditions are still present which also contain Jewish and Christian influences. However, being a large city, ancient traditions coexist with the advent of modernity. There are many international and national fast food restaurants, and many restaurants from the various cuisines of the world.
- In the south where the country overlooks the Aegean Sea, the Mediterranean Sea and the Sea of Marmara, we find a diet very similar to the Mediterranean diet with lots of fruit and vegetables, aromatic fish and little meat.
- To the south-east towards the mountain area, cereals and dairy products are widespread.
- On the Arab border, we have a large use of meat of various types, except pork (this is all over the country) for religious reasons. Here we find dishes such as Kebap, Lahmacum, various types of meatballs such as Kofta. Despite the low use of oil we have a greasy cuisine that has only recently introduced vegetables in addition to tomatoes and aubergines.
- The center of the town is arid and the diet is based on cereals, wild plants, legumes, dried fruit, poppy seeds and sesame. Concentrated fruit juices are particularly popular.
- In the Black Sea area, on the other hand, we have ingredients such as dried apricots, anchovies, cabbage and pickled vegetables, giving rise to very unusual combinations.
Typical Turkish Dishes
Turkey has many typical dishes. Many of them are now known all over the world as the Kebap in all its variations, the various types of Kofta (meatball) which can be of meat or lentils or the Musakka of eggplant, couscous and many others. Of course, even among the desserts there are now known delights such as Baklava, Tulumba or Helva. But of course there are many other lesser-known typical dishes outside Turkey that are just as delicious. Here are some of them:
- Lahmacun: Turkish pizza is defined, thin bread dough with sheep or beef, spices and vegetables all finely chopped and can be spicy or not. Mainly served as a snack.
- Pide: It is an oval-shaped pasta and stuffed in various ways: minced meat with tomatoes, onions, spices or cheese and spinach etc.
- Mantı: pasta filled with meat, similar in appearance to the Italian tortellino, but larger.
Among the desserts there are
- Su Muhallebisi: Pudding similar to Muhallebi, but a part of the water is replaced by water and the thickener used is starch.
- Keşkül: almond milk based pudding.
- Sütlaç: rice pudding.
- Lokum: small sweets reminiscent of jelly cubes made with sugar and starch, flavored in various ways, orange blossom, rose water, pistachios etc.
Typical Turkish Cuisine, also includes many typical drinks. The most consumed Turkish drink is definitely water, followed by tea which is consumed in large quantities by the entire population. It is prepared using a special technique called Samovar. The tea produced with this technique is very thick, so it is diluted with a little water and served in glass glasses.
Its consumption has exceeded that of the famous coffee for about thirty years.
Turkish coffee is prepared in the Cevze, where it is boiled. It’s a very dense unfiltered coffee that needs a moment before being consumed in order to allow the dust to settle on the bottom. Syrups in water and fresh fruit juices are also widely consumed, but you can also find other typical drinks:
- Ayran: Also consumed during meals, it is a fresh drink, consisting of yogurt diluted in water with the addition of salt.
- Boza: Hot drink, particularly dense, produced by the fermentation of wheat, served with a sprinkling of cinnamon.
- Salep: Cappuccino-like drink, prepared with orchid root flour, served hot sprinkled with ground cinnamon.
Typical Turkish Meal Customs
- The Turkish Breakfast consists of salty and sweet foods such as honey, tomatoes, eggs, jams, cheeses, Sucuk (typical spiced sausage) etc. The drink consumed is the Cay tea. In rural areas, as in the past, breakfast consists of a soup.
- Lunch is usually a quick and not very abundant meal as it is consumed during the work break.
- Dinner, on the other hand, is the most abundant meal of the day as it brings together all family members.
Turkish meals are served and consumed in two different ways, both of which often coexist in the customs of all families.
The most recent is the “franga” method introduced in the fourteenth century, which consists of sitting on chairs at a high table, in the Western manner. It is mostly used in cities rather than in the countryside. The food is served on plates to each diner, and the classic cutlery is used except for the knives that are never placed on the table.
Then there is the so-called “Turkish” method or sitting on the ground at a low table called Sofra, or around a large tray placed on a tablecloth that will be used both as a tablecloth and a napkin. The courses are all placed in the center and each diner serves himself with forks and spoons or using the bread as a cutlery. The peculiarity of this method is that it does not have a limit of diners since chairs are not used.
The Order of Meals
According to the Turkish tradition, the meal begins with a çorba or a soup. There are many, such as tarhana, prepared with yogurt, flour and dried vegetables, mercimek çorbasi or red lentil soup. After the soup we move on to the Meze or the correspondent of our appetizer. There are an infinity of meze, they can be hot but above all cold. Among these small dishes we find chickpea hummus, patlican salatası or a cream of eggplant, simple salads but also dolma and sarma or vine leaves and vegetables stuffed with rice and meat like the Greek ones. Fried vegetables, meat and fish preparations can also be served and on some occasions the meal can be composed exclusively of Meze.
The first course can be a dish based on meat, fish or pasta. Rice is served as a side dish as in oriental countries or cooked and served with fish, meat and / or vegetables. Finally, there are the desserts which are a very important part of this cuisine and are truly appreciated worldwide. Just think of Baklava or puff pastry soaked in honey or syrup and stuffed between each layer with finely chopped dried fruit, künefe prepared with kadaifi dough or kataifi pasta (pasta made like very thin spaghetti) filled with sweet cheese. Milk-based desserts such as Muhallebi are very popular. Contrary to what one might think, the meal ends with tea and not coffee. The çay is the most consumed and is drunk periodically throughout the day.
The history and dishes of typical Turkish cuisine make this country truly a country to be discovered and savored, discover its flavors in the dedicated section!