Quick Guide to Turkish Cuisine

In a world of frozen food, tinned food and "steak and chips" the Turkish cuisine undoubtedly holds a place of its own. This cuisine is resisting the encroachment of fast food both in the domestic setting and restaurants. The broad spectrum foodways of the cosmopolitan Ottoman Empire stretching from the Balkans to North Africa, combined with the traditional cooking techniques of the Turks going back long centuries, gave rise to a fascinating and richly diverse synthesis.


Coming in a wide variety, these may be light, or rich and substantial They are generally based on meat stock and served at the start of the meal Lentil soup is the most common and best loved variety


Generally made of rice, but also of bul gur (cracked wheat) and sehriye (vermi celli), pilaf is one of the mainstays of the Turkish table. The rice should not be sticky but separate into individual grains. The pilaf may include aubergines, chick peas, beans or peas. Although pilaf is tra ditionally a course in its own right, in recent years it has appeared as a garnish with meat and chicken dishes at many restaurants.


Thinly rolled pastry, often the paper thin variety known as yufka, is wrapped around vari ous savory fillings or arranged in layers . The myriad types of borek are unmatched delicacies when cooked to perfection. Boreks can be fried, baked, cooked on a griddle or boiled. Traditionally it was said that no girl should marry until she had mastered the art of borek making. Preferred fillings are cheese, rninced meat, spinach and pota toes. In the form of rolls filled with cheese or minced meat mix tures and fried, boreks are known as sigara (cigarette) boregi. Boreks should be light and crisp, without a trace of excess oil.


Slices of marinated lamb on a tall vertical spit and grilled as it slowly turns are delicious. The cooked parts of the cone of meat are cut in very thin slices by a huge sword-like knife, and arranged on a plate with Ace or flat pide (pitta) bread. This dish is the most formidable obstacle to the victory of the hamburger in the fast food market. Doner kebap in rolls with slices of pick le and chips is the most common stand-up lunch for city office workers.


The diverse koftes of all shapes and sizes are a culinary world of their own. Finely minced meat mixed with spices, onions and other ingredients is shaped by hand, and grilled, fried, boiled or baked. Koftes are named according to the cooking method, g ingredients or shape. Plump oval kofte dipped in egg and fried have the evocative name of Ladies Thighs (kadin budu). Some koftes are cooked in a sauce as in the case of the delicious izmir kofte, the koftes are first grilled and then cooked with green peppers, potato slices and tomatoes in their own gravy.

DOLMA: A sophisticated flavour and skilful dexteri ty... Vegetables such as tomatoes, squash, aubergine and peppers are stuffed, while those like cabbage and vine leaves are wrapped around the filling. Dolmas to be eaten hot have a filling of minced meat and herbs, and those to eaten cold have a filling of rice.


These are hors d'oeuvres figuring mainly at meals accompanied by wine or rakl . Eaten sparingly, they arouse the appetite before the meal proper. Examples of meze include fried aubergines with yogurt, lakerda (bonito pre served in brine), pastirma (pressed beef), humus (mashed chickpeas with sesame puree), fish croquettes, and lambs' brains with plenty of lemon juice. At many restaurants a selection of meze is brought to the table on a tray immediately after the drinks are served for the customers to make their choice.


These are dishes of plain or marinated meat either stewed or grilled. Almost every district of Anatolia has its own kebap spe ciality. ,Sis kebap, consisting of cubes of lamb on a metal or wooden skewer, grilled over charcoal is the most widely known version both in Turkey and abroad. Slices of tomato and green pepper are frequently placed between the pieces of meat.


A word derived from the Arabic for velvet, "kadife", kadayif is a kind of sweet borek made of refined flour and often filled with pistachio nuts, walnuts or clotted cream. The variety known as tel kadayif is made of fine dried strings of pastry cooked on a griddle, shaped and sweetened with syrup.


This Turkish style blancmange is made with milk, sugar and ground rice. A muhallebici or pudding shop features on most main streets of Turkish cities, serving boreks as well as muhallebi and similar milk puddings.

Source Turkish Arlines Cityscope April 1994 p.27

Back to Turkish Cuisine Page
Back to Turkey Home Page
Send your comments to:

Melih Özbek