Food! It can make or break your holiday. And when Rashmi Deshpande visited Turkey, one of the things she came away with, was a camera full of photographs of Turkish food–desserts, fruits, salads, meat dishes, sauces, mezzes, and she fell truly, madly, deeply in love with Turkish cuisine!
I love food! Who doesn’t? But unlike most people, I don’t really need an excuse to eat it. I’m also willing to try different kinds of cuisine, but only as long as it doesn’t come from an endangered species.
I’ve tried snake soup in Hong Kong, I’ve eaten black pudding in Ireland, I’ve tried stinking durian in Malaysia…but one of the things I most enjoyed eating, was a Turkish dish called ‘kokoreç’ pronounced kokreche. Now don’t let the name fool you. It has nothing to do with that disgusting beetle-like species that elicits a feeling of extreme revulsion almost all over the world (not to mention, prolonged, blood-curdling screams on my part). Kokoreç is an absolutely delicious preparation that involves slow roasting a sheep’s intestines. Ok, so I admit that the moment I realised what I was eating, I almost gagged, and the smell of what the backside of a sheep smells like, refused to leave me that entire night. But trust me, it was one of the most delicious things I’ve eaten in a long, long time.
But this post isn’t about off-beat cuisine. It’s about what to eat in Turkey. And lord, there is SO much to eat! Turkish cuisine is absolutely delicious, and I loved it! From spicy meat dishes to fresh-from-the-farm salads, Turkish cuisine is colourful, it’s exotic, sometimes it’s spicy, sometimes it’s bland, but most importantly, it is soul satisfying! And since the proof of the pudding is in the eating, I decided to photograph everything I ate on my 10-day holiday in Turkey. Except of course, the kokoreç. I was much too busy getting over my conflicting feelings to capture the moment.
Food To Die For!
If you were to go by the food dished out to tourists, you’d think Turkish cuisine consisted of baklava, fried aubergine, apple tea, mashed aubergine, fruits, roasted aubergine, mezzes, sauteed aubergine, and not to forget, aubergine! As stereotypical and banal as the touristy food is in Turkey, the traditional food is equally varied and mouth-watering. Though restaurant cuisine is good, you need to eat where the locals do. Try food stalls at train stations, or at obscure outposts. At a train station in Izmir, I was surprised to find chickpea curries, pumpkin dishes and lentils that were seasoned with fennel seeds and reminded me of lightly spiced North Indian fare. And do what I did–eat first, ask what it is later, and I promise you, you’ll be in gastronomic heaven!
These roasted red peppers were stuffed and drizzled with olive oil. I got them at a food store, which packed them nicely in a take-away carton so I could eat them by the river. They were GOOD!
The proverbial aubergine. Slow-cooked in a clay pot with meat and spices. I had this in Capadoccia. The top of the pot had to be broken to get to the meat inside.
Pide (pidey), a kind of stuffed Turkish pizza, with goat cheese and spiced meat and vegetable toppings.
Typical mezzes and salads are available at every restaurant and food stall. Aubergine WILL make an appearance here too.
Try a meat gozleme, a type of stuffed paratha, with a side-dish made of goat cheese. The gozlemes come with different stuffing–vegetable, as well as meat.
Manti (pronounced mante), is basically ravioli stuffed with minced-meat, drowned in yogurt and drizzled with chilli-olive oil and sprinkled with herbs and garlic. Absolutely D.E.L.I.C.I.O.U.S!
There are endless varieties of Turkish baklava, a phyllo pastry with sweet stuffing. But the best kind of baklava is one with honey (so much better than the sugar variety) and pistachios. Try it every where you can, till you find one you just HAVE to take back home.
Street Food in Turkey
Giant, baked jacket potatoes have their insides mashed with delicious, melted cheese. You get over 15 toppings that range from pickled veggies, sausages, salads, mushrooms, pomegranate seeds, carrots, peas and lots more, in a spiced, tomato-based sauce. I just couldn’t stop eating!
Simit, Turkish bagels, are a popular street food. You can eat them sweet, spicy or salted.
Dondurma. That’s what ice cream is called in Turkey. But the experience of eating an ice cream in Turkey is unlike anywhere else in the world! Traditionally-dressed ice cream vendors not only sell these goat-milk ice creams in cones, they put on a fantastic show for you–with acrobatics that involve throwing the ice cream and catching it in the cone. Plus, they’re funny–the you-don’t-need-to-understand-Turkish kind of funny!
Carts sell corn-on-the cob and other delicious, roasted snacks on the streets.
One of the great things about eating street food is that sometimes it’s a revelation! Like this mackerel sandwich. A simple preparation of marinated mackerel, a few tomatoes, fresh, green salad leaves, some cucumbers, all wrapped up in a hunk of bread. I had expected it to be dry and bland, but it was one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever eaten. And need I say, I went back for seconds!
Outdoor cafes like this one, abound in Istanbul and in other places that see tourist footfalls. They offer hookahs, apple tea, yummy food and of course, backgammon, the national pastime of Turkey. And don’t worry if you don’t know how to play it, they’ll even throw in a couple of lessons for free!
If there’s one thing you can count on loving in Turkey, it’s the fruits! Fresh, ripe, juicy, delicious!
Don’t you just want to bite into those ripe, luscious red tomatoes? I certainly did!
And if you end up liking Turkish food as much as I did, perhaps like me, you too can get a lesson on how to make your favourite dish.
Photographs Courtesy Rashmi Deshpande
Watch how fascinating the Magical Land of Turkey is!
If ever there was a career that involved the study of sleeping cats, Rashmi Deshpande would probably be in it. But for now, she in an industry she loves--the travel industry. Rashmi has worked with Femina as an Assistant Manager, and freelanced for several online and offline travel companies, such as Lonely Planet. She currently works with Cox & Kings as their online content manager.
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