Turkish cuisine is a fusion of many of the food found in the surrounding countries and regions. In turn, you’ll also find a Turkish influence in other cuisines found in Turkey.
In Turkish food, you’ll find influences from Central Asia, the Middle East, Eastern Europe and the Balkan region.
However, with a country so vast, and terrain so varied, the food of Turkey also varies across the country.
There are strong Ottoman empire influences in Istanbul, with lighter spices and a preference for rice. Move to the Black Sea region and fish dominates, and in the central part of the country, you’ll find heavenly Turkish Manti.
Turkish cuisine is the product of centuries of mixing cultural influences, of utilizing fresh ingredients and marrying them with herbs and spices that suit the climate of the region. It’s a tough call to select just five things to eat in Turkey, but these are Turkish dishes that you can easily enjoy at home!
Read our article on experiencing an Istanbul Food Tour.
Here is my list of the 5 things to eat in Turkey for a tasty travel adventure:
Manti is a type of dumpling that is popular in Turkic cuisine. You’ll also see it featuring in post-Soviet countries and those surrounding Turkey.
Turkish Manti is also similar to the Tibetan momo. Manti typically is made with a spicy minced meat mixture contained in a dough container, which is then baked or boiled. The meat is usually lamb or beef. Of course, today, vegetarian options are generally available too.
Manti is a seriously family-friendly dish it’s easy to prepare, especially if you buy premade ones! What makes Manti uniquely Turkish is that typically in turkey, Manti is served topped with cold yoghurt and garlic. The dramatic look of Manti comes from how you adjust it to your personal taste. You will usually add your own dried chilli, paprika powder, dried mint and ground sumac to your personal taste. We love how the light spice of the meat combines well with the coolness of the yoghurt for a distinctly Moorish taste!
Turkish Pide is both a much-loved home-cooked dish and favourite Turkish snack as well as a dish that you’ll be able to find pretty much anywhere in Turkey. Pide is a Turkish version of pizza. Pide is an oval-shaped flatbread, with curled up edges – to contain the toppings.
Pide originated from Turkey’s Black Sea in the 1850s when bakers began stuffing the bread before baking it. The original version of Pide is made by cooking lamb chunks or mince (ground beef), black pepper and onions with butter and spreading the filling onto the boat-shaped dough before baking for 25 minutes. You can use pizza dough as the base for Pide and a squeeze of lemon juice as you serve it will give it a uniquely Turkish taste.
Traditionally Pide is served cut into slices.
The best-known dish of Turkey is the Kebab or Kebap and one of my all time favourite things to eat in Turkey.
Turkey is responsible for introducing the world to the kebab. There are many different types of kebab in Turkey, the main ones are
Adana Kebab – named after the Turkish city of Adana. Minced lamb or beef is mixed together with garlic, onion and spices and moulded onto a skewer and cooked.
Doner Kebab – this popular street food is cooked on a rotating vertical stand, and when cooked, the meat is shaved off. The shaved meat, usually of lamb, is traditionally wrapped in a soft tortilla.
Iskender Kebab – named after Iskender Efendi, this kebab takes shavings of Doner Kebab atop a flat pide, like pita bread and the whole dish is covered in melted butter, yoghurt and a slightly spicy tomato sauce.
Shish Kebab – The word “shish” refers to the metal skewer and kebab means the “roasted meat dish”. Originally the meat was lamb or beef, but today you’ll find chicken in many places. In a shish kebab recipe the meat is marinated (even as long as overnight) and then placed on the skewers. It is traditional to have just meat on the skewers, no vegetables. It’s also customary to grill the meat over a charcoal fire, so this is a perfect recipe for the barbecue. Get a traditional Turkish taste by adding a spicy red pepper paste before cooking.
Turkish Delight – Lokum
One of the treats of visiting Istanbul is to take a trip to Hafiz Mustafa, a Turkish confectionery and dessert store that’s been there since 1864 and press your nose against the window and stare wide-eyed at all the fabulous concoctions inside. You will, of course, find Lokum there. And hundreds of varieties. To make Lokum – what Turkish Delight is called in Turkey – sugar is boiled in water until dissolved. Citric acid and starch are dissolved in separate cups and then mixed with the sugar water. The mixture is them re-boiled, checked for consistency and then stored for 24 hours before being shaped and cut. Lokum is chewy, sweet, and sold and served dusted in powdered sugar. It goes perfectly with a nice cup of Turkish coffee. Lokum comes in vast numbers of flavours and varieties – containing hazelnuts, walnuts, but the most popular flavours in Turkey are rose, pomegranate, mint and pistachio. Lokum makes the perfect gift to remind people of Turkey, whether you’re travelling there, or merely invoking memories of Turkey while at home. What’s your favourite flavour?
Turkish Apple Tea
Traditional Turkish tea is black tea and tea is Turkey’s most consumed hot drink. The offering of tea to visitors is an essential element of Turkish hospitality so it will be easy to check this item off the list of things to eat in Turkey.
Tea in Turkey is served in tulip-shaped glasses, which you hold by the rim to prevent burning your fingers while drinking.
Elma Cay – or Apple Tea is one of Turkey’s most famous tea drinks. Turkish Apple Tea is drunk throughout the day and is usually served at the end of a meal too. It is not, despite the name, tea. Turkish Apple Tea is made with dehydrated apple pieces or flavourings.
One of the reasons that Apple Tea is popular is because it’s a caffeine-free drink. In Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar and Spice Market you’ll find both the powdered versions, but for a more traditional experience, you’ll want to buy dried chunks of Apple. It is cheaper to buy the dried apple than powder, which is quicker to brew!
Enjoy Delicious Turkish Cuisine at Home
Turkish Food is both diverse and known throughout the world. The melting pot of cultural influences provides a unique combination of flavours and tastes. So enjoy a glass of Turkish Apple tea, nibble on a delicious cube of Lokum or fire up the BBQ and enjoy a fabulous Turkish Shish Kebab. These 5 tasty things to eat in Turkey are easy to enjoy at home and will whisk you back to the souks, pavement cafes and restaurants of this diverse and tasty cuisine.
Guest Author: Sarah Carter of Lets Grow Cook travels in search of local food and local experiences. Home growing vegetables enables her to reproduce dishes from around the world with maximum flavour.
Have you enjoyed any of these tasty Turkish foods? Let us know in the comments below.
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