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3 February 2021 / Food


6 Delicious Turkish Foods

Turkish food is a delight. Heavily influenced by its Ottoman heritage, it’s a wonderful fusion of Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Central Asian flavours, among others. Each part of the country has its specialities, of course, as well as its own twist on national favourites.

In Antalya province, on the Mediterranean coast, olive trees grow in abundance and both the fruit and oil feature heavily in the local diet. Fresh vegetables, herbs and fish are plentiful – if you visit the local markets, you’ll be overwhelmed by the array of choice and colour.

While it’s tempting to stick to the familiar if you’re on holiday, it would be a shame to miss out on such delicious regional cuisine. You’re much more likely to ‘eat local’ if you’ve decided to take the plunge and live in Antalya full-time, but you might still be unsure where to start.

We can promise you’ll be spoiled for choice, but to start you off here are just a few of our favourite must-try Turkish foods.

Meze

If you like to take your time over a meal, grazing from different dishes, you’ll love meze – small portions of different foods served together. Usually eaten as an appetiser or starter, a mixed meze plate can also be a substantial meal in its own right.

Some restaurants let you select your favourites, or you can ask them to choose for you. Meze can be hot or cold and the variety is seemingly endless – tender carrot in garlicky yoghurt; mücver (mooj-vair) or courgette fritters; hummus; roasted chickpeas flavoured with sumac; broccoli salad; sigara böreği (see-gara bur-ray-ee), or cheese rolls; dolma (doll-ma), or stuffed vine leaves. There are many more, not to mention the olives and generous baskets of bread that tend to accompany any meze feast.

Gözleme

Also known as Turkish pancakes, gözleme (gurz-lem-ay) are large discs of soft dough, stuffed with your choice of filling, and then folded and cooked on an open oven. They’re made fresh to order, inexpensive, and surprisingly filling.

Gözleme can be either savoury, with potatoes, cheese, spinach or meat, or sweet – lemon and sugar, honey, banana and chocolate for example. They’re a popular street food and in rural areas especially you’ll see many places to stop and enjoy them by the roadside. 

Turkish-pide

Pide and lahmacun

This is Turkey’s equivalent of pizza. Pide (pee-day) is a long, thin flatbread with twisted ends, the sides folded in slightly, and topped with any combination of meat, vegetables and cheese. It’s sliced into narrow pieces, making it perfect finger food, and you’ll find many restaurants in Antalya have their own special version.

Lahmacun (lam-a-jun) is a round, flat, thin piece of dough topped with minced meat, vegetables and spices, and then baked. It’s equally delicious, but a little lighter.

Kahvaltı

Don’t be fooled by the name. Turkish kahvaltı (cah-val-tuh), or breakfast, can easily last until lunchtime and will leave you convinced you won’t need to eat again until the following day. A little like meze in that there tends to be numerous dishes to graze from, the exact menu will vary from place to place.

As a general rule, though, as a minimum you’ll have a selection of cheeses and cold meats, tomatoes and cucumber, olives, salad leaves, fresh and dried fruits, nuts, hard-boiled or fried eggs, various breads, and lots of little pots containing different preserves, spreads and nut butters. Often, coffee or çay (chai) is included, while some establishments might also offer water or fruit juice.

Kahvaltı should not be rushed. It’s a time to linger, chat and relax as long as you like.

Turkish-corba

Çorba

Soup, or çorba (chor-ba), is a Turkish staple. If you’ve only ever thought of it as a light lunch or starter, think again. There is never a wrong time to eat çorba – it hits the spot as everything from an early breakfast to a late snack after a night on the town.

If you get the chance, try ezogelin (ee-zo-gell-in), which is a delicious combination of red lentils, mint, spices, tomato and bulgur. The name means ‘beautiful bride’, and legend says it was created by a young girl named Zöhre when she was tasked with making a dish to win over her future mother-in-law.

If you’re feeling brave, you might also like to try paça (pach-a), a broth with meat from a sheep’s brain, head or foot, flavoured with herbs. Some people swear by it as a hangover cure – which is why it’s often available in late-night lokantas.

Börek

Not just one particular food, börek (burr-ek) is the collective name for a variety of baked and filled pastries made from thin, flaky dough. One of the most popular is sigara böreği (see-gara bur-ray-ee) which, as the name suggests, are cigar-shaped. Traditionally they are stuffed with a creamy mix of cheese and parsley and then deep-fried, but you will also find other variations including spinach, mint and dill.

Su böreği (soo bur-ray-ee) is soft, with the dough soaked in a mix of water, olive oil, milk and eggs before it’s cooked, while kol böreği (koll bur-ray-ee) is usually made with puff pastry and wound into a spiral before baking. There are other varieties too – try them all and discover your favourite.

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