6 Delicious Turkish Soups
Avid, hard-core fans of Turkey often agree their cuisine is an important aspect of Turkish culture, heritage, and traditions. Indeed, Turks are hearty eaters and indulge in a variety of vegetarian, meat, and sweet dishes with eagerness and thanks for the food they have received.
Whereas the western world has more or less thrown away traditional eating habits for fast foods and ready meals, Turks still like to cook with fresh ingredients and sit down at the family table for their time-honoured practises of breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
One type of their cuisine that appears at any of these daily routines is soup. Served as a starter for lunch or dinner, Turks also sometimes eat it for breakfast, thanks to a tradition stemming from the Ottoman kitchens, known as Imaret.
According to urban legends, soup is also the perfect hangover cure and hence, after the nightclubs and bars have closed, soup kitchens often make a roaring trade from the party animals. So, if you are visiting Turkey, and have been convinced to try their national soups, here are a few suggestions of flavours and recipes to try.
Turkish Bridal Soup: Ezogelin Çorbasi
Known as the soup of Ezo the bride, this flavour has a rather sad love story attached to its humble roots. The story says that Ezo was an incredibly beautiful woman who lived in the southeastern Gaziantep region in the early 20th century. Despite her goddess looks, love was never easy for her and her first marriage failed after her husband had an affair and her second marriage took her across the border to live in Syria.
Homesick for many years, she died in the 1950s after bearing nine children, but her story and recipe at this point had become a legend and the soup is a soothing comfort for brides and their uncertainty for their future. Traditionally made from lentils, what sets this soup apart is the addition of bulgar and cayenne pepper and paprika as ingredients rather than garnishes.
Lentil Soup: Mercimek Çorbasi
By far, one of the most popular soups consumed by Turks is lentil and for vegetarian travellers, this is a hearty meal because traditional Turkish restaurants serve it in abundance with small side salads and cheese bread. A small sprinkling of garlic pepper, chilli flakes, and/or melted butter is perfect to drizzle as a garnish and add a little extra kick to your taste buds. According to the traditional recipe, the lentils are soaked overnight and cooked for a long time to make it smooth in texture, although modern Turkish housewives favour the ease of a hand blender instead.
Highland Meadows Soup: Yayla Çorbasi
This soup that might not be to everyone's liking is a strange regional cuisine from the Black Sea region of Turkey, an area that is highly green in landscapes and mountainous, hence giving it the nickname as the highland meadows of Turkey. In this area, traditional farming methods are still used and dairy products are fresh which is ideal since a staple ingredient of this dish is yoghurt. Also including rice and one egg yolk, melted butter and chilli flakes are sprinkled over the top as a garnish but also to add diversity to the range of tastes.
Cabbage Soup: Lahana Çorbası
Another favourite of the Black sea regional cuisine, Cabbage soup may seem like a boring alternative, but for vegetarians especially, it is one of the tastiest soups thanks to the addition of beans to diversify the taste. Again, traditionally garnished, with paprika and melted butter, you may not see this option on the menu of most local soup kitchens, but it is worth looking on Google for the recipe if you want warming, hearty meals in winter.
Sheep's Head Soup: Kelle Paça Çorbasi
Travellers from the western world, who long ago, discarded any traditions of making use of every bit of meat, may originally bulk at the idea of eating sheep’s head in a steaming broth, yet it is not as disturbing as it sounds. Originally stemming from the Middle East, this soup is a hot favourite especially for the late night revellers after a drinking session.
In the southeastern district of Gaziantep, soup kitchens displaying the head skeleton of a sheep in a window also make a roaring trade from this flavour. The tongue or meat from the shinbones can also be used but is incredibly tender because of the extended boiling time and when combined with the other ingredients of hot chilli flakes, garlic puree and oregano, this soup provides quite a kick.
Tripe Soup: Iskembe Çorbasi
Once known to the western world as poor man's food, tripe is still highly favoured throughout Turkey and often appears on menus of most soup kitchens. Recipe versions differ from region to region but it is generally agreed that because of the subtle taste of the tripe, a heavy garnish of chilli flakes and garlic is essential for this dish.
Tolga Ertukel, director and owner of Turkey Homes, says, “In most towns and coastal resorts, restaurants who cater for foreign tourists serve international food but to taste the vast range of Turkish soups, look for the traditional Turkish lokantas that are often centred in the old town or away from the beachfront.”