8 Traditional Tastes of Turkey
How adventurous are you when it comes to food – do you stick with what you know or enjoy discovering different flavours? There’s no doubt trying new dishes can be daunting if you don’t know what they are, but Turkish food is so varied and delicious it’s worth embracing.
Whether you’re on a family holiday or have moved here permanently after buying your dream home in Antalya, make the effort to seek out some of these specialities – you won’t be disappointed!
These flavourful meat patties are also known as Turkish meatballs. Köfte (kurf-te) are made from ground lamb or beef mixed with spices and herbs. A staple of every barbecue, they’re delicious simply grilled and eaten with salad. Alternatively, they make a popular snack served in a flatbread wrap, while in some dishes they are baked in a rich sauce.
2. Çiğ köfte
Traditionally, çiğ köfte (chee kurf-te) is made with raw meat and is similar to steak tartare. However, hygiene regulations mean that Turkish restaurants, fast food outlets and street vendors may only sell a vegetarian version, which is made with fine bulgur.
A dark reddish colour, the patties are flavoured with spices and kneaded to give a smooth consistency. For a real taste explosion, eat them wrapped in a lettuce leaf with lemon juice squeezed over the top, and perhaps a drizzle of pekmez (peck-mez), or grape molasses.
A güveç (goo-vetch) is a rich, hearty casserole that takes its name from the clay or earthenware pots in which it is traditionally cooked. Although any oven-proof pan can be used, the pots give the stew a particular earthy aroma.
There’s no set recipe – güveç can be made with meat, chicken, fish or vegetables. It’s generally flavoured with paprika and various herbs, and accompanied with plenty of bread to mop up the sauce.
Often compared to ravioli, Turkish mantı (man-tuh) are dumplings made from a thin dough and usually filled with spiced ground meat. The saying goes that the smaller the mantı, the more special a person the maker is; this isn’t a dish you can quickly throw together yourself.
Once prepared, the dumplings are baked, then boiled, and traditionally served topped with three sauces – brown butter, caramelised tomato, and garlicky yoghurt.
If you’re a fan of chorizo or other cured sausages, you’ll love the Turkish version. Sucuk (suj-uk) is a breakfast staple, a popular meze dish and delicious in bazlama (baz-lam-a) bread with tomato and melted cheese.
Some versions are mild while others are very spicy – you’ll need to try a few to find your favourite. There’s no shortage of options in the supermarket, but if you can then buy from a local butcher – these tend to be locally made and often have a superior flavour.
We have to be honest – kokoreç (kok-or-etch) isn’t for everyone. Generally, it consists of lamb or goat intestines with seasoned offal – which might include sweetbreads, heart, lung or kidney – which is griddled and served in bread.
Afficionados swear there’s nothing better and say it just tastes like lamb; others enjoy it before they find out what they’re eating. It’s one of the most popular street foods you’ll find in Turkey, though, so give it a go before you decide.
7. Şiş and döner kebabs
The name şiş (sheesh) refers to how the dish is cooked and served – grilled, usually over a barbecue, on skewers. Şiş kebabs can include meatballs, cubes of lamb, beef or chicken, and vegetables, and are served juicy and sizzling alongside salad and a basket of bread or with French fries.
Döner (dur-ner) is the way the meat is cooked, usually on a rotating vertical spit and sometimes over coals or wood. The meat is tender and delicious, usually served in a half-bread or in wraps, accompanied by pickles, salad and chilli sauce. If you’re used to eating döner kebabs at home, we promise the genuine Turkish version will put them in the shade!
Arguably the most well-known Turkish bread, some call the simit (sim-it) the Turkish bagel. Ring-shaped, it is topped with seeds – usually sesame, but also sometimes poppy, flax or sunflower – and has a chewy texture.
It’s generally eaten plain or with jam, honey and cheeses for breakfast, accompanied by plenty of çay (ch-eye) of course. It’s also one of the most commonly seen street foods – keep your eyes open for the simit sellers who walk the streets of Antalya, laden trays balanced on their heads, shouting their wares as they go.
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