A burst of colours is what you visualize when one thinks of Turkey. From market areas bursting with rugs and carpets to lamps twinkling above them, soap operas and elaborate traditional dances, religious structures and marvellous monuments, a festival of hot air balloons and even the globally famous souvenir that almost all of us have in our homes even without ever visiting Turkey, the evil eye; just a handful among a long line of things that the richly vibrant country of Turkey is famous for.
How to reach: Luckily for us, we can fly in to the city of Istanbul with just a 6 hours long flight approximately.
Best time to visit: April to May, September to October.
If you are headed to have your colourful tête-à-tête with the nation of Turkey, then of course expect the richness to seep into the local cuisine as well, so, here we are sharing with you some of the must haves during your trip!
If you miss your malai tikkas and galouti kebabs a little too much while travelling, then don’t worry because the Turkish cuisine is all set to wow you with its own vast variety of kebabs. One of the most popular ones is the iskender kebab. It involves thin strips of lamb or beef in a tangy tomato sauce, sitting on top of a Turkish style pide, a pita like stuffed bread. It is a kind of doner kebab which essentially involves beaten down pieces of meat seasoned with herbs and spices, grilled and served with a sauce.
Explained in the most basic terms, mezze is a form of a platter made up of multiple kinds of finger food. Believed to have originated in Persia, mezze today cannot be restricted to one single cuisine. Various regions and their cuisines thereunder from the Ottoman Empire have adopted and adapted the mezze platter as per their eating and cooking styles. In a Turkish mezze you can typically expect salads, hummus, yogurts with herbs, beans, rice-stuffed vine leaves (dolmas), seafood, meatballs, cheese, pide, etc. Generally served at the start of the meal or as a large serving of accompaniments, restaurants called meyhane serve cold alcoholic beverages together with mezze.
Etli Ekmek and Pide
If a good bread makes your day better, then the Turkish pide will have you swooning. Its no ordinary bread, it’s made with a whole lot of ingredients to make its scrumptious stuffing. From beef to spinach, bell peppers and other fresh veggies, paprika and seasoning to top it off, the pide can have many variants but expect a well-baked bread with a lot within it. As for the pizza lovers, the Turkish traditional take on pizza is the etli ekmek. It originated in the country’s Konya region and comes as deep bread with meat-based stuffing.
Now I am guessing that a lot of you would have not only heard but even expected this one as you read the title of this article. This flaky puff pastry from Turkey is a desert that you just cannot miss out on. The layers of the crispy pastry are topped with nuts, pistachios, etc. Added to this is the syrupy goodness from sugar and honey which makes this treat a rich one. The baklava too originated during the Ottoman Empire. Today, you can find it everywhere from street shops to proper sit-down sinner restaurants, this sweet one is unmissable when in Turkey!
Presently known and hogged as the shish kebab, its original Turkish name was the “sis” kebab. This succulent meat dish has been around since as early as the 1800s! The sis signified the skewers or spit which is the manner in which this delicacy is prepared. Pieces of lamb meat are grilled and served on skewers. Nowadays it is available with chicken and beef versions too. The kebab in itself makes for a full meal as it comes along with rice, salad and a side of yogurt. Its popularity has made it a popular dish across the Balkans too.
Now if you find yourself having too many kebabs and craving for something soft and hearty, then the Turkish cuisine has another surprise for you. Meet the manti which has been described as a Turkish style of the Italian ravioli. The dumpling-like pockets of dough are filled up with either beef or lamb, onions and salt and pepper to taste. Overtime a few places have started preparing vegetarian variants too. It can be steamed, baked or even boiled and always comes served with cold yogurt and a side of tomato sauce.
And now if after all those delicious yet heavy meals, you need a companion to keep you satiated while you’re exploring the country, then your snacking partner in Turkey is the gozleme. Again, depended on dough, this one is stuffed with minced meat, beef or fresh vegetables. Thereafter, it is sealed and cooked. However, due to its method of preparation which lends it a thin and refined body, its size makes it an ideal pick to have a bite while on the go.
And of course, with every cuisine, there are some dishes that you cannot have easy comparisons to, that simply seem like their own. Such is the case of the karniyarik which is stuffed and baked eggplants. This Turkish delight comes with stuffing of beef, onion, garlic, parsley, etc. This dish comes hot on your plate with its aroma letting you know about the hint of herbs and spices infused within it. Traditionally, it is prepared with meat as well, however, today travellers can request for vegetarian and vegan options too.
Turkish Apple Tea
As tea lovers the joy of visiting different countries also comes in the fact that so many countries have their own take on the tea. Now this isn’t always something that we true blue-kadak chai lovers quite enjoy but then what is the experience of travelling without experimenting? Presenting to you, the Turkish apple tea which is predicted to have originated around 400 BC! Enjoy the slight sweetness from the fruit blended within the tea to start your day!
And to end this on a sweet note, there’s the lokum which is more popularly known as the Turkish Delight. Nuts, pistachios, hazelnuts, dates and walnuts come together in a sweet snack.
Have you read Neeraj Narayanan’s book – This Guy’s On His Own Trip yet? It’s right now #1 bestseller in the travel books category on Amazon. Click here to buy your copy!