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What To Eat In Turkey: Food, Glorious, Mouthwatering Food!
Before you continue reading, I should point out one thing – do not read this post if you’re hungry! You’re likely to go raiding the fridge, and I cannot be responsible for additional calories consumed!
However, if you’ve recently eaten and you’re too peckish right now, go for it. However, be aware that you’re still likely to be hungry at the end.
If you’re thinking of heading to Turkey this year, you’re in for a treat. Not only is there plenty to see, do, experience, and enjoy, but your taste buds are in for a treat too.
Turkish food is delicious. Turks do not believe in mass-producing food, and for that reason, everything you buy in bakeries, restaurants, cafes, or if you’re lucky enough, in the family home is likely to have been made right from scratch, with the freshest produce.
There is no such thing as ‘yuck’ when it comes to Turkish food; however, there are a few choices that might turn your stomach if you are a little squeamish – goat intestines or brain soup, anyone?
Nope, I thought not.
Despite those slightly borderline dishes, there are countless other beautiful delicacies to try when visiting Turkey. Whether you’re heading to a holiday resort on the south coast, you’re visiting Istanbul, or you’re going somewhere else entirely, you HAVE to try the food! Not doing this would be a crime (not literally, but it should be).
So, what should you try?
10 Of The Best Turkish Foods To Add To Your Holiday Menu
If you like pizza with a difference, you’ll love lahmacun. It’s cooked in a wood-fired oven until the edges are crispy, and it’s super-delicious! This flatbread is typically topped with ground lamb, spices, and tomatoes.
Roll it up with salad leaves in the middle and a squeeze of lemon for a tasty treat that you’ll undoubtedly want to repeat.
You might confuse cag kebab for doner meat, but it’s totally different and ten times more delicious. You don’t find cag kebab widely everywhere, so if you do find a restaurant serving it, definitely try it because it’s genuinely delicious.
Cag kebab is basically lamb, and it’s stacked onto a rotating skewer, but instead of a vertically stacked doner, cag kebab is horizontally stacked, and it cooks over a hot flame as it rolls. Then, the meat is sliced thinly and placed onto metal skewers. Add a few onions if you want to spice things up a bit. You simply use lavas (wrap) to pull the meat off the skewer and eat with your hands.
Also known as chicken shish, this is marinated chunks of chicken threaded onto a skewer and barbecued until succulent and genuinely wonderful.
Usually served on a piece of tortilla wrap (known as lavas) with salad on the side, you’ll be full without realizing it, although you’ll still want to try another piece.
Okay, so there is some debate as to who actually invented baklava, and you will find it all over the Middle East and in the Balkans too, but it’s extremely popular and effortless to find in Turkey, so you have to eat at least a piece (or five) while you’re there.
For those who aren’t sure, this is a flaky pastry sweet that comes in all different varieties. The traditional option contains pistachio nuts and is drizzled in honey. Not so great for the waistline but oh-so-wonderful for the taste buds!
Typically a breakfast dish, but I personally think you can enjoy this at any time of the day, gozleme is another flat bread-type of a dish, but this time it contains all manner of different ingredients. A personal favorite of mine is potato, but you can try cheese, mincemeat, spinach, and cheese; the list goes on.
Try finding gozleme made the traditional way, and avoid the ones you find rolled up in bakeries. You’ll know when it’s traditional because you’ll see the ladies in the restaurants rolling the thin dough and cooking it over a huge, round hot plate.
Another pastry-type dish, borek, comes in all different types, and again the most common are mincemeat, cheese, potato, cheese, and spinach. You’ll see locals eating it with tea, but if you want a sweet treat, try the plain version with sweet pudding sugar sprinkled over the top! You’ll find borek customarily served for breakfast, but it’s an all-day kind of affair.
Turkish desserts are less about chocolate and jam and more about intricacy, which is basically what sums up katmer. This rather delicious yet surprisingly light dessert is a must-try. Layers of buttery, flaky pastry are sandwiched by crushed-up pistachio nuts with a bit of cream and butter inside.
You’ll find it served alone or with ice cream. In the Gaziantep region of Turkey, katmer is often served as a part of breakfast because pistachios are abundant in this region, and they’re known to increase energy during mid-morning.
Guvec is a staple dish in most Turkish households, and it’s a hearty and truly delicious meal to try. This is a stew, typically with lamb, but you’ll also find it with beef. The meat is simmered until super-tender, with carrots, potatoes, peas, peppers, onions, mushrooms, and the sauce it is surrounded by is often a little tomatoey, a tiny bit spicy very warming.
Eat it with bread, and if you want to go totally authentic, avoid the fork and simply dig in, using the bread as a scooping aid!
Menemen is another breakfast dish, but you’ll find people eating this all day long; such is its popularity. Menemen is made with peppers, tomatoes, and eggs and a little spice to add extra flavor. It’s a real treat and super addictive! Again, use the bread to eat it, and be sure to drink a glass or two of Turkish tea (cay) beside it.
If you go to a restaurant and order testi kebab, especially in Istanbul, you can expect to pay a fair amount for it, but it’s worthwhile if you find a good one. This is a guvec style of stew, but the difference is that it is cooked in a clay pot in the oven, helping to give the meat a genuinely tender and succulent taste.
They will smash the clay pot open when served, and the contents will still be cooking on your plate. Delicious!
Iskender kebab is one of the most famous dishes in the whole of Turkey, and it’s loved by many. It’s renowned for the sizzling noise upon serving, and you’ll understand why that happens in a minute!
The kebab is served on a plate, with sliced doner meat (can be beef or lamb), served on pitta bread, with tomato sauce and yogurt on top. Then, melted butter is poured over the top, causing the sizzling noise as the heat hits the meat.
It basically comes out as ‘fish and bread’ or a fish sandwich when you translate this, but it’s so much more than that!
You’ll find balik ekmek all over the country, but it’s typically famous in the Eminonu region of Istanbul, where the fish is caught directly from the Bosphorus (usually, but not always) and served straight off the barbecue onto fresh bread.
The other plus point is that this is a very cheap street food which you can simply grab and eat, while still being full at the end.
A word of warning here – if you’re even slightly full after your meal, don’t have kunefe as a dessert! However, it’s perfect as an afternoon snack. The reason? Because it’s pretty heavy, yet still rather delicious.
Served hot, kunefe is a dessert filled with cheese – and we mean FILLED. When you cut it, the strings of cheese are pretty evident. The outer part is a type of shredded wheat, and there are also pistachios and a little cream inside to make it super-sweet.
For sure, it sounds like a mess, but it’s strangely delicious, although a little messy to eat.
I could carry on writing about Turkish food all day! But, our final option is a great one for pasta lovers. Manti is often referred to as ‘Turkish ravioli,’ and it is small dumplings made of egg pasta containing beef or lamb. They are typically served in a bowl with yogurt on top and a tiny bit of spice to add a kick.
Tas kebab is an absolute household favorite in Turkey, but you can find it in many local restaurants. A meat stew, tas kebab is tasty and perfect with rice (or pilaf) on the side. The stew contains either beef or lamb, along with potatoes, carrots, and onion. You’ll sometimes find red and green peppers in there, but the authentic version is simpler.
The best way to eat it is with a thick slice of bread and to use your hands to mop it up! You’ll be pretty full afterward, that’s for sure!
Sucuk yumurta is a breakfast dish that you’ll often find as part of a traditional Turkish breakfast. You might also find sucuk served alone or in bread (sucuk ekmek). Sucuk is a dry, fermented type of sausage that is extremely popular and very famous all across Turkey. You will struggle to find a house that doesn’t have some sucuk in it!
Sucuk is cut into small, thin pieces and fried in this dish. Then, fried eggs are cracked over the top and cooked. You may find the eggs left with the eggs whole or mixed up in a scrambled variety. Either way, it’s delicious when eaten with fresh bread, using your hands!
Hamsi is a type of fish, a black sea anchovy, to be more precise. You’ll find hamsi served in countless balik (fish) restaurants, as well as street outlets too. Several anchovies are slightly dipped in cornflour and then fried in this dish. They’re served in a circle, with fresh lemon squeezed over the top and a salad on the side. Of course, as with most food in Turkey, you eat with bread.
Kelle Paça Çorbası
We mentioned earlier that some dishes in Turkey aren’t for the squeamish, and this is undoubtedly one of them. However, it’s very popular across the country, and you’ll see it everywhere. Perhaps you want to try it?
Corba means soup, and this type of soup consists of the trotters and meat from the head of a sheep. I told you it wasn’t for the squeamish! But, it’s said to be highly healthy and ideal during the winter for topping up your vitamin levels.
One of Turkey’s most common takeaway foods, pide, is an easy food to grab on the go, and it’s pretty filling too. Basically, this is a flatbread with a topping of your choice, shaped like a teardrop with the edges curled up just enough to keep the filling inside. However, you’ll also find closed pide (kapali pide) which are long and usually chopped into pieces.
Kiymali pide is one of the most famous, and this contains minced beef and onion, or you can add cheese and go for kiymali kasarli pide. Delicious! Other popular fillings include sucuk, kusbasili (beef meat chunks and peppers), kasar (cheese), spinach, and you can even find them with egg on!
Another famous street food but one you can find worldwide, for sure. The difference in Turkey is the fillings and how it’s served. Kumpir is a jacket potato, but here, you can choose from just about anything you want to be pilled on top, usually with a dollop of ketchup and mayonnaise, too, if you want.
Head to Ortakoy in Istanbul for the most famous Kumpir. From olives, sweetcorn, tuna, cheese, peas, carrots, the list goes on when it comes to toppings, and the more you add, the fuller you’ll be!
Kofte is a street food you’ll find absolutely everywhere, usually served in bread, but you can also find it in restaurants as part of a full meal. These meatballs are fried just until done, so they’re still juicy in the middle. There is another variation with a bit of cheese in the middle if you want to add a few extra calories!
The name of this one might be confusing to some because we’ve already said that kofte means meatballs. In this case, there are no meatballs. This dish is ground up bulgar wheat with spices, wrapped up in a lavas (wrap), with salad, pomegranate sauce, and a squeeze of lemon. It sounds interesting, but it tastes delicious! It’s also very low in calories!
This is a staple dish in Turkey and one you’ll find in all traditional restaurants and many homes up and down the country. It is a stewed bean dish with a little lamb or perhaps beef inside. It’s made with olive oil, white beans, and often with a bit of tomato paste to give it a slightly red color.
Again, you eat with bread, but you should definitely sprinkle a little pul biber (red chili flakes) over the top to give it a little kick.
This isn’t any old burger. No, it’s one that is undoubtedly an acquired taste, but you should give it a go regardless. In particular, you’ll find an islak burger in Istanbul, and it’s basically a wet hamburger. Although a little smaller, it’s a regular hamburger, but then covered in a tomato/garlic sauce and put in a very hot box of steam until it turns wet or a little sweaty.
It sounds horrendous, but it’s really not. It’s actually quite pleasant!
A Word About The Breakfast
We can’t finish up a chat about Turkish food without mentioning breakfast. Known locally as ‘kahvalti,’ breakfast is a feast and a half! Try and make time for a traditional Turkish breakfast, and it will see you through until dinner, for sure!
Eggs, menemen, borek, gozleme, tomatoes, cucumber, olives, different types of bread, meats, the list goes on. Served with several glasses of tea (cay), breakfast is an event in Turkey, and you’ll find families coming together en masse to enjoy plates and plates of delicious, fresh breakfast food!
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