One thing that excites me about travelling, is the food. Sure I love seeing new places and interesting sites, but when planning a trip, I often like to look up what the national dish of the country is, or what amazing things I can try.
This love of food, led me to doing a cooking class, whilst in Thailand; and I was in my element.
When I thought about my trip to Turkey, thoughts of the Kebabs, came to mind, which slightly put me off. having seen many drunken friends slobber one into their mouths after a night out.
However, Kebabs in Turkey are of a different class, and in fact, almost every region has its own Kebab speciality, which will be cooked or served differently, so don’t be put off by the thoughts of a sloppy kebab you may get at 4am from a dodgy shop in England, and go try some of the real stuff.
Turkish food has been described as a fusion between central Asian and Middle Eastern food, with a number of regions having their own speciality
Here is what I suggest you try in Turkey.
Start your day off the right way – with a good Turkish Breakfast. I wasn’t sure what to expect with the breakfasts in Turkey, but actually loved them.
A typical Turkish Breakfast will include the following; eggs (hard boiled or scrambled), meat (usually chicken ham or sausage), french fries, cucumber, tomatoes, olives, Börek (thin pastry pieces, usually filled with cheese), breads, sweet cakes and cheese. This is all washed down with several litres of Tea (Tea is the national drink of Turkey).
I got a really good breakfast at my hostel in Istanbul #Bunk Taksim for 15 Lira, but you can almost certainly, get this cheaper in any cafe along the street, who will prepare a breakfast plate in this way.
Eggs for Breakfast
As included already, eggs are a part of the breakfast plate, some are boiled and others scrambled. On one occasion in Turkey, I went out for breakfast, as I had got up for an early flight, and didn’t have time to grab and go, so paid through the roof at the airport. I got myself something called Mememen – eggs, scrambled with vegetables and spices, and served with bread. You can find this at any cafe in Turkey, as it is quite popular. Some breakfast plates will serve a version of this. Local cafes sell this for as little as 10 Lira.
If you’re in Turkey for any length of time, you’ll soon see a number of little carts in town, or the side of the road, selling the Simit (pronounced See-Mit), which is basically the Turkish version of a bagel. It is a circular bread, often encrusted with sesame or poppy seeds. You can eat them on their own (plain) or add Jam. Some vendors sell chocolate spread packets. One of these will cost you as little as 1 Lira, and they are a great grab and go snack for during the day.
Baklava is a common sweet snack, served in Turkey, but its origins are within Central and South-West Asia, as well as in Turkey. This sweet puff pastry is often filled with nuts (usually Pistachios, and honey).
Personally speaking, it wasn’t something I’d eat a lot of the time, as I found it quite buttery tasting, which I am not keen on, but I think it is something you need to try at least once.
You can pick up some Baklava cheaply from a street side Vendor, or from a more expensive bakery or cafe.
Whilst in Turkey, I often found myself filling up at breakfast, then eating a Simit and fruit in between, with a huge dinner in the early evening.
In Turkey, the locals appear to eat quite late (10pm at times), in fact restaurants and cafes are almost, always busy.
Here are some things you can have as a larger meal.
(a variation of the spelling is Kebap, but it means the same)
The Testi Kebab, sounds ominous, but isn’t. It is delicious and was something I discovered in Goreme, Cappadocia as a speciality to their area. The Kebab can be any meat (Lamb is popular), but you can also ask for Chicken (Tavuk). It is marinated in various spice, and cooked in a clay pot. Served with a pita bread on the top. I was incredibly full afterwards. Highly recommended, and most places charge about 24 Lira for this, but trust me, you won’t need to eat for the rest of the day.
Şiş Kebab (also spelt Shish Kebab)
The term Şiş means skewer, and a Şiş Kebab is basically any meat (usually beef or lamb) marinated in spices with vegetables, grilled and served with rice, (sometimes fries, but this is often for the Westerner), green peppers, tomatoes and sometimes mushrooms.
In a nutshell, this is a Turkish Pizza. Pronounced Pee-dee. It is made on flat bread, or Pita bread, with whatever fillings you wish. The edges are folded inwards, and it is stone baked. It is a cheap snack you can pick up from roadside cafes.
You’ll soon spot a theme in Turkey, with every meal, and that is the bread. Bread is served with every meal, on the side. After a while, I felt like I needed a detox. However, the bread is incredible, and if up early enough, you will see locals on their bikes, with bread in their baskets. Furthermore, a walk past any small local shop, and you’ll see bread on display everywhere.
Çay (Turkish Tea)
Çay is the Turkish word to describe any kind of tea, but often refers to black tea, which is often taken black, with two or three sugars. In South East Asia, you’ll mostly see the locals sat by the side of the road eating noodles or rice dishes. In Turkey, it is tea, and I was told that Turks can drink up to 3 litres of the stuff per day. It is served in an hour glass shaped glass, and can be drank very quickly. If eating anywhere, you will almost always, get an unlimited supply of tea.
I got hooked on the sweet apple tea, and was drinking it with mostly every meal. This can come in a teabag form, powder or fresh. I bought some of beac variants back home with me.
In Turkey, there appears to be much more of a focus on savoury foods. However, you won’t be short on things that are sweet also. The Gözleme (pronounced Goes-Lee-Me) is a traditional Turkish flatbread, often referred to for westerners as a pancake. It can be either savoury or sweet. If savoury, this can be filled with anything from meat, and potatoes to cheese and egg. As I was in a sweet mood, I decided to pick one up with chocolate and banana. Incredibly unhealthy, but tasty.
You can pick these up from street vendors cheaply if you want a quick sweet, or savoury snack. The Gözleme, reminded me very much of the Roti Canai, found in the street markets of Malaysia.
No visit to Turkey, could be complete without trying some Turkish Delight. These are little squares jelly, often flavoured with rose water, or a citrus flavour. There are also cheaper versions of Turkish delight, which you can pick up from the spice bazaar, which are more marshmallow like.
I brought some of the cheaper stuff home, but if I were you, I’d push the boat out and get the real stuff. Don’t buy from the Grand Bazzar in Istanbul, as these will cost around 90 Lira per Kilo. You can bargain the vendors in the Spice Bazzar in Istanbul down for as little as 50 Lira per Kilo. The cheaper stuff costs anywhere from 28 Lira to 35 Lira per Kilo.
I loved the food in Turkey, and I didn’t get round to eating all the wonderful flavours. Is there anything major you think I missed? Turkey will be a place I’ll return to one day for sure. In the meantime, I’ll be on the look out for good Turkish restaurants to eat back at home.