The flavorful cuisine of Turkey is one of the great gastronomic traditions of the Mediterranean, reflecting a long history of welcoming influences and influences from both East and West. The country’s menu offers no shortage of distinctively delicious dishes, from classic flavors like börek to more exotic sharings such as kabak çiçeği dolması.
Börek is made with layers of thin phyllo dough, filled with either ground beef or feta cheese, and often sprinkled with sesame on top. This delicious dish can be formed into various shapes, like triangles or spirals. Other traditional favorites include gözleme, grilled flatbread stuffed with things like feta cheese, potatoes or spinach; köfte, grilled delicious little patties of ground beef or lamb; and manti, Turkish-style dumplings made with either beef or lamb filling. For something lighter and more refreshing, there’s the popular cacık, a cold cucumber yogurt broth.
On the sweeter side, some ingredients that dominate the Turkish dessert scene are honey and nuts. Bülbül Yuvası features thin slices of phyllo dough filled with nuts and honey, baked to a golden brown. Another dessert involving nuts is fistikli lokma, deep-fried dough balls covered in syrup and topped with pistachios. Eating fruits like grapes, apricots and melons is also a national tradition for dessert. Of course, you can’t not mention the ever-popular Baklava – crispy layers of filo pastry adored with nuts, drenched with sugar syrup and usually served after meals as a way to end a delicious feast.
With its many unique flavors and recipes passed down through generations – prepared only by the skillful hands of true experts handed down from mother to daughter – Turkey’s food culture proves to be diverse and enjoyable for all its guests. From home-cooked meals to fine dining restaurants offering fresh seasonal specialties, there’s something for everyone in Turkish cuisine.
When it comes to international cuisine, Turkish food is often overlooked or forgotten. But for those that have experienced its rich and flavorful dishes, it’s a beloved staple that could rival any ethnic cuisine.
Unique combinations of spices, herbs, and flavorings—including turmeric, mint, chili pepper, cinnamon, cumin, oregano, sumac, red pepper paste (also known as “biber salçası” in Turkish), garlic, dill, thyme, and much more—combine to create dishes that are unlike any other ethnic cuisines. Among the most popular dishes Canadians might recognize include hummus (also known as “humus” in Turkish), or kibbeh—which uses ground beef or lamb in a delicious minced-meat meal.
Other typical favorites include kebabs served in lettuce supplied with tomatoes, onion and peppers; meze-style platters of cold cuts; borek—flatbread filled with cheese and vegetables; kofte—ground meat patties seasoned with ground spices; eggplant and garlic puree dips; Turkish sausages; stuffed vine leaves; stuffed peppers; boregi—twisted pastries filled with cheese or spinach; yogurt soups; and baklava.
To perfectly accompany Turkish food are several varieties of wine as well as unique soft drinks like cay Turkish tea and ağaç şekeri (known outside of Turkey for its English translation of “tree sugar”). These beverages can be served either hot or iced instead of the more widely consumed coffee and teas from the region.
Be sure to sample some traditional Turkish cooking next time you’re in search of something new: your taste buds won’t want for pleasure or variety!