Turkey is a country with one foot in the East and one foot in the West. Most of its country lies in Asia, while the other part sits in Europe. This has played a big part in how their cuisine and food culture has evolved - the most obvious influences include Mediterranean, Asian, and Arabic. The food is extremely rich and almost every dish is flavoured with spices and seasonings galore.
Mezes are the Turkish equivalent of Tapas. These small appetizer plates are a great preamble to your main course, or if you prefer a little variety in your meal, you can combine a number of mezes to make a full meal for yourself. This communal feel of sharing mezes and crafting your own unique meal, makes mealtime fun and collaborative. Plus, it’s a great way to try all the different dishes to figure out what you like and what you don’t without wasting a ton of food.
Typical mezes are plates of olives, cheese, pickles, or other small dishes. If you’re looking for a popular street meze, Turkish fried mussels are a must-try. They come fried and on a stick so you can grab a bite in between mosque visits.
Eggplant is a popular vegetable used in Turkey. Try the popular eggplant salad before your main course or as a light lunch option. This tart tray is made with only three main ingredients: Roasted eggplants, mayonnaise, and olive oil with garlic cloves and salt/pepper as an optional addition. Although this may sound like a simple dish, it takes a while to prepare and the flavours are more intense than they sound when describing the salad. You have to taste it to believe how good it is.
Turkish markets are a great way to multi-task as you explore the city. In markets you can pick up some gifts, explore, grab a bite to eat and learn about traditional Turkish goods. The Grand Covered Bazaar in Istanbul is the country’s most famous market - covering 65 streets and hosting upwards of 3,300 shops. Choose the Gaziantep Burç Ocakbaşi for a tasty treat. While it may look like an unassuming grill house, the food is out of this world! While here don’t forget to try the restaurant’s specialty dish—dolmas. They are made of dried eggplants and red peppers. The peppers are stuffed with a rice and herb mixture, and then served with yogurt on the side.
Another very popular restaurant in the market is the Kara Mehmet Kebap Salonu. This “hole-in-the-wall” restaurant is located right in the heart of the Bazaar’s hustle and bustle, but contrary to what the outside may be like, this restaurant is a calm oasis where you can give your feet a rest and enjoy an authentic, Turkish meal.
Meyhane quite literally translates to “wine house” (‘Mey’ is wine and ‘hane’ is house) and will provide the perfect to place to let loose and have a little fun. Meyhanes go back to the time of the Ottoman Empire when merchants would stop and spend their money on drinks. In more current times, it is a perfect place to grab traditional drinks and try a few mezes.
Popular dishes at Meyhanes include: Cacik, a small dish of yogurt, cucumber, and garlic (very popular ingredients in Turkish gastronomy), Pilaki, beans, melon, or seafood such as octopus, shrimp, and sea bass. For drinks, you will find many Turkish-made wines and the must-try, national alcoholic beverage of Turkey, Raki. This is an unsweetened alcoholic drink that is often served with chilled water, turning it a milky-white colour.
From markets to meyhanes to mezes, Turkey’s dining establishments and dishes are delicious and flavourful. As you wind your way through Turkey, taste to your heart’s content without worrying about getting sick. When you choose travel health cover from Cover-More, you can rest easy and enjoy the food instead of getting distracted by what could go wrong.
Image courtesy of Flickr user George M. Groutas