Turkish cuisine is a fusion of Asian, Middle Eastern, Caucasian, Mediterranean, and Balkan flavours and traditions. You will also find that the cuisine may vary greatly across the country, from region to region. In Turkey, you will find these common ingredients in most meals: Beef, eggplant, onions, lentils, beans, tomato, garlic, and cucumber. You’ll leave this country with a stomach full of the fresh flavours, unique combinations and savory dishes that come out of Turkey.
The Turkish word for breakfast, kahvalti, literally means “before coffee” and it is usually made up of servings of tea, bread, olives, feta cheese, tomato, cucumbers, and honey or jam. When this no longer is what you crave for breakfast, you can switch it up a little and try the Turkish version of scrambled eggs, which is called menemen. This is a delightful, tasty way to start the day with eggs, red bell pepper, onions, garlic, and tomato.
If you want a more budget friendly option for on-the-go, you can pick up a simit from any street vendor. This is a thinner variation of the bagels you are used to. They are usually toasted with sesame seeds and you can order it with Turkish feta cheese or cream cheese. Have a few of these and you’ll be fueled and ready to start your day.
Following breakfast and all throughout the day you will be introduced to Turkish coffee. This tangible taste of Turkish heritage is an absolute must when you visit Turkey. The coffee beans are roasted and then finely ground before being boiled in a pot with sugar. It is then served in a cup where the grounds are allowed to settle at the bottom. It is an integral part of daily culture and routine to the point where it has made into Turkish proverbs like the ever-popular, “A cup of coffee commits one to forty years of friendship.” If you find yourself sitting down with a local to have a cup of coffee, you are sure to make lifelong friends. It is also very popular for people to “read” your coffee grounds, much like a fortune teller would predict your future in tea leaves.
Yogurt is an integral part of Turkish cuisine and will accompany most meat dishes, vegetable dishes, and meze (starter) dishes. You can also find it in one of the most popular Turkish drinks, Ayran, a delightful treat.
Turkish meals usually begin with a soup, of which is usually named after its main ingredient. There are typical soups like the lentil soup, yogurt soup, or wheat soup and then there are delicacy soups like the paca corbasi, a hearty winter soup.
Bread is eaten with every meal, so don’t be surprised to be presented with baskets full of it for each meal of the day.
Rice pilaf is often the primary side to every meal and you can get variations of it such as the tomato pilaf, eggplant pilaf, or pilaf with meat.
Beef is the main kind of meat eaten in Turkey, though you may also see lamb offered on menus. Pork is a rarity in the country, though not completely illegal. You can also find chicken and veal dishes, with seafood dishes being a staple along the coastal regions.
Ready your stomach (and your wallet) for the delicious meals that are waiting for you in Turkey. Protect your travel investments with extra cover to smooth out any small mishaps and get back to the food and fun to be had in Turkey.
Image courtesy of Flickr user Jorge Cancela