Lately, Turkey has been hitting the headlines with news of an attempted coup d’état and the explosions at the Istanbul airport. Syrian refugees continue to flood in and skirmishes continue to break out in different parts of the country.
In most minds, Turkey is a war zone. The beauty of the Eurasian country is lost in the midst of its flashes of unrest, and there go the visitors who can be left completely enamored by its many, many wonders.
If you, like those few travelers left in the world, love to see what lies underneath, then Turkey is another destination for your list – especially for the food lovers. The Turks have created one of the most flavourful, wholesome cuisines in the world, absolutely unmissable! If you’re particularly fond of grilled meats and rich spices, look no further, voyager.
These are the best local dishes in Turkey that will have you coming back for more!
Lahmacun is Turkish pizza, but the kind we ALL like – one with a super thin crust topped heavily with meat, vegetables and herbs. A great variety of this dish is available all over Istanbul; spicy, piquant, crusty, fiery and more. In the hands of a master, or usta, a lahmacun can be absolutely heavenly. According to a food website, the two best lahmacun makers in Istanbul are Halil Lahmacun and Borsam Taşfırın. Time to see if it’s right!
It’s kebab time! Döner kebab is deboned, layered meat which is roasted on a vertical axis. It is cut with a special long knife and served as a pide sandwich, in a half loaf of bread or with a plate of pilaf. The different versions are plentiful and the results, always delicious! Istanbul boasts of some mouth-watering joints in its prominent districts, with varieties such as potato puree, sumac onions and pickles.
The best Iskender Kebab can be found in Bursa. It is a plate of döner kebab laid on cut flatbread, doused with salad and butter with a side of cool yoghurt. Iskender kebabs are known for their rich melted butter content, which the waiter or the cook drizzles, at the end, over the plated kebab. Mouthgasms are assured!
Meat enthusiasts will adore the Adana Kebab. It is made very specifically, typically with the meat of a male lamb grown naturally and fed on local vegetation. The meat is kneaded with dried red and green hot peppers and fresh local red peppers. It is then brochette mounted on the skewers, charcoal grilled and served on lavaş with a side of grilled vegetables.
The Kuyu kebab comes from a slow and well-cooked male lamb. Pine tree branches give it a distinct flavour, and it is cooked in a specially constructed hole above a charcoal fire.
Fish Sandwiches by the Waterfront
At the Eminönü Pier in Istanbul, fishermen load up their fresh catch and people are in for a hot treat in the way of a fish sandwich. Little stalls set with little stools are frequented by locals wanting a quick hot snack, served with a side of salad or drinks. Not a popular tourist hang-out, but a great way to observe the little ways of Istanbulus (as the residents of Istanbul like to call themselves!).
Mezes are appetizers, served with toasted bread and drinks. Traditional restaurants called meyhanes serve mezes along with other traditional Turkish dishes. Popular mezes are grilled eggplant with yoghurt, fried eggplant with tomato sauce, pinto beans and mint yoghurt dip.
Sweet-toothed travelers will fall in love with this classic Turkish dessert. Baklava is made of fine baked layers of phyllo dough containing nuts, and soaked in syrup. The best time to eat it is when it has been freshly made. The crunchy, classic, melt-in-your-mouth baklava can be best found at Hafiz Mustafa, the famous chain of desserts in the country.
Künefe is a traditional Arab pastry. Unsalted cheese is present between thin layers of dough, and the dish is baked and soaked in syrup. Grounded nuts such as pistachio garnish the top. This popular dessert is best eaten warm, when the melted cheese mixes with the sugared dough and brings a heavenly mixture of different textures.
It is said that those who love to eat, should love to cook! And those who love to cook cannot do without the grand variety of flavours that only spices can offer. Take a trip to the biggest spice bazaar of Istanbul and prepare to go nuts! The Misr Spice Bazaar houses some of the best spices, dried fruits, nuts and seeds, jams, meats and Turkish delights in the country. There are also snack stalls and souvenir shops to round off what would be a simply delightful day of shopping!
Start planning your next vacation, holiday seekers!