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Loco for Lokum: on assignment inTurkey The lowdown on winning the 2011 World Nomads/Rough Guides Scholarship...

9 Turkish Dishes for the Traveler Menu

TURKEY | Thursday, 16 June 2011 | Views [10537] | Comments [1]

I’m probably not alone in the misconception that Turkish food is made up primarily of variations on the trusty kebab but there is far more to Turkish food than meat on a skewer. You’d be forgiven for overlooking this fact, however, judging by the kebab-heavy menus littering tourist hotspots. 

Dig a little deeper, though, and you’ll find Turkish food to be fresh, seasonal and discounting the abundance of meat, healthy. A surprising variety of fragrant soups grace the appetizer menu, often coupled with varied mezes – from home-made Hummus, Tzatziki and Chakchouka, to Greek-style salads, stuffed vines and olives dripping with oil, always coupled with giant slabs of puffy Turkish bread. 

For the first timer, here are ten traditional dishes to get you started, but be prepared - Turkish food always has a few surprises up its sleeve.

1. Kofte (Turkish meatballs)

These lightly cooked balls of meat (typically beef) are traditionally served with a tomato and yoghurt sauce, although entrepreneurial hawkers often couple them with a western-style portion of French fries. Whatever they come served with, there’s little chance of a meat-eater avoiding this staple on their travels.


2. Kiymali Pide (Turkish pizza)

A twist on the classic pizza, the Turkish version employs a slab of long Turkish bread, either layered or stuffed with some variety of tomato, cheese, vegetables and beef.


3. Yoghurt soup & Yufka 

Yoghurt features heavily in Turkish cuisine, from dips and salad dressings to hot sauces, but most unique is its inclusion in a soup. A sour and unique tasting delicacy the soup is a favorite amongst locals and even better coupled with Turkish bread or Yufka – a paper-thin unleavened bread cooked like a pancake on an iron plate.


4. Aside 

A deliciously-odd dough-like desert made from grape syrup, flour and butter and typically topped with walnuts, the Aside is perhaps an acquired taste, but undeniably moorish for those with a sweet-tooth.


5. Manti (Turkish Ravioli)

A dish of meat-stuffed miniature raviolis traditionally topped with a tomato and yoghurt sauce, this dish couldn’t be more different to its Italian counterpart with a rich yet sour taste, but this lighter pasta dish makes a welcome change after gorging on the meat-heavy restaurant fare.


6. Testi kebab

A traditional Anatolian dish, the Testi kebab’s unique selling point is the specially made clay pot in which it is slow cooked. Diners are equipped with a small steel rod in order to tap open the sealed pot and unveil their dinner (complete with shards of pottery if you’re unlucky).


7. Imam Bayildi (stuffed aubergine)

A hit with vegetarians (although watch out for the alternative version cooked with mince meat), the Imam bayildi is an onion and tomato stuffed aubergine (eggplant), and is found either gracing the Meze menu or as a main course served with rice or cous cous.


8. Lokum (Turkish Delight)

A trip to Turkey wouldn’t be complete without tucking into the country’s most famed candies – Turkish Delight. A sweet, gelatinous candy flavored with rose-water and dusted with powdered sugar, the varieties available throughout Turkey run from the simple to the decadent, often stuffed with pistachios, hazelnuts or walnuts.


9. Kebab

Well, it had to be on the list somewhere. Whether you opt for a Shish (on a skewer), a Doner (in a pita) or an unnamed variation, be warned that in Turkey a ‘kebab’ is a seemingly catch-all term for anything meat-based and may not necessary meet the western expectations of a ‘kebab’. That said, meat-eaters would be hard pressed to find a more foolproof dinner option.

Tags: cappadocia, istanbul, kofte, lokum, travel writing scholarship, turkey, turkish delight, turkish food



Don't forget Kadayif! Best dessert ever. That and Turkish baklava, so much better then it's Eastern European counterparts.

  Azza Jun 20, 2011 10:38 AM

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