Turkish cuisine was shaped by the many Turkic peoples who long migrated through the later Ottoman Empire as nomads. Typical for nomadic food are rich and filling foods such as bread and yoghurt or meat from herd animals. Geographically, however, Turkey could not hide from the Asian influences. These are particularly evident on the coasts in fish preparation. Overall, however, Turkish cuisine has a more Mediterranean feel, that is, shaped by the Mediterranean, than Asian.
Eating out in Turkey
A typical Turkish menu usually starts with a cold starter, the meze. These are prepared from various types of vegetables as well as from seafood or meat. With cold meze there are dips made from yogurt. But it is better not to eat enough of these delicacies, because the Turkish main courses are usually hearty and plentiful.
The Turks prefer it when the main ingredient of a dish tastes intense instead of being covered by sauces or spices. Since mostly Muslims live in Turkey, there is rarely pork. Instead, they love beef and lamb. Most of the meat is grilled or fried.
One likes to eat a light salad with the hearty meat. Rice and bulgur are very popular side dishes. The Köfte, Turkish meatballs, are also typically Turkish. They are made from minced meat together with onions and pepper. There are many different Köfte variants.
Snacking in Turkish
After a long lunch or dinner, or with coffee and tea in between, the Turks love sweet pastries and desserts. They are true masters in preparing these dishes. Many recipes date from the times of the Ottoman Empire.
The Turkish baklava, for example, is very famous. These are sweet pastries that are soaked in an even sweeter syrup. Another example would be halva. This dessert is made from sesame and sugar. You can also mix in a little cocoa. Another specialty is Lokum: these are small cubes of sugar or honey. They can taste very different because there are different variants. Some of them taste like rose water, others like lemon, others like pistachio. The variety of Turkish desserts seems limitless and there is a lot to discover in Turkey for those with a sweet tooth.
What else is typically Turkish?
The Turkish breakfast is usually rather simple and consists of coffee or tea and some bread with cheese and olives. On special days, sweet pastries, salads and soups are served with it. But this is rarely the case.
At lunchtime there is more on the table. This is also due to the agricultural culture in Turkey. You got up early to work in the field and strengthened yourself with a delicious meal in the hot midday sun. Perhaps you know some of the Turkish main dishes yourself. You have probably heard of kebab, for example. The term itself refers to grilled meat and it can be found in many Turkish dishes. A fast food variant of the kebab that is also popular in Germany is the doner kebab. It is often eaten in a flatbread with lettuce, tomatoes and onions.
Turkey is best known for its excellent tea. But the Turkish mocha is also a local specialty. This coffee is really very strong, which is why a tiny cup of it is enough for most. If you prepare Turkish coffee traditionally, the coffee grounds remain in the cup after drinking. Because many Turks like to drink their coffee very sweetly, the sugar residue also collects down there. Many Turkish children eat this sweet sugar substitute from their parents or try to predict one another’s future from it. For more information about Turkey and Asia, please visit mathgeneral.
Just wait and see!
In Turkey, it is common to go out for a cup of tea with friends during breaks or just after work. Should you ever travel to Turkey, it is quite possible that you will be invited to tea. After all, drinking tea is a very popular activity while chatting about this and that or getting to know each other.
You can also go to one of the numerous tea rooms all over Turkey. In cities like Istanbul, such teahouses are springing up from the ground. The tea in beautiful oriental cups or a glass with some sweet pastries is particularly classic Turkish.
More tea for turkey
Did you know that after the UK, Turkey is the second most tea drunk country? It is also the fifth largest tea manufacturer in the world. At the beginning of the 20th century, people in Turkey often drank the more expensive imported coffee. To change that, the government had tea planted everywhere – with success!