Food and Drinks
Turkey is a country for food lovers. It shares types of food with its surrounding countries which have contributed to the current diversity in Turkish food and Turkey has also affected the national cuisine of its neighbors. An example: One of the national drinks of Turkey is the strong liquor, Rakı, which is based on aniseed and is drunk throughout the country. In Greece the very similar drink Ouzo is also drunk throughout the country. The Turkish cuisine is relatively simple to divide based on its origins, being meats, dairy products, bread and alcoholic/nonalcoholic drinks.
Meats: Being a pre-dominantly Muslim country, pork is more or less non-existent in Turkish cuisine. Instead, lamb and beef are the main kinds of meat in use – chicken also appears as well as mutton. Meat is mainly served as one of three different dishes: Köfte – Small meatballs spiced in different ways according to the chef and the regional preferences. Yahni – Meat in a stew or casserole. Kebap – the world-famous serving of spiced meats in a slice of bread with salads etc. Döner Kebap is the type that is seen on a vertical roasting skewer, and S(h)is(h) Kebap is the kind where marinated cubes of meat are roasted on a horizontal skewer.
The above are only some of the ways meat is prepared in Turkey. Additionally the way of preparing the meats varies considerably from place to place. Another way of preparing meat in Turkey is Pastırma. Pastırma is a kind of dried and spiced meat (preferably beef) that has some resemblance to the American “beef jerky” and is the direct origin of Italian “pastrami”. In the production of pastırma, the meat is first left to dry for 4-8 hours, after which chunks of meat is salted and left mature for 48 hours on each hours before being dried in the open for a period of up to 10 days. Finally it is covered in a paste of spices that keeps the pastırma from drying and adds to the taste
Bread: A basic of Turkish cuisine, bread accomplishes most dishes and, in its various forms, is eaten throughout the day. The most common of Turkish bread is a simple white bread based mainly on white flour, some times with a bit of whole meal flour. Again the ways of preparing bread varies from place to place and in South Eastern Anatolia whole meal flour breads are common as is corn bread in Central and Eastern Anatolia. A particular specialty is simit, bread rings that may look like doughnuts but shares nothing but the shape with it. Each Turkish town has its own variety of simit, but the basics of this particular bread is the bread rings based on strong flour and rolled in sesame seeds. Being an important part of traditional Turkish breakfast so-called Simitçi’s walk around the streets in the morning calling out to sell the simit. Often, simit is eaten along with cheese spread. Then there is pide. This type of bread is often baked to have an oval shape with a crispy crust and a soft inner part. The inner part can be filled with köfte, minced meat, eggs, cheese and other fillings and is a Turkish counterpart to the Italian pizza.
Dairy products: This may be a bit of a surprise, but yoghurt (yoğurt), used all over the world for breakfast and in so many other connections is originally Turkish. On the other hand one should not go to Turkey expecting sweet, fruit-filled yoghurt for his/her breakfast. Turkish yoghurt is very different from what is known in the Western world and is more comparable to sour cream.
The first Turkish yoghurt was made around year 1,000 A.D. by the Turks arriving with the Seljuk clan. One of the things that make Turkish yoghurt special is the use of salt, which (obviously) alters the taste considerably. In addition yoghurt is used in a great variety of means and it is more or less impossible to find a Turkish dish that does not incorporate yoghurt in one way or the other. It is even considered a sign of a long life and upcoming wealth to dream about yoghurt!
Another Turkish dairy specialty is the drink Ayran. Essentially Ayran is a mixture of water and yoghurt with a bit of salt added. Though it may appear strange, Ayran is a very refreshing drink and goes very well with the Turkish cuisine which can be quite spicy. A glass of Ayran served as it should be: foamy and refreshing.
Essential to the Turkish cuisine is cheese. There are about 20 different kinds of Turkish cheese, which are divided into some 5 main categories; Tulum, Kasar, Mihalic(h), Food & Drinks YFU Turkey Welcome letter for inbound students PY 2011-2012 Welcome to Turkey 18 Lor and White cheese. Of these 5 groups of cheese, the white cheese is by far the largest, when measuring amounts produced.
It is used for a multiple of different means and is an essential part of Turkish breakfast. Turkish cheese differs greatly in texture and color (from white to yellowish) and is produced from a variety of milk types; cow, goat and sheep. The above mentioned kinds of cheese are also often connected to a specific area of the country.
Drinks: The most common drink in Turkey is undoubtedly tea or Çay. Generally, Turkish tea is of the black kind and is served by making a small pot of very strong tea, which is then blended with hot water and served in small glass cups and nearly always with sugar. It is an essential part of life and is served for breakfast, lunch, dinner and during the day. It is also an unavoidable part of Turkish socializing and is served when friends, families, business associates and others meet.
More famous on a world-wide basis is the Turkish coffee. Turkish coffee is made by cooking a small pot of very strong coffee on the stove with sugar added – thus making the use of tea- spoons with the coffee unnecessary. When served there is still a great amount of coffee grounds in the cup and the experience of drinking Turkish coffee is therefore very special for the inexperienced. It is also interesting to point out that it was actually Turkey that brought coffee to Europe in 1683 when defeated Ottoman forces (under the rule of Mehmet IV) left Vienna and, left behind them coffee beans that where found by the Viennese military.
As mentioned earlier, a most famous of Turkish traditional drink is Rakı. This aniseed based drink is between 35% and 50% alcohol and is not for the faint of heart. Often it is cut in half with water which makes the drink only more interesting as the mixing of plain water and the aniseed ingredients make the drink turn white (!). Rakı is served in so-called meyhane’s (Turkish taverns) along with several mezes which are small dishes of meat, vegetables, fish and other foods.