10 Essential Turkish Dishes

View Gallery
10 Photos
10 Essential Turkish Dishes
Crushed-Tomato-Salad1

Crushed tomato salad (ezme)

I ate this dish – composed of finely diced, seasoned tomatoes mixed with fresh, dried and paste capsicum – on my first night in Istanbul and remember being struck by how simple and delicious it was. This salad is incredibly rich and flavoursome, so it goes well with bread as part of meze (a selection of appetisers).

10 Essential Turkish Dishes
kofte

Red lentil balls (mercimek köfte)

Red lentils mixed with bulgur wheat, onions and spices and shaped into small balls don’t necessarily sound like a winning combination, but you need to eat this. It’s sold as a meze at restaurants and is available from takeaway places garnished with lettuce, parsley and fresh lemon juice, wrapped in dürüm (lavash bread).

10 Essential Turkish Dishes
Olive-Salad

Olive salad (yeşil zeytin salatası)

Olives are plentiful and cheap in Turkey. I like olives and eat them regularly but I’d never eaten them for breakfast - and at every subsequent meal - as I did in Turkey. For this olive salad, pitted green and/or black olives are mixed with olive oil, thyme, red pepper paste and pomegranate syrup or lemon juice.

10 Essential Turkish Dishes
tarhana

Dried curds soup (tarhana corbasi)

Tarhana consists of cracked wheat or flour, yoghurt, and vegetables, which are then fermented and dried. The dried curds are then simmered with stock, milk or water to produce a pleasant tasting soup to which vegetables and meat can be added if desired. I ate this interesting soup in the tiny village of Demircidere near Izmir.

10 Essential Turkish Dishes
Spinch-and-Cheese-Borek

Pastry (börek) with various fillings

The most common börek – or filled pastry – consists of paper-thin yufka dough layered with ingredients such as cheese (peynir), spinach (ispanak) and meat (et). Börek is delicious and filling so perfect for a quick breakfast, lunch or snack on the run.

10 Essential Turkish Dishes
Adana-Kebab

Adana kebab (adana kebabi)

The terrific adana kebab is basically fatty lamb mince seasoned with sumac, chilli pepper flakes and cumin, which is then wrapped around a skewer and grilled. It’s often served on a bed of bulgur wheat with a grilled tomato, hot pepper, parsley and lettuce on the side.

10 Essential Turkish Dishes
Stuffed-Vine-Leaves

Grape leaves stuffed with rice (zeytinyağli yaprak dolmasi)

Cooked grape leaves stuffed with rice flavoured with onions, pine nuts, currants, mint, dill and spices are a popular and healthy vegetarian meze. When you’ve eaten freshly made stuffed grape leaves, you’ll never go back to the canned variety again.

10 Essential Turkish Dishes
Stuffed-eggplant

Eggplants stuffed with minced meat (karniyarik)

The humble eggplant is a major player in Turkish cuisine - I don’t think I ate a single meal in Turkey without some kind of eggplant component. One of the simplest ways of cooking eggplant - stuffed with meat and stewed with tomatoes and capsicum - is also one of the best.

10 Essential Turkish Dishes
Turkish-Cheese

Cheese (peynir)

While cheese is part of a food group rather than a specific dish, cheese (and yoghurt) make up an important part of the Turkish diet, so they are worth mentioning here. Turkey enjoys an enormous and fascinating range of cheeses, each specific to its own region. For example, Kars in eastern Turkey is known for its gravure (a local version of French gruyere). Turks take their cheese very seriously: the Radisson Blu Hotel Istanbul Sisli featured 16 different local cheeses at its breakfast buffet. Respect.

10 Essential Turkish Dishes
turkish-delight

Turkish delight (lokum)

Turkish delight - essentially, boiled sugar, cornstarch and water cut into cubes or logs - can be overly sweet, so a little goes a long way. But the sheer variety of flavours and combinations are wholly intriguing: think freshly made Turkish delight cooked with dried fruit and rolled in dried berries, saffron and pistachios, or Turkish delight fl avoured with rosewater and rolled in tiny, crunchy chocolate balls.

One of the great joys of travel is experiencing another culture and getting to know its people through its food. A recent trip to Turkey with Trafalgar Travel had me visiting Istanbul, Troy, Canakkale, Ephesus, Izmir, and Cappadocia.

One of the great joys of travel is experiencing another culture and getting to know its people through its food. A recent trip to Turkey with Trafalgar Travel had me visiting Istanbul, Troy, Canakkale, Ephesus, Izmir, and Cappadocia.

X