A Sampling of the Turkish Table

There are dozens of dishes featuring eggplant alone; here is just a tiny sample of the Turkish dishes I’ve tried and taken pictures of.

Gözleme. Last year I practically lived off this treat. Gözleme a often (erroneously) translated as “pancake”, but it’s more of a flatbread. The dough is rolled around a rolling pin until it is very thin, then stuffed with cheese, spinach, potatoes or less-traditional ingredients like bananas and honey before being baked in a flat tandoor oven. Best with fresh cut cucumbers and tomatoes, and a side of cold Ayran (salty kefir-like drink)


Turkish breakfasts in the home are usually a bit simpler, but always involve breads accompanied by jams, honey or tahini; black and green olives, a cucumber-tomato salad, usually two types of cheese (mild yellow and soft white, or crem), and some kind of eggs. Oddly enough, breakfasts and egg dishes often come with friend potato wedges.

Melemen/Menemen (I’ve seen both spellings on restaurant menus) is an egg dish made by sautéing red and green peppers (and often onions) in a pan, then covering the peppers with scrambled eggs and covering for a minute or two until the eggs are almost done. It’s often served as part of Turkish breakfast, or with either fried potato wedges or lavash, a Turkish flatbread puffed up in the oven.

Cakes and sweets. Though not every cup of tea is accompanied by a plate of cookies and cake, it’s quite common to serve something to visiting guests. Sweets are usually more aromatic and nut-heavy than in the US. My favorite are cookies made with almond or hazelnut flour, sugar and egg whites – somewhat similar to a meringue.

Köfte. Often referred to as “Turkish meatballs”, köfte more resemble small hamburger patties. They can be served with pilaf, in a sandwich, covered in yogurt sauce, or on bread and topped in tomato sauce and peppers, or in one of a hundred other ways.

Midye/Stuffed Mussels. Usually sold from street carts in seaside towns and snacked on by beachgoers or downed with Efes beer, midye are mussel shells filled with rice pilaf packed around the actual mussel. To eat you slide off half the shell, use it as a scoop to pick up the packed pilaf, and give a liberal squirt of lemon. In Bodrum the “Brothers Sarı” (“Sarı kardeşler”) dominate the midye business, with the seven brothers all operating around different peninsula ports.

Nut sweets. See above – nuts don’t often make their way into main courses, but they do feature heavily in Turkish cuisine, especially in desserts and dry snacks.

Saslı köfte (think I spelled that wrong…)/Kofte with sauce. This dish was actually from a red-boothed restaurant in a mall. You know a nation takes their cuisine seriously when the mall food is this good (and still under $5)

Kayserı Mantası/Mantis from the city of Kayseri. Manta are sometimes (erroneously) translated as “ravioli”, which is a shame. Manti are basically thin squares of dough stuffed with meat, cheese or vegetables and then either boiled (kind of like ravioli), steamed (kind of like dumplings) or baked. Kayseri Manta are tiny manti stuffed with meat, boiled, then covered in a sauce of yogurt, red pepper. And mint, best accompanied by some aubergine. These we (again) had in a mall.

Baklava: It’s not just Greek and Italian! In fact, E was really skeptical that I’d ever had Baklava before coming to Turkey. Here, there are basically two kinds: that made with honey and walnuts, and that made with pistachios. There are also the related pistachio, honey and phyllo dough rolls. Compared to baklava in the US, Turkish baklava tend to be less sweet and more intense in nutty flavor.







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