In this edition, Tastesutra brings to you an exhaustive guide that will help you to enhance your experience on your overseas travels. Unlike other guides, the recipes and dishes that we make references to, have been tasted firsthand by our team members. This essentially helps you give an insight of the flavourful food that you must try whilst on your travels and you also know who to hold accountable if things do not turn out as planned!
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Turkey, a country that lies on the cusp of the Asian and European continent and divided in philosophy, it is a haven for those who crave to experience a culinary experience unlike any other. The Bosphorus divides Turkey into two halves; the European side and the Asian side. Both have distinct characteristics in terms of architecture, landscaping and cultural traits but their food is that cohesive element that holds the country together.
One would expect that there would be a vast difference in the cultures across the Bosphorus but is pleasantly surprised to witness an outlook on cuisine that is inspired by their culture. This difference in outlooks is evident especially in a drink called, ‘Ayran’. Essentially a version of the ‘Lassi/Chaach’ that we are so accustomed to back in India, these are the minor variations that elevate the tasting experience. Turkey was no short of such variations, the food giving us an insight into the tumultuous history of these lands.
Food, Food, And More Food!
Something that was not planned per se, but I happened to visit Turkey during Ramadan, a month wherein the Muslims undergo fasting which they break during the evenings in a meal called, ‘Iftar’. As a tourist, this was the ideal situation for me as festivities in the city meant that I was treated with meticulous hospitality.
Ayran is a cold savory yogurt-based beverage that is mixed with salt and served cold. Available at every restaurant, it has an uncanny taste and is similar to that of a ‘Chaach’ that is served in India. At first, this local drink may not appeal to you but eventually, you develop the taste for this and it becomes a staple in your diet while in Turkey.
Water Chestnut And Corn Vendors:
The cobbled streets of the open plaza of the Hippodrome were littered with shop vendors that were selling these steamed water chestnuts (‘Kestane Kebap’) and boiled corn. Prices at 20 TL for about 200 grams, it served as the perfect snack to replenish one’s energy levels while touring the city.
Adana Kebap And Chicken Skewers (‘Tahvuk Cis’):
The Adana kebap is a must if you are a meat enthusiast or a food enthusiast in general. Its ingredients comprise essentially of lamb meat, which after thorough cleansing and resting in the marinate is kneaded with red peppers. Mounted on skewers after being grilled in a charcoal furnace, the Adana Kebap is served with Pita Bread (‘Lavas’), grilled onions and tomatoes. Special mentions go to the restaurant ‘Kebapzaade’ and ‘Sedef’ both of which are in Capadoccia.
The Chicken Skewers follow suit a similar process of preparation, the only difference being the meat that is used. Just hop into any local restaurant order yourself a ‘Tahvuk Cis’ and accompany that with an ‘Ayran’, a perfect mix to get rid of the blues.
It’s quite a scene when you ask for a ‘Testi Kebap’ in Turkey. Cooked in an enticing pottery kebap display, the meat that you choose is cooked for a couple of hours within the pot, the flavour of the tomatoes and peppers seeping thoroughly through the meat. Personally, I did not quite like it as much as the other kebaps but would recommend you to atleast try it as it a unique experience and you may have a taste for the same!
A traditional Arab cheese pastry, it is served warm and is soaked in a sweet syrup. What makes this dessert so unique is the cheese element within which oozes out of the crusty dough as you bite into it. Topped with grounded pistacchio powder and some side topping of butter, it is a delicacy for which you can overlook your diet for. You could always work out that extra mile in the gym the next day, but you will regret not eating this!
The dessert that the Middle East is famous for, the Baklava comprises of an array of nuts- walnuts, hazelnuts and pistacchios that are ground and spread between a layer of dough. Dressed with butter and served after soaking it in a syrup, the Baklava is the icing on the cake and marks a meal thoroughly enjoyed.
Turkish Delight And Dondurma:
With a base of starch and sugar, Turkish delights are an absolute delight to taste as there are premium varieties which can consist of pistacchios, coffee powder, lemon, hazelnuts, pistacchios and a whole lot more. The famous Turkish ice-cream or the ‘Dondurma’ which has become a sensation due to the social stratosphere, can be seen at every intersection, enticing you to indulge in the ‘game’ while giving you your ice-cream. These sure are the cliches, but if you do not indulge in these while in Turkey, you would have missed out on an integral part of the country.
If there are some dishes that I may have missed out, do let me know in the comments below.
Stay tuned for more!