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Cuisine Spotlight: Turkish Food

For many Brits, Turkish cuisine is epitomised by the kebab, a staple snack for many after an alcohol-fuelled night out.  But delve deeper into Turkish culinary customs and you’ll in fact find a cuisine rich in variation that’s been developed over the centuries and reflects Turkey’s fascinating history.  So, continuing with our cuisine spotlight series, we thought we’d look beyond the kebab to find out what Turkish cuisine is all about.

Development of Turkish Cuisine

Istanbul

Istanbul. (image via)

Thanks to Turkey being situated at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, Turkish cuisine uniquely embodies both middle eastern and European influences.  It’s a cuisine that’s been honed over hundreds of years with Turkey’s tumultuous history playing a part in how the cuisine has developed.  The country has, over the centuries, been ruled variously by Persians, Greeks and Romans who have all come to influence the cuisine in one way or another.  However, the Ottoman Empire which spanned from 1301 – 1922 and which at its peak included Turkey, Greece, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Hungary and a number of other countries, was probably the greatest influence on the development of Turkish food.  The Turkish city of Istanbul was the centre of the Ottoman Empire and so a refined cuisine was developed in the imperial court in the city which brought together elements of all the cuisines that were part of the empire, and it is this that still very much defines what Turkish cuisine is today.

Turkey

Turkey. (image via)

Turkey’s geography has also influenced the development of its cuisine and enabled it be completely self-sustaining meaning it’s not reliant on food imports from anywhere else.   Turkey is a huge country with a varied seasonal climate.  The north of the country is cool which allows for tea plantations, whilst the scorching southern part of the country allows for the growing of exotic fruits and planting of hot pepper. It’s also flanked by two oceans, the Black Sea to the North and Mediterranean and Aegean Sea to the south, meaning that fresh seafood is in abundance.

Turkish bread

Freshly baked bread. (image via)

In Turkish cuisine, the focus is on fresh food.  Bread is always freshly baked and seasonal fruit and vegetables make up a large part of the diet. Nuts and olives also are common snacks.  Simplicity is a key feature of Turkish cooking with the fresh ingredients not being excessively presented or covered in complicated sauces or marinades.  Dill, mint, parsley, cinnamon, lemon and garlic are all common seasonings whilst yogurt is frequently added as a side.

Common Turkish Dishes

For breakfast, cheese, fresh tomatoes, olives and bread are typically eaten.  A dish called menemen, a fancy type of scrambled eggs cooked with tomato, green pepper and onion is widely eaten.

dolma

Dolma, a typical meze dish. image via

One of the most notable features of Turkish cuisine is meze, a selection of snacks that are usually served as appetizers, although they can also be eaten as the main meal.  They include beyaz peynir (white cheese), acili ezme (hot pepper paste with walnuts), patlican salatasi (cold aubergine salad), kalamar (calamari),  cacik (yoghurt with cucumber, dried mint and olive oil) and dolma (vine leaves or vegetables stuffed with rice).

Lunch often consists of a rice or bulgar wheat pilaf dish or lamb or chicken baked with peppers and eggplant or fresh fish.  Soups such as mericmek (lentil soup) and tarhana corbasi (mashed wheat soup) are also a regular feature of the Turkish daily diet.

Kofte (meatballs) are another popular dish, as are Manti, a type of delicious dumpling, often served with yoghurt. The dough is filled with grounded beef or lamb as well as onion, salt and pepper.

Pastry figures a lot in Turkish cuisine.  Börek is a hugely popular snack that consists of layers of phyllo dough (yufka) usually filled with cheese or spinach though there are regional variations all over Turkey which include those filled with mince meat or sweet fillings.

Gözleme

Traditional method of making gözleme. (image via)

Gözleme is a pastry that originates in rural areas; the pastry is folded around a variety of fillings and then cooked on a large griddle.  Lahmacun is a type of thin flatbread covered with spiced minced meat, tomato, pepper onion and garlic.  Pide is another common dough specialty.  It can be consumed plain or with minced meat, cheese, spinach, braised meat or eggs.

And then there’s kebabs…

Turkey’s most famous culinary export is probably the kebab, though the infamous (and often sub-par) version that is often sold on high streets throughout Britain is a far cry from the simple fresh delicacy that is prevalent throughout Turkey.

In Britain, the doner kebab is probably the most popular type of kebab.  ‘Doner’ means ‘to turn’ in Turkish and refers to the vertical spit that the meat is placed on before being grilled.

Kebab

Adana Kebab

Other types of kebab include shish kebabs; a dish consisting of meat that is threaded on a skewer and grilled, often with alongside chunks of vegetables.  Adana kebabs are minced meat kebabs that are skewered and grilled over charcoal.  In Turkey, kebabs are served with crunchy bread and fresh salad.

Dessert and Drinks

Dessert is often fresh fruit or pastries made with filo dough.  Dried glazed apricots filled with buffalo milk cheese and garnished with pistachio nuts  are a favourite treat as well as baklava of course, a rich sweet pastry made with chopped nuts and sweetened with syrup or honey. Coffee is also served with the dessert course.  Coffee and tea are a big part of Turkish life with tea houses being popular in the villages and coffee houses to be found throughout the cities.

Raki

(image via)

Raki, an unsweetened anise-flavoured aperitif is the national drink of Turkey and often consumed along with meze.

How to Find Turkish Food on hungryhouse…

Turkish takeaway is well-served on hungryhouse.  For some superb grilled kebabs in Manchester, order from Alif Grill, one of our top takeaways.  Those near Paddington in London should sample the offerings from the excellent Turkish restaurant, Lahore Grill.  For a great selection of mezes and homemade baklava in West London, try Lala Brasserie .  If you’re in Essex, then why not tryout some of the many Turkish dishes from 104 Turkish BBQ.

 Competition Time!

We’d love to hear more about your thoughts on Turkish cuisine.  So tell us your favourite Turkish dish or Turkish restaurant (it doesn’t have to be on hungryhouse) in the comments section below this blog post, and we’ll select one person who answers to win a £25 hungryhouse voucher.

by




Posted on: October 24, 2013 | by: Jess

About the Author

A coffee addict and fiend for Asian food who’s likely to be found perusing flea markets, seeking out the best street food or running around music festivals.



  • Khyle Deen

    Donor Kebab, only thing I’ve tried to be perfectly honest, love it lol, Baklava is amazing too

  • Andrew Weir

    Not strictly Turkish but Chicken Shawarma, a form of Kebab, is by far my most favourite food at the moment! Slow roasted meat over 24 hours that just sets the mouth alive.

  • shinythings

    The most amazingly tasty meal we had in Turkey was the Iskender Kebab. Lamb slow roasted in a hot tomato sauce served over light and fluffy pita soaked with sheep’s butter and served with peppers and yoghurt. The restaurant we went to didn’t even serve it but the owner ran down the road to his brother’s and fetched it back freshly made!

  • Rosie O’Leary

    As a vegetarian, I absolutely love Turkish food; it’s so zingy and fresh, and there are loads of dishes which appeal to herbivores! You just cannot beat some squeaky, salty, halloumi cheese with a yoghurt dip: heaven! My favourite Turkish restaurant of all time is Istanbul in Worthing. The staff is amazing and the food is to die for.

  • Jelena

    Hey! I spend in Turkey 9 months,learning Turkish language and culture!This is the best place to be on earth,Absolutely love this country and its people..Ofcourse i learned some Turkish dishes and my favorite is Sarma…Here it is…Afiet Olsun!

  • Claudia

    I absolutely love Turkish food and was lucky enough to travel there a couple of years ago. My favourite restaurant is called Devran in Haringey (famous location for the best Turkish food) – it is fresh, tasty and very affordable! There is great choice but if you like chicken I would highly recommend the Chicken Sarma Beytti as this is divine.

  • Hel

    A Luvly Mixed Kebab with loads of Chilly an Garlic Mayo on Naan at the end of the night, because the next day im sure they only sell Ugly Kebabs????

  • Emma

    Turkish pizza!

  • Helen

    definitely the kebabs from Samdan in Marmaris! i go to turkey just for those!

  • Chris

    Bodrum Express! (Edinburgh)

  • Brooklyn

    I have to agree with previous poster Turkish Restaurant Devran in haringey! I love from a Kebab shop (the only one I go to is King Kebab north london – on HH!!!!) is chicken shish wrap, the lamb Donner is lovely and well cooked, never had a greasy residue issue.. And the haloumi cheese and dolma- Devine! Can’t beat the fresh breads with tabbouleh and hummus…. And couscous! Quite obviously I love Turkish food! The flavours and freshness are unbeatable and such a variety there is guaranteed something for everyone…
    One of if not my favourite cuisine! Actually it is my favourite!!

  • Spamix Botix

    It has to be Iskender kebab. It is a kind of doner kebab, but of lower fat content, prepared from thinly cut grilled lamb basted with hot tomato sauce over pieces of pitta bread. Slathered with melted sheep butter and yogurt. It’s like shashlik donner kebab found in takeaways across the UK. As for dessert, kadayif and kunefe are to die for. And kazandibi (creme brulee-like), how could I possibly forget that.

  • saul

    awesome food..especially the Turkish Pide is a delight and simply feels wonderful to have it everytime with either veg or non veg options to choose from the Pide is certainly a Turkish delicacy. best served with the famous humous and olives and topped with egg! ;)

  • OrangeSerpent

    Bella Bella in Bangor is my favourite Turkish takeaway, yummmm

  • Danielle

    Lahmacun!!!!! Amazing, I try to cook certain dishes at home ;)

  • Victoria Gale

    Turkish food is up there with my favourites as it is so flavourful, diverse and often healthy. Favourite dish is Yogurtlu. Favourite restaurant is Kilis in Islington, London. Super menu, super prices, amazing staff. They home catered my 30th birthday too and everybody was very happy!

  • Lisa PerkyNips Edwards

    I love stuffed vine leaves! Not ashamed to admit that I can polish off quite a few of those in one go! And you can’t beat a good old fashioned kebab!!!

  • Abdulaziz AlRashid

    Kurufasulye is the best!!

  • Oz

    Turkish food is a beautiful and creative arrangement of spices, their cuisine is up there with some of my favourites. Being a vegetarian there some delicious healthy and fresh dips. On a recent trip I found a small place that made yellow lentil soup which was to die for! The class of students I was with requested it almost every night, based in brighton there are some very good Turkish places to eat, but my fave is kensai, a new restaurant that also includes Moroccan food. Good food, good people, ad a wonderful country.

  • Lisa colquitt

    Turkish pizza with spiced pomegrante beef and feta was to die for with a think pan base such a great in fustion of favlours !!!! Mouth watering .

  • Olivia Wright

    I’m a huge fan on Turkish food and my favourite restaurant is zeugma In Sheffield! They do the best mixed grill around, it’s just like being in marmaris Minus the gorgeous sunshine xx

  • Phil

    I feel somewhat inferior to say this after so many mouthwatering posts, but for me I cannot beat a really good donar kebab. Couple of good local spots here in Belfast.

  • Sue Jackson

    I really don’t know a lot about turkish cuisine, it’s definitely something I should explore more. :)

  • john threadgold

    Coventry Kebab house… honestly… if the the UK could taste a Cov kebab special…. A….. MAZING!!! :)

  • John Davis

    tangines are supposed to really nice wouldnt mind trying some

  • Glafkos

    Kisir Tarifi is the best :-D

  • tigoglu

    Marmaris Restaurant in Bath serves the best Turkish food. My favourite meal is Kuru Fasulye, white beans in a tomato and olive oil sauce, this is best eaten with rice and Cacik (cucumber and minted yoghurt…..the turks invented yoghurt)

  • Elaine Brown

    Baklava, the pistachio honey combination is the perfect end to a Turkish meal. Just two pieces and I am in heaven!

  • eva

    “Kebab Centre” in Wood Green, London makes amazing Kebabs, Sish ans Stew. It’s a proper Turkish restaurant with Take Away section.

  • lilahitlo

    don’t really know, since I have never being there but I know mediterranean food and shawarma is one of my favourite food mainly turkey or chicken one…. I also love wine leaf stuffed with rice (I know how to make it), reading the name of the food and when you writing what they are made of tells me that I know them in different name (well I don’t know much turkish) since most of them are mediteranian food that you can find in other countries too along with their own special unique dishes… (e.g. Greeks, Lebanese etc.)

  • Gotz

    Mangalore at west Kensington!! You must try the food there!! Bring it on to hungryhouse!!! Mmmmmmmhhhhh!

  • Gotz

    Mangal!!!

  • Harry

    We have many Turkish eateries throughout Edmonton, North London, my personal favourite has to be Capital Restaurant at 395 Fore Street. They do the best Turkish style Lamb Shank, albeit Kleftiko style, that I’ve ever tried and available here not at their at 271 Fore Street restaurant. Definitely recommend these guys!

  • Matthew T

    sofra in Birmingham !

  • Jodie Davies

    I love making Turkish dishes with Chicken, Beef, Chickpeas, Peppers, Onion, Tomato, Paprika, Oregano and mixed herbs. Call me greedy but there is nothing like good food! :)

  • Ben

    pasha Islington. lovely food great service.

  • alice bolton

    i personally love shish kebabs . I am also a bit of a fruit loop for baklava. but i rarely see it about .omanom !

  • joe

    kleftiko & the ever favourite kebab,the Istanbul near me is perfect for this mouth watering feasts !!!!

  • Donna Eaton

    I tried Havet Turkish restaurant in Bromley last night with friends. It was amazing. Had lokma with rice and Mediterranean salad and some mixed Turkish sweets after – delicious. Taking the husband there for lunch today!!

  • Matts7

    Here is a tip, best chilli sauce………..ketchup and chilli powder!! Simple, sizzling and saucy……mmmmm

  • Zsófia Horváth

    Grand Bazaar London
    W1U 1EX :)!

  • Blue

    Istanbul Prestwich!

  • Splenge

    Turkish coffee. Mega strong, and loads of bits in the bottom as a final surprise.

  • KieranWalsh

    Since a holiday in Turkey, i love Turkish coffee, of course, where would we be without Donor Kebab, .We have a lovely Turkish supermarket, within driving distance, but i confess never going to a Turkish restuarnt

  • Jayme Jay

    I love Turkish food especially shish kebab and dolma. Mmm

  • Sarah Hatfull

    I love Turkish sweets such a Turkish delight & Baklava! They are so yummy and great if you have a sweet tooth like me. & as an added bonus you can get them in so many different flavours x

  • michael johnson

    Masters kebab on top road Gillingham, best doner meat anywere! Favourite there is ther doner rolls, ther the nuts!

  • michael johnson

    Masters kebab on top road Gillingham, best doner meat anywhere! Favourite ther is ther doner rolls, ther the nuts!

  • Jacqui Crosbie

    Ooooh, Mixed Donner Kebab with real donner chicken and chips. Yum Yum :) From Hayworths in Hull.

  • LadyPurple

    A roll kebab! Anyone know where I can get one in UK?

  • Keith

    Ephesus restaurant in Orpington, Kent and Kazan, Wilton Road Victoria are both fantastic. Aubergine Dome is myfavourite
    Aubergine Dome £9.95, Oven-baked boneless lamb cooked with mushrooms and peppers wrapped in slices of aubergine, cooked
    in tomato sauce and served with rice

  • TOM Cosyns

    My favourite Turkish restaurant is Canli Balik on Greenlanes, Favourite dish would have to be Chicken Beyti,

  • Lulu

    Istanbul Café in Manchester City Centre there dishes are devine.

  • Enverulli

    One dish often overlooked in Turkey and especially in Istanbul, is the EXCEPTIONAL stuffed mussels called ‘Midye Dolmasi’
    They are delicious mussels stuffed with spiced rice and are served cold.
    You can buy them in restaurants or on the street for next to nothing.
    I have never seen them in restaurants in the UK.

    My fave Turkish restaurant:
    ‘Lale’ in Eltham, SE London.

  • tom gardner

    Silver Jubilee, Potters Bar

  • Leanne

    Turkuaz in Sheffield is fantastic and opened up Turkish food for me. I couldn’t pick one dish, everything that I tried was amazing (and after I tried one, I had to try them all!)

  • Mark

    Kaburga Dolması – stuffed ribs ,mmmm

  • LauraF

    Mangal Express, Billericay Essex

  • Magdalena Wochna

    Turquoise Restaurant Cafe Bar Prestwich, Manchester,…Istanbul Grill – Prestwich, …Turkaz – Prestwich,Manchester,…and that dishes it’s delicious -CHICKEN & SPINACH IN COCONUT SAUCE…., this one also nice – TAVUK SALATA (Hot Chicken Salad)

  • Lu Paternò Castello

    To enjoy turkish cuisine it is necessary find a place that use fresh ingredients,especially talking about the meat. I personally love Adana Kofte,bit spicy but never tasteless if you go in the right restaurant, with cacik or ezme salad and turkish bread on side . To drink: a fresh Ayran! I advice also the aubergine dishes as Imam Bayildi (the imam swooned) ,kind of dishes that you find easily in the south of italy culinary tradition.

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