5 Foods to Try in Turkey
I love Istanbul. It’s big, it’s ancient, it’s filled with people from all over the world. But most of all, it’s delicious. Like the city, the food of Istanbul is a mix of the large, the old, the international and, well, the delicious.
You could also say it’s the centre of the world. After all, Turkey was the birthplace of the founder of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It was the greater part of Alexander the Great’s Empire, it was the Eastern Roman Empire and it controlled Egypt, the Middle East and North Africa as part of the Ottoman Empire. The Western part of Turkey is in Europe, the Eastern part of Turkey is in Asia. And if you’re looking for a world cuisine, go no further than Istanbul.
To give you a taste, here are five dishes you must try if you’re after true Turkish cuisine.
Italy may be the birthplace of pizza, but when you go to Turkey you get something more magical: pide. Cooked in wood-fired brick ovens and served on long wooden planks, pide is essentially a large pizza stretched out until it is more than a metre long and a hand wide.
This is the ultimate Turkish fast food and it’s a great place to start when you want to eat Turkey with all the trimmings. Pide isn’t the real Turkish pizza, though; that distinction belongs to lahmahcun.
4. Iskembe chorbasi
One of my favourite reactions was when an older English lady was eating a bowl of iskembe chorbasi (chorba, by the way, is a generic word for soup in Turkish, though it is often used to describe a minestrone-type soup—which makes sense when you realize that shorba is an Arabic word that is used to describe a minestrone-like soup.)
The English lady was obviously enjoying her chorba and asked me what it was made from. The name iskembe is derived from a Persian word—shikamba. Shikamba and iskembe both mean tripe. Tripe soup. When I told her, she wouldn’t eat any more despite her earlier enjoyment. “I won’t eat cow stomach, ” she said. “Even if it is delicious.”
For Turks, iskembe is the perfect cure after a night of hard drinking. Hard drinking usually involves drinking raki, the Turkish national liquor and an anise-flavoured hard liquor that typically is served with fish. For Turks, the word fish always goes with raki. So, raki balik, liquor and fish. My kind of country.