My cousin mentioned she loved Germany. I asked her what she loved about it. She loved the public transportation, the cleanliness, their accommodations, the people. I said “and the food?” She replied that she was on a Candida diet at the time. I think I may have overreacted when I burst out with “what a waste of a trip!!” Obviously, for me, food is the centerpiece of ANY trip.
I love soup! My favorites in Turkey were the spicy red lentil soup and tarhana soup. Tarhana is an ancient recipe made from dried tomatoes, peppers, onions, etc. that is pulverized and rehydrated in the winter. It’s still common for women to dry, pickle, and preserve their garden produce–and they pickle everything!! When I found a recipe for tarhana, I discovered the vegetables are made into a fermented dough with yogurt. This explains the delicious and flavorful taste. Soups are always served with lemon, which brightens the flavor. I noticed people liberally dousing their soup with lemon juice at the truck stop and loading their tray with slices of bread.
There are a couple of tasty pizza-type offerings. One is Lahmacun, which is round like a pizza and has a crispy crust–like a flour tortilla. It’s topped with a ground beef-tomato mixture and served with fresh parsley and lemon. The Turkish are a genius in this regard: topping their homey food with fresh herbs and lemon, providing a delicious contrast. The Turkish flat bread pizza is called “pide” and is thicker and oval shaped. They spread the ground beef mixture raw on the dough, but other toppings are offered. This video shows how the dough is shaped and filled. There’s one other flatbread called “gozleme” that’s filled with anything from spinach and feta to spiced lamb or beef. YUMMY–one and all!
For lunch we would often stop at places offering “home cooking,” serving up steel pans of local dishes cafeteria-style. There was usually a meatball dish made of ground beef called “Kofta” served in a sauce with vegetables. They love eggplant, which is frequently included. Beef, lamb, and chicken are always available but pork is never used because 99% of the population is Muslim. Everything is served with rice or bulgur wheat–which I absolutely love. The bulgur wheat is so nutty and satisfying.
One of the most popular meals was in Selcuk. A local restaurant serves up an enormous sandwich stuffed with fried eggs and meats then topped with lettuce and pickles. Some of our group went back on our free day for another one!
We had a unique meal in Karahayit. It was a stir fry served in a cast iron skillet. They also had a scrumptious dessert made with candied pumpkin and a tahini drizzle! A unique salad from the Antalya region, piyaz, was definitely my favorite. It features cannelloni beans, onion, tomato and hard boiled eggs with a sauce that is the star of the show. The sauce is so delicious I could eat bowls of it with bread! It’s a tahini based sauce with olive oil, lemon, and garlic.
Of course we have to address tea if we’re talking Turkey! In addition to Turkish tea, they love fruit teas like apple and pomegranate. But my absolute favorite tea is sahlep, which is made from orchid tubers and was especially popular in the former Ottoman Empire. It is rich and slightly thick, with a pleasing hint of vanilla, topped with a sprinkling of cinnamon. We had another tea in the seaside village of Zekibey which is only served there. It was pale pink and served with crushed walnuts on top. Different, but oh so tasty!
Lastly, the Turkish delight. What a pleasant surprise because I was expecting the powdered sugar dusted cubes of jelly. But instead I was assaulted with a multitude of rolled nougat encrusted with nuts or berries or dried pomegranates. Such a sweet clash of textures and flavors. It epitomized the feeling of “a kid in a candy store” because there were SO MANY CHOICES!