FOOD: Let’s ‘Do’ Turkish Breakfast [Kahvaltı]
Note: I, Catie, am so excited that Nia’s amazing article will be partnered with a video coming Friday via FollowingTheFunks YouTube! Stay tuned!!! But until then you can get a quick peek at another Turkish Breakfast we had in Kalkan too here.
A Turkish friend asked me one day if Americans really wake up at 6:00 am to an alarm clock, have cornflakes and coffee for breakfast, and then head off to work like they do in the movies. A laugh erupted from my lips. Compared to the sprawling table of a traditional Turkish breakfast, a bowl of cornflakes must have seemed insufficient to count as a meal.
When you talk about eating a meal in Turkish, you use the verb yemek for “to eat.” However, when you talk about breakfast, you use the verb yapmak for “to do/make.” It has a similar feeling to the phrase “let’s do brunch.” And in fact, Turkish breakfast can be much more of an event than a simple meal.
Of course, on a workday, one may grab a simit (bagel-like bread covered in sesame seeds) or a breakfast sandwich on the way to the office, and there are even pre-packaged breakfasts with the essentials, or single person plates at restaurants. But, the true kahvaltı experience, like much else in Turkey, is shared. Late on Saturday or Sunday mornings, one can easily find a family of several generations gathered around a great spread of foods in the center of the table feasting together.
What makes a Turkish breakfast so delicious is the freshness of all the ingredients.
From the fruits and veggies to cheeses and honey, a good breakfast is a smorgasbord of incredibly fresh homemade ingredients… this is perhaps why people in the city will travel to surrounding villages for a village breakfast in a garden surrounded by the plants from which their breakfast has come. It can be a treat for kids to be greeted by the chickens and goats from which their eggs and cheeses came.
I mean, you can certainly settle for the café in an airport or bus station to get a decent breakfast, but if you’re visiting Turkey, you MUST find your way out to one of these village breakfasts to get the best and freshest kahvaltı available.
If you haven’t ‘done’ Turkish breakfast before, let me take you on a tour of the kahvaltı table.
Kahvaltı is the word we use for breakfast in Turkish, but it literally means “under coffee” or “before coffee.” It’s the meal you eat before you drink your first cup of Turkish coffee. Like me, some Americans can’t imagine breakfast without coffee, and may wonder what people drink in Turkey to wake up. This brings us to the first essential part of Turkish breakfast: çay.
Usually, a çay damlik (the double kettle that Turkish tea is brewed in) is left at the table so everyone can have countless refills of çay as they slowly graze on their breakfast.
Bread is the vehicle of Turkish breakfast and the highlight. Turks have perfected the art of bread making, and kahvaltı can be a show of some of the best breads and pastries. The range is from simple white bread slices, to soft rolls, whole wheat, sourdough, village bread, pita bread. I’ve even had French toast with kahvaltı! Pastries vary just as much, ranging from fluffy and light pastries stuffed with ground beef, cheeses, spinach, potatoes, or eggplant to heavier lasagna-like pastries, from the bagel-like sesame-covered gevrek (also known as simit in the rest of Turkey) to the light and fluffy pişi (fried dough pictured above) which is my personal favorite.
Tomatoes and cucumbers are traditional, and are often accompanied by fresh greens like arugula.
There are a plethora of ways eggs are prepared for breakfast in Turkey. Boiled eggs are popular, as are fried eggs, which can come plain or include sucuk [pronounced “soo-jook”] (Turkish sausage made from beef with a good helping of garlic) or other cuts of meat. Other options include: scrambled eggs, omelets, and the lovely menemen (a mix of eggs, tomatoes, peppers, salça and spices, pictured above).
Usually both green and black olives are available at kahvaltı. As someone who never ate olives in the States, the olives here have slowly begun to grow on me. One place I’ve been for kahvaltı even had pink olives!
Cheeses range widely in hardness, saltiness, and sharpness. Sometimes, you can even find fried cheese, or a melty cheese and cornmeal dish muhlama to dip your bread in. There are usually at least a few types of cheeses when you go out to a restaurant for kahvaltı, but in someone’s home, there may be fewer options.
A flavorful tomato and/or pepper paste that can range from mild to spicy.
Sometimes the best toppings are the simplest.
Olive oil + Breakfast Spices
The combination of fresh olive oil and this mix of spices is not something you’ll find at every kahvaltı place, but it is certainly one of my new favorites.
Potatoes may take the form of French fries, roasted potatoes, or even boiled potatoes with herbs. I also particularly enjoy when roasted eggplant and peppers are a part of the spread.
Honey + Kaymak (clotted cream)
Tastes like decadence first thing in the morning.
Whatever is in stock or in season. Strawberry, cherry, fig, apricot, blackberry, mulberry… the possibilities are nearly endless!
Because who doesn’t want to start their day with a little chocolate?
Tahin & Pekmez
Often times the tahini and grape molasses are poured into the same bowl and need to be stirred to get the right combination of sweet and nutty.
Ok, we have to hear from you!!!
- If you have had Turkish breakfast, what else have you had that I didn’t write about?
- If you haven’t had Turkish breakfast, what is something you haven’t tried for breakfast before that you might try after seeing Turkish breakfast?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
I am a lover of words and stories, student of culture, amateur photographer, adult cross-cultural kid, English tutor to TCKs (Third Culture Kids), and aspiring foodie. We will probably be instant friends if you give me good coffee, invite me to cook with you, or start a conversation with me about personalities, culture, and how the two intersect. I’m a life-long nerd, believer, and creative-in-the-works. I am all about the journey, so traveling and cross-cultural living is always something that has captured my heart and inspired my imagination.
In 2016, after teaching in an inner-city school and needing a change of pace, I spent a year abroad in Izmir, Turkey with a friend. I absolutely fell in love with the city and the people. The conveniences of a big city with a friendly, slow-pace-of-life atmosphere is all found between the mountains and the sea. What’s not to love? So, after my year of adventure, I knew I wanted to come back to Izmir to live.
Positioned on the perch of Asia, Europe, and the Middle East, Turkey is both a mix of cultures, and a unique culture all its own. The more I learn, the more I want to learn, and this desire to learn is what drives me to write. As a pretty quiet person, I write to learn, to discover, and to process. As someone who grew up in a cross-cultural context, Turkey’s diversity and mix of cultures is something I personally relate to. Plus, if you’ve ever tasted Turkish food, you know that it is definitely something to write home about. I’m really grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the Funks’ blog and to grow and learn in the process.