TURKEY: 5 Turkish Foods I Love
What comes to mind when you think of Turkish food? A lot of people come to Turkey and they think kebabs and rice. But as someone who took Turkish cooking lessons once a week for a year and a half, there is SO MUCH MORE.
For the month of February (the month of lllooooovvvvveeeee), I am doing a quick little mini LOVE series. Each week I will cover 5 “…” I love about Turkey.
Here is the line up! (scroll to the bottom for all the links)
- WEEK ONE: 5 Things I love about Turkey
- WEEK TWO: 5 Places I love in Turkey
- WEEK THREE: 5 Foods I love in Turkey
- WEEK FOUR: 5 People who also love Turkey too
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Let’s get started! Read on to learn the 5 FOODS I love in Turkey.
1. BEYTI KEBAB
It’s funny that I mentioned kebab’s first, especially after using it as an example of what people assume Turkish food is… To be fair, it’s a slightly different take on kebab which is probably why I enjoy it more!
Beyti is a Turkish dish consisting of ground beef or lamb, grilled on a skewer and served wrapped in lavas (or flat bread) and topped with tomato sauce and yogurt. Like most Turkish meals there is usually some type rice or bulgar served as a small side (as if the bread it was wrapped in wasn’t enough…)
Fun Fact: I learned is that this dish is actually named after a Beyti Güler, the owner of the popular restaurant Beyti in Istanbul.
TRY THIS RECIPE AT HOME.
2. ALI NAZIK
Gosh, I love anything with eggplant. Let’s get this straight – TURKISH eggplant. It’s just different than what we have in the states. I even mentioned that eggplant, or aubergine, in my ‘5 things I love about Turkey’ video.
And my favorite eggplant dish? Ali Nazik.
Ali nazik is a scrumptious Gaziantep specialty. The delicious marriage of char-grilled smoked eggplant puree mixed with yogurt is then topped with tender lamb stew. Ali nazik is sometimes served with rice pilaf and grilled vegetables. Unfortunately, this dish gets overlooked by a lot of foreigners that they’ve never have really good eggplant. So if you come to Turkey please, please, please, give it a chance. That’s all I’m asking because the mixture of the eggplant with the lamb that is so tender on top with makes it so incredibly delicious.
It really is a feast to all senses and a special dish to share.
TRY THIS RECIPE AT HOME.
Meze is a selection of small dishes served as appetizers or served as a part of multi-course meals. Mezes are a parts of the Middle East, the Balkans, Greece, and North Africa. You can kind of think of it like a larger portions of Spainish tapas (not free).
Our neighborhood in Izmir is know for its meze, especially the Rakı-Balık combo. Balık is the Turkish for fish and rakı is the Turkish version of their licorice tasting spirit which personally it’s not my favorite because I don’t love the licorice. Part of the rakı-balık experience is getting all these little side dishes to eat alongside your hand picked fish. I love being able to explore the freshly prepared selections of mezes and choose four or five and then later pick my fish.
This meal is most definitely a slow and social experience with friends. Everyone sits, chats, eat a little bit at a time, and maybe there will even be singing if a lingering 2 person band comes by to serenade you.
If you are a person who loves everyone ordering different items from the menu so you can ‘try it all’ then THIS is your type of place (and food). It is a great option for those who want to try a little bit of everything.
TRY THESE RECIPES AT HOME.
Kunefe is dessert made with shredded filo pastry, soaked in sweet, sugar-based syrup, and typically layered with cheese in the middle. If you aren’t a fan of super sweet desserts like kadayif or baklava, this is a great combination – something about the mix of cheese and simple syrup balances the flavors out and makes it seem lighter. This dessert is made fresh when ordered and it takes a while baked on the stove. If you are out of restaurant and know you want to this tasty dessert, make sure to tell them at the beginning of your meal. If you forget you’re going to find yourself waiting another 20 minutes.
I especially love Kunefe with pistachios sprinkles (or if you are in the hazelnut capital of Turkey then maybe hazelnuts would be a good choice!) and a little(actually a lot) scoop of clotted cream, or kaymak in Turkish. The mixture of shredded wheat, syrup, and cheese sounds odd, but you have to at least try once.
And yes, you’ll thank me for it. It’s just absolutely delicious.
TRY THIS RECIPE AT HOME.
I am sure it isn’t a surprise to those of you who have been following along for any amount of time here. From our blog post write-up, breakfast in Kalkan, video explaining what Turkish Breakfast is, and our recent Black Sea series telling you about the must-trip mıhlama breakfast dish served in Trabzon and Rize, it’s my jam (get it?).
Kahvalti, the Turkish word for breakfast, literally means ‘under coffee’ or a better translation is ‘before coffee’. Turkish breakfast is often diverse and consists of several different foods eaten together with a big pot of çay, or Turkish tea. Turkish kahve, or coffee, comes at the end of the meal. Breakfast in Turkey, traditionally, is family gathering, much like a brunch is for us Americans. With a line-up of tastes all its own, who wouldn’t look forward to it the night before and WANT to make it a longer, sit-down affair.
What makes Turkish breakfast even more appealing? Every region of turkey has a different type of breakfast tradition or breakfast dishes that they love to serve in their spread. Of course the most common items are usually there: tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, cheeses, eggs, and usually some types of jellies or honey with bread.
Turkish breakfast is usually done best on the weekend – during the week families are busy, but usually on a Saturday morning or Sunday morning, families make a point to sit down and have this breakfast or brunch with their families. Our family too has followed this tradition! I LOVE a good brunch on a weekend, and our favorite restaurants in Karsiyaka know us now! (Well, when they are allowed to be opened – stinky covid.) I also appreciate enjoying it with good friends and/or family.
I’ve got a couple of videos about Turkish breakfast but if you’re curious to learn more about what all could be found in a Turkish breakfast at a restaurant you can watch one of my videos called “What is Turkish Breakfast???”.
TRY THIS LIST GUIDE AT HOME.
There you have it! Those are my top five foods I love in Turkey. I think I will have to do a part 2 because I could easily name 5 more!!!
Check out our matching video over at our YouTube Channel.
LISTEN to our podcast episode about our top 10 favorite Turkish food!
Comment below and let me know about some of the questions below:
- Have you visited Turkey?
- Where do you love to visit?
- Or where would you love to visit one day?
Check out our other Mini LOVE Series videos and blog post too!
- 5 Things I love about Turkey: BLOG POST (coming soon!) + VIDEO
- 5 Place I love in Turkey: BLOG POST + VIDEO
- 5 Food I love in Turkey: BLOG POST + VIDEO
- 5 People who love Turkey too: next week
Thank you for watching my mini love series and so thankful for you and I hope you enjoy the freebies!