Foods to Taste in Turkey
The Diversity of Turkish Food
On one of my first nights in Istanbul, the mother of the child I was au pairing for told me an interesting piece of information, something I don’t think I would have guessed: that Turkish food stands among the five most diverse national cuisines in the world (the other four were Italian, French, Chinese, and Mexican). In addition to the being the owner of several Istanbul-based food and dining magazines, she is also a skilled and knowledgeable cook, and over the weeks that followed my arrival the variety and quality of food I ate at her dinner table soundly asserted the validity of this statement. Each night we had a different set of salads, a different style of meat, even different cheeses — and nearly all of it, with the exception of some French desserts, was authentic Turkish cuisine.
Turkish Food to Seek Out
So what should a visitor make it a priority to try? To begin with, make a point of trying vegetable-based dishes over meat-based dishes. The meat in Turkey is good, but I found that the salads were much more interesting and unique, more unlike the food you can find in other parts of the world. When you do go for meat, try the lamb instead of the chicken or beef. Everything I had with eggplant was fantastic, and I tasted a number of yoghurt- and vegetable-based cold soups, all of which were very satisfying. The yoghurt in Turkey, which is more salty than sweet, is not what most Westerners are used to, but many people come to enjoy it once they get used to it; Turks tend to eat it on and with their food rather than as a separate dish. Dolma—oil-soaked grape leaves stuffed with rice, nuts, spices, and meat is good and widely available. For dessert, Turkish delight was always my preference and comes in a huge variety of flavors, my favorite being pomegranate with pistachio nuts. Finally, I must make a warning against a trap I fell into my first time in Turkey: don’t spend your whole trip eating kebab. It’s cheap and it’s everywhere, but if you do a little searching you can find better food for similar prices. And besides, the kebab in the rest of Europe, which has usually been modified and adapted, is generally much better than what can be found in Turkey.
Written By Jesse Anderson
Jesse Anderson is a native of Olympia, Washington, but later went on to study political science at Emory University in Atlanta. Since graduating, he has been working and living abroad in places as diverse as Normandy, southern China, and Istanbul, and he spends his free time making music, reading, and studying languages.