Middle Eastern Food

FOOD & CUISINE

Turkish cuisine is one of the world’s top cuisines that has earned its delicious and colorful tastes from its rich history of empires and culture.

The diversity of Turkish dishes is well remarkable because of the crossroad between Asia and Europe, known for its sufficient and plentiful foodstuff due to its rich flora, fauna, and regional differentiation.

Before diving into diverse food categories, it is important to know that the foundation of the cuisine is based on grains (wheat and rice) and vegetables. 

Almost every dish must contain one of those ingredients, as it is also a shared preference to bring out the flavor in each main ingredient instead of hiding it behind spices and sauces.

TURKISH STREET FOOD

Like its colorful and rich culture, Turkey’s street food is an array of vibrant and flavorful dishes. Many of these small restaurants and carts are local family businesses that prepare their food entirely with love for everyone to experience.

Doner

Doner is on top of the list when it comes to Turkish street food. It’s so good that it has become globally famous. It is served in several ways, such as Doner Kebab, Döner Dürüm and Iskender Kebab. The meat used can be lamb, beef, chicken, or a mix of all. Any choice is preferred to be served either on a plate with rice, potatoes, and a fresh salad on the side, or as a sandwich in Pide or pita bread.

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Gözleme

This Turkish Gözleme is a traditional savory dish, made from freshly baked flatbread or pastry filled with meat, spinach, cheese, and a lot of herbs.

Pide

Pide is the Turkish cuisine version of pizza. Instead of a regular-shaped pizza topped with marinara sauce, Pide is bread shaped like a boat and carved and stuffed with a variety of selections like meat, vegetables, and cheese. 

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Simit

Simit is a popular Turkish bagel. It is a freshly baked circular bread dipped in molasses and coated with sesame seeds, which can be stuffed based on preference. It is usually enjoyed with breakfast or as a snack when walking down the streets of Istanbul.

Kumpir

The ultimate baked potato is cut in half and filled with an infinite number of toppings such as cheese, butter, olives, salad, pickles, peas and carrots, mushrooms, sausages, and corn. As it can be enjoyable to customize Kumpir based on different preferences.

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Kofte Ekmek

One of the best street foods to try, usually sold from minivans. It is bread filled with meatballs, onion, tomatoes, or any other preferred type of vegetables.

Cig Kofte

Although Cig Kofte is a portion of street food, it is considered a healthy option. It is a sandwich that contains bulgur cooked in spices, served in a lettuce wrap with a drizzle of lemon juice.

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Balık Ekmek

One of the most popular and unique street foods in the country. It’s known as the fish sandwich that is eaten when close to the shore, as the locals claim that the balık ekmek is more enjoyable that way than eating it in a restaurant.

TURKISH DESSERTS

Trying Turkey's heavenly desserts is a must. As they are famous for their Baklava, Turkish Delights (lokum), Künefe, Helva, and milk-based puddings.

Baklava

It is by far the most famous dessert. It’s flakey, crunchy, and stuffed with pistachios or nuts between layers of phyllo dough and topped with crushed nuts and sugar syrup.

When it is served, it is usually stuffed with a good amount of fresh vanilla ice cream that certainly enhances the flavor.

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Image by Maria Teneva

Turkish Delights (Lokum)

Like Baklava, Lokum is known worldwide. They are fluffy bites made from cornstarch, sugar, and fruit paste or nuts. These candies are usually consumed with afternoon tea or coffee. 

It is recommended to buy Turkish delights away from tourist places and more from the small boutique stores for better quality and fewer preservatives and artificial flavors. 

Helva

You can see this dessert everywhere in Turkey. It is made with sesame paste known as tahini.

They are usually consumed outside meals.

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Künefe

This is a sweet and savory dessert that visitors cannot miss in Turkey. It is a cheese dessert covered in angel hair, topped with crushed nuts and a good amount of sugar syrup. And it should always be served hot. 

Katmer

Katmer may be eaten as a breakfast meal or a dessert after dinner and is well known in Turkey, especially in Gaziantep.

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Ashure

As common myths say, Ashure roots further back to the Ottoman Empire. It is a pudding with many variations mostly with a choice of grains, dried fruits, figs, walnuts, fruits, raisins, and a lot more.

TURKISH BEVERAGES

Turkish Tea

Turkey is well-known for offering the best-tasting tea ever. Tea is recognized as an important part of Turkey's culture and is also considered a sign of hospitality and friendship enjoyed in every social context.

Turkish tea is always brewed to perfection. When the locals are drinking it, they will always offer it to their guests.

Tea Time
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Turkish Coffee

Turkish coffee is a very integral part of the cultural heritage. Like tea, it is considered a sign of friendship and hospitality. The freshly roasted beans are grounded to fine powder; then the coffee powder, water, and desired amount of sugar (if preferred) is added to a pot and boiled to create a foamy layer on top and are usually served with cold water and a side of lokum.

Ayran

This delicious cold drink is made from yogurt, water, and salt. The fresh yogurt is diluted with water with a pinch of salt creating the perfect summer drink.

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Sahlep

This hot drink is enjoyed on cold winter days, it is made from dried powdered roots of a mountain orchid. Sahlep powder is mixed with milk and sugar then boiled. The roots are rich in starch and the mixture thickens naturally, resembling a cream-like texture. It is generally served plain and sprinkled with cinnamon but can also be a replacement for lattes and other coffees during winter.

Raki

Probably the most well-known of all Turkey’s alcoholic drinks. This aniseed-flavored drink contains a high degree of alcohol and should not be consumed quickly. Rather, most people enjoy the colorless raki mixed with water, which turns it into a cloudy-white drink. Raki is widely said to aid digestion and is known as a kind of aperitif. 

Image by Ibrahim Boran