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Turkish food - An overview of the ingredients and dishes served in Turkish restaurants

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 0 1

Traditional Turkish Food

Traditional Turkish food consists of locally sourced seasonal fruits and vegetables, lots of fresh meat that is locally farmed and fresh fish either straight out of the sea or sourced from a local fish farm. Turkish food is healthy, nutritious and exceptionally tasty. Traditional Turkish food is always nicely presented, looks appetising and is very colourful. 

Bread 

In a Turkish restaurant you will always be served with some flatbread and garlic butter before your meal. In some Turkish restaurants, you may also get some chilli salad, which is known as ezme as well as a yogurt and mint dip. The flatbread served in Turkish restaurants is a “tear and share bread” and makes an excellent starter for the main course of Turkish food. When cooking Turkish food at hom you can replicate this by making a large chapati.

Ezme is a chilli tomato salsa that is spread over the flat bread starter served in all Turkish restaurants. Ezme is very tasty and easy to replicate at home.

Turkish food - Ezme starter to eat with some flat bread
The flatbread is large and I find there is no need for a starter, although those with larger appetites may disagree.  

Bread is a staple part of the Turkish diet and it is a part of all traditional Turkish food dishes. As well as the flatbread there are many other types of bread in a variety of different shapes and sizes and coated with a variety of different seeds. Turkish bread is always exceptionally fresh and is very tasty. Turkish bread is also very cheap. 

A favourite bread dish made in Turkey is the traditional Turkish pizza, which is nothing like the Western world pizzas most of us are familiar with. If you go to Turkey you simply have to try one of these pizzas as they are simply delicious.

Vegetables 

When it comes to vegetables, Turkish food will consist of what is in season. Typical vegetables used in Turkish food recipes include aubergine or egg plant, tomatoes, peppers, onions, chillies, lettuce and potatoes. Even though traditional Turkish food contains a lot of pepper and chillies Turkish food is seldom too spicy, although certain dishes do provide a bit of a kick. Turkish food recipes use seasonal vegetables in all kinds of dishes. Turkish chefs will grill vegetables on the barbecue, casserole them in clay pots, boil them in stews or simply serve them raw. 

Turkish food consists of lots of fresh and seasonal vegetables. Popular ones include spring onion, aubergine, peppers, chillies and tomatoes amongst other things. Turkish vegetables are tasty and very colourful.

A selection of vegetables for Turkish food

Meat 

Whilst traditional Turkish food involves a large quantity of meat there is not a large choice of meat available from Turkish restaurants. Traditional Turkish food contains a lot of chicken, lamb, mutton and beef and that’s about it. Turkish people do not eat pork (Turkey is a Muslim country and it is against their religion) and during my visits to Turkey I have never come across any wildfowl, turkey, duck, game or anything like that. Kebabs and casseroles are staple Turkish food items, and these are the most popular Turkish food meat dishes. 

Lamb 

Traditional Turkish food lamb recipes includes things like lamb shank cooked in a clay oven served with grilled peppers, grilled tomato, Turkish chips and a portion of rice. When you buy a lamb shank in a Turkish restaurant it will arrive at the table in a clay pot and on fire. The flaming aspect of this Turkish food is for the benefits of the tourist, but the Turkish food is still traditional. The flaming pot adds to the Turkish vacation experience and makes for some great photo opportunities.   

Another Turkish food lamb favourite involves cooking the lamb in the oven in a clay pot and make a lamb casserole with a variety of different vegetables and spices and then served with rice, Turkish chips or aubergine puree. These lamb casseroles are very tasty and the meat is very tender it simply falls apart. 

Turkish food also consists of a lot of kebabs and lamb, and mutton, is the staple meat for this. When making lamb kebabs the lamb and mutton is minced up and mixed with vegetables, herbs and spices, egg and bread and then kneaded in to a lamb meat dough to make a variety of kebabs, such as a lamb doner kebab, the adana kebab, lamb shish kebab, lamb meatballs or kofte as it is known in Turkey and urfu kebab, to name but a few. 

Chicken 

Traditional Turkish food chicken dishes includes grilled chicken, either marinated or un-marinated depending on how you want it, served with grilled peppers, grilled tomatoes, Turkish chips, green salad and a portion of rice. The grilled chicken served in Turkish restaurants is delicious and far better than anything available at home. The chicken is juicy, tender and very tasty. 

Turkish food involves lots of chicken casseroles and stews. These Turkish dishes contain few ingredients, making them very easy to replicate at home, however they are very tasty.

Chicken casserole on the hob

Chicken casserole and chicken clay pots are another Turkish food favourite served at Turkish restaurants. The chicken is then mixed with vegetables, herbs and a variety of spices before being cooked in the oven. The chicken casseroles are served on a bed of rice or with some aubergine puree. 

Turkish food also consists of chicken kebabs, where the chicken is made in to chicken doner kebab or chicken shish kebab. The chicken doner kebab is served with green salad and rolled in a tortilla before being put on a plate with yet more green salad and a portion of Turkish chips. A chicken shish kebab consists of pieces of chicken, either marinated or un-marinated depending on how you want it, grilled on a skewer and served with rice, Turkish chips, green salad, grilled peppers and grilled tomatoes. 

If you ask for a doner kebab in Turkey you will not necessarily get lamb doner meat, as I found out. Doner kebab  means "turned meat" and can consist of lamb or chicken so make sure you ask the waiter before you order at a Turkish restaurant.

Chicken doner kebab and chips

Beef 

Traditional Turkish food beef dishes consist of steak, which are obviously cooked on the grill, served with Turkish chips, rice, green salad, grilled peppers and grilled tomatoes. 

Fish 

The type of fish used in Turkish food will depend on where about s in Turkey you visit. When I go to Turkey I always stay near the sea, therefore the choice of fish is larger and includes sea bass, sea bream and mullet amongst others. There is also a choice of seafood such as calamari or squid. The Turkish rivers are ideal for trout and whilst these fish are found in the wild there are many trout farms up and down the banks of the Turkish rivers. 

When fish is used in traditional Turkish food it is either grilled on the barbecue or cooked in a clay oven. When fish is used in Turkish food it is coated in butter oil, which makes the flesh moist, succulent ad very tasty. The head is always left on the fish, which some people find off putting. Fish used in traditional Turkish food will never be served battered or breaded like it is back home. 

In Turkish restaurants the fish dishes are usually served with grilled peppers and tomatoes, a green salad and a portion of rice, all of which are perfect accompaniments for a tasty bit of fish. 

Turkish food relies on a large variety of different herbs and spices, marinades seasonings and oils, and it is these that makes Turkish food so succulent, moist and tasty. When I go to Turkey I find the high fat content quite difficult to deal with for a couple of days, although I do get used to it very quickly. 

I would have to say that Turkish food is one of my all time favourite cuisines. Unfortunately, there are not many Turkish food restaurants in my part of the world so I only get to eat in Turkish restaurants when I am on vacation in Turkey. Fortunately, Turkish food is relatively straight forward to replicate and make at home and whilst homemade Turkish food doesn’t taste exactly like it does when it is served in a Turkish restaurant it is not that far off.


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Comments

Oct 31, 2011 3:39pm
Case1worker
I have to be careful as I cannot eat wheat, but I do like Turkish food and we have a very good restaurant opened near us. Safe to say last week the only table was outside in the rain with a small plastic cover over it- we took it and had a real treat !
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