Turkish Food and Coffee, Turkey Culture, The Kebap & Meze

Modern Turkish food still retains some elements from that cooked and consumed at the time of the Ottoman empire, and the emphasis is on flavour and freshness.

Produce and spices are a crucial element of successful Turkish cooking, and despite the kebabs which fuel the nation, the Turkish do eat a lot of grains, vegetables and dairy.

The Turkish eat an astounding four times as much bread as any other nation. Most of this must be mouth-watering pide, the Turkish flatbread sold in every store and baked on every street corner. Pide is also the name of Turkish pizza, the bread topped with lamb, onions, cheese and tomato or any variety of combinations.

But it’s the iconic kebap which fuels everyday life - a true part of the Turkish culture. The kebap, a term which loosely translates as ‘roasted’, can be made in a wide variety of ways. The famous doner kebap, slices of lamb cooked on a vertical revolving spit, is the country’s national dish and can be found everywhere. Shish kebap is chunks of lamb grilled on skewers, while the Iskender kebap involves lamb drenched in melted butter with layers of pide, plenty of tomatoes and yoghurt. Kofte are traditional meatballs. The menus in many Turkish restaurants are often accompanied with photos to make your decision on dinner a little easier.

Despite all that meat an abundance of vegetables are consumed in Turkey, produce like tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, peppers, onions and potatoes being put to very good use in stews, salads and soups. Chickpeas, lentils, bulgar wheat, and rice (sometimes made into pilaf) are all eaten on a regular basis.

Pistachio nuts are everywhere, as are hazelnuts, of which Turkey produces half the world’s supply. They can be bought for pennies from street vendors – as can figs, sultanas, pine nuts, and hot, fresh cobs of grilled corn.

Meze is a integral style of Turkish eating and the way to kick off a proper meal. Meze, or appetizers, can easy become a meal in themselves. They normally include dishes like lentil soup, eggplant stew, salads, sigara boregi (cheese in pastry rolled into a cigar shape), and dolma (peppers or vine leaves stuffed with rice, minced meat, pine nuts, cumin and mint).

Turkish coffee is famous around the world, but tea (or cay) is the country’s national drink. Turkish tea is served in small, tulip shaped glasses with lots of sugar. Sweet, refreshing apple tea is also popular but contains no apples or caffeine. Turkish coffee is strong, invigorating, and brewed in a unique fashion where the coffee, ground very finely, is left in the cup while you drink. If you prefer instant coffee ask for a ‘Nescafe’. Many Turks enjoy alcohol and Efes is the country’s most popular beer. Turkey’s spirit of choice is raki, an aniseed flavoured grape brandy. Dilute it with some water if you want to drink it Turkish-style.

Breakfast in Turkey is one of the most distinctive – and enjoyable –parts of the country’s cuisine. You’ll find the traditional Turkish breakfast throughout the country, which combines flavours you may not have first considered throwing together for your morning meal! It includes lots of bread with jam or honey, feta cheese, olives, a hard boiled egg, sliced tomatoes and cucumber.

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