Traditional Turkish cuisine
Stuffed grape leaves - Sarma
There are a few major culinary influences that have had a wide influence upon global gastronomy. Talking exclusively about influences as regards to dishes, one might say that the French influence has definitely been massive, also there is a definite Asian influence – especially Chinese, but for those who live in Central and Eastern Europe, as well as the surrounding geographical area, the Turkish influence has been extremely important throughout the centuries.
Traditional Turkish cuisine is always a very pleasant surprise to visitors not familiar with its intricacies. Besides being a rather refined product thanks to centuries of experience, some consider Turkish cuisine to focus around pure quality, with both variety and simplicity being important characteristics as well.
Modern-day Turkish cuisine is mostly the heritage of Ottoman cuisine, which some might correctly describe as being a fusion and refinement of culinary traditions from neighboring countries, as well as the Middle East, Central Asian and Western European influences. This of course stems from the many centuries in which the Ottoman Empire waged war with many of the European peoples in Central and Eastern Europe.
Having had to deal with a wide mix of cultures and peoples it only makes sense for Turkish cuisine to show an incredible amount of variety on the same theme. Let’s take the Black Sea region for instance, where there are over twenty different dishes that incorporate corn as well as a plethora of ways of preparing hamsi – a sardine-like. The interesting thing being that of course, you will find dishes similar to these in the surrounding countries of Bulgaria, Romania and so on.
Possibly one of the most international ubiquitous Turkish dish is the kebab. These are a great example of both variety and simplicity in action. They are made from either plain or marinated meat which is then either stewed or grilled – most commonly grilled in the West. In Turkey, each district in the country has its own special recipe.
The ‘Sis kebab’, which is famous the world-around is made from pieces of lamb threaded on a skewer and griller over charcoal, then there’s the ‘Doner kebab’ which is made from a roll of lamb on a vertical skewer turning parallel to a hot grill, and these are just two of the most popular versions.
The results of the Turks’ sweet-tooth are famous throughout the world. Many of the sweets in Turkey are milk based but possibly the best well known are the pastries, respectively ‘baklava’ and ‘kadayif’.
Then of course there’s Turkish delight or Lokum, which is a unique type of confection made on a gel of starch and sugar. Some varieties will include pieces of nuts and fruit bound in the gel. The confections are packaged in small cubes which are usually dusted with icing sugar in order to prevent them from sticking to each other.
Turkish coffee is chief amongst the national drinks, being of such important to the daily life of the Ottoman Empire that it introduced coffee and the idea of a coffee house to all the countries that they warred with. Turkish coffee is thick and dark and is served in a small cup. The process of making the coffee is a particular one as well, one which we’ll not detail here.
Obviously we’ve only skimmed the surface of the massive and intricate labyrinth that Turkish cuisine is, visiting Turkey will surely result in you discovering many other interesting foods and drinks.
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