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5 ½ Foods to try in Turkey

Turkey is a fresh-food lover’s paradise. Once you see the markets brimming with fresh cucumbers, eggplants, melons and hand-made cheeses, you will not be surprised when you taste the depth of flavor in the local dishes. Some of the most delicious meals are shared with family or friends from a large platter where you dip your torn pieces of Italian-style bread into the tomato-based sauces. For today, I give you 5.5 Turkish dishes to try on your adventures in Turkey.

1. Su boregi: Many of you may have tried one type of borek, baked pastries made of layers of phyllo dough filled with cheese, herbs, and vegetables. I recommend trying my favorite, su boregi (or water pastry). It is akin to a simple lasagna with layers of boiled dough and a mixture of feta cheese, parsley and oil. The borek is brushed with butter and baked in a brick or stone oven. Warm and luscious.

2. Iskender Kebab: Turkey is well-known for its meat doners and kebabs and one favorite is the Iskendar Kebab. Thinly-cut grilled lamb is basted with hot tomato sauce over pita bread and topped with melted butter and yogurt.

3. Yumurtali Pide: Throughout Turkey you will find clay ovens filled with lahmacun and pides, flatbreads loaded with cheese, ground meat, tomatoes, peppers and eggs. Try yumurtali pide, and, trust me, you will crave this dish after you savor the egg topped bread fresh out of the oven. For a dairy overload, down it as the Turks do, with ayran, a yogurt drink.

4. Oysters: It does not get fresher or more convenient than oysters right from the dock. In Kaş and other towns along the coast, vendors will come by open bars with oysters on ice for you to buy and try on the spot. Goes well with almonds and local beer or raki, the local anise-based alchohol.

5. Turkish çay: You will be offered çay (tea) an average of 130 times a day – whenever you stop at a shop, a factory, have a meal, take a break from the road, enter someone’s house…. While Turkish coffee is known throughout the world it is tea which fuels the Turks. As one who has made çay countless times, I can say there is a science to making the perfect blend of tea and water. Tea is best enjoyed while sitting back in a tea garden while you watch your neighbors play tavla (backgammon) at lightning speed.

5 ½. Künefe: Desert is another pleasure in Turkey. If you are fortunate enough to find künefe, don’t miss out. Nothing beats soft cheese layered between shredded wheat, soaked in hot syrup and topped with clotted cream and pistachios. Why ½? Because this rich dessert is even better when shared!

Afiyet Olsun!

Laura Finkelstein
Turkey Program Director

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