Sunday, 20 September 2015

Adventures In Food: Turkey

Turkey is my favourite food destination in the world. The whole world. Well, the parts that I've been to anyway! I will, of course, tell you why but if you like, just look at the pictures. All of the pictures. They may make you salivate but also, there are so many of them. And that means that there is so much traditional vegetarian Turkish food! I didn't eat any Western meals in two and a half weeks in the country! No burgers, pizza or pasta. All local. That is definitely a first and basically a miracle for the length of time we were there. Let me tell you about what I ate in Turkey... be prepared for a long post.
Misir is a very common street food in Istanbul- it's grilled corn on the cob. You will see the vendors absolutely everywhere and it's a great healthy snack.
Simit falls in the street food/snack category. You will see vendors everywhere. It's like a sesame pretzel. Sesame seeds, incidentally, are full of important vitamins for vegetarians!
{breakfast spread}
Turkish breakfast is light on cereal and heavy on the cucumber! It was usually a selection of items including cucumber, tomato, cheese, olives, bread and fruits. Very veggo friendly!
{meze platters}
Meze! Meze meze meze! This is where it is at when it comes to Turkish food and best of all, most of it is vegetarian! So meze is like an appetizer. You can order individual meze or a platter, which has a few options, is usually chef's choice and usually vegetarian. It will have things like (deep breath): hummus (chickpea dip), baba ganoush (eggplant dip), beetroot, haydari (garlic dip), beans, capsicum dip, spinach, green beans, eggplant with tomato, cig kofte (bulghur wheat patty) grain salads, yaprak dolmasi (vine leaves stuffed with rice)... really just lots of veggies in all kinds of forms and always delicious! It's never just raw boring vegetables, for example spinach will be cooked with extras like garlic and pine nuts and just perfect. Meze platters and lots of individual mezze plates come with bread, and sometimes butter and cheese (like in the big picture above). Kyle and I would often order a platter and share as our main as it was super economical, a great way to try lots of different things which is how we like to eat, and we were usually stuffed afterwards! But there are a few individual meze that deserve a special mention.
Hummus, made with chickpeas and tahini, is the classic Turkish dip. If you haven't tried it, try it.
{sigara boregi}
Cheese cigars were our favourite way to start a meal. Soft white cheese is fried inside crispy pastry.
{mercimek çorbasi}
If you like to start meals with a soup, you should try this classic lentil one.
Many Turkish main dishes can be easily adapted to be vegetarian, if there is not already a vegetarian option on the menu. I love that!
Turkish pizza. Delicious crust.

Apologies for the atmospheric photo. Manti is a traditional pasta dish (ok so I guess technically I did eat pizza and pasta!). It is small ravioli that have cheese or spinach in them, topped with tomato sauce and yoghurt sauce which make a creamy blend.

Borek is thin layers of pastry containing veggies and spices (and meat if that's your thing). I had a spiced potato spiral but, there are lots of versions!
The ultimate street food. Gozleme is a thin pastry, filled with white cheese/spinach/banana and nutella/whatever you like, that is fried on a hot plate and folded over. It's a Turkish crepe but much sturdier and more filling due to being made from a pastry that is rolled out, rather than a batter. A floating gozleme business sidled up to our gulet (sailboat) just in time for breakfast each day while we were on our sailing trip.
{kuru fusulye pilav}
Yummy, traditional dish of beans and rice. Sometimes the beans are cooked with meat. Considered a cheap dish and some street food vendors sell this.

I have learned a lot from watching the baked potato man make these! To make two baked potatoes, he took the flesh from three potatoes, mashed it up and added cheese, chilli and herbs. Then he loaded it back into the two skins and we chose our toppings. Hearty and delicious veggo street food!
On to my favourite course!

Mmmm. Mmmmm mmmm mmmm! Sutlac is baked vanilla rice pudding that is served....cold! It makes it yummy and creamy and just the sort of thing that you could eat all the time!
This translates to 'bottom of the pan' and basically, kazandibi is a baked custard that is allowed to caramelize on the bottom and is sprinkled with nuts before being flipped out.
I was very lucky to try this as it is usually only served once a year. The story comes from that of Noah's Ark- when the flood receded, the remaining supplies on the ark (fresh and dried fruit, nuts, beans, spices, sugar and water) were cooked up to make a hot, thick, sweet soup. It had an interesting texture with flavours of cinnamon, orange peel, fig and the occasional crunchy walnut or soft chickpea!
Turkish delight. Options include nuts, chocolate dipped, coconut dipped.... seeing the piles in the bazaars makes it impossible to resist.
Pastry, nuts, syrup. What's not to love? A combo of these ingredients is available in every shape and form.
Turkish ice cream is chewy! Strange but true! The good thing is it melts less quickly :)
A hot dish made with semolina and tahini. The one I tried had a savoury flavour thanks to the sesame paste but was still intensely sweet.
On to drinks!
Turkish tea is offered to you everywhere and despite being basically boiling water, it somehow cools you down on a hot day! Apparently the tea served in tea houses tastes so good as it is a blend of many teas that is hard to make at home :)
{Turk kahvesi}
I am not a coffee drinker but Turkish coffee is a must try. It is served strong and thankfully, sweet. Don't drink all the way to the end as the grounds remain in the cup.
This is a frothy drink made with watered down yoghurt, and salt. It is definitely not to everyone's liking, but definitely a must-try!
In three weeks I did not even get to try all of the Turkish foods I wanted too! It's just such an incredible food destination, particularly for vegetarians. I am planning my return trip ASAP!

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