One of the highlights of visiting Turkey is its cuisine, which reflects its long and varied history. Nowhere is this more evident than in its thriving largest city Istanbul, a melting pot of different cultures and communities.
The captivating city has seen the rise and fall of some of the most powerful empires in history, from the Romans and Byzantines to the Ottomans – and this is evident in its gastronomy. Many of the country’s most-loved dishes rose to prominence in the Ottoman Empire period, which explains why similar dishes are enjoyed all across the Middle East and Baltic States, where the Ottomans once had great influence.
Here’s what you should be enjoying on your holiday to Turkey:
The history of baklava is largely debated but in the whole unconfirmed, leading many countries to consider the sweet pastry treat baklava their own, including Bulgaria who consider it their national dessert. Baklava’s origins reportedly span as far back as the Assyrians in the 8th century B.C but it was during the Ottoman period in Turkey where it come into its own (which explains why it is found right across the Mediterranean and Middle East). Made of thin layers of phyllo pastry and filled with nuts and honey, baklava’s current form is said to have been developed in the imperial kitchens of the Topkapı Palace in Istanbul, based on a Central Asian Turkic tradition of layered breads.
Turkish delight is a sweet treat enjoyed the world over and you can find it in most flavours, from rose to pistachio (or even encased in Cadbury’s chocolate). The spongy iced delights date back 500 years, according to legend, making it one of the oldest sweets in the world. A Turkish Sultan is said to have asked for some sweet treats to keep his harem happy and the delicious cubes of iced confectionary he produced went down so well that the Sultan made him Chief Confectioner to the Ottoman court.
Börek is a popular savoury snack in Turkey, made from layers of filo pastry filled with spinach and feta cheese or minced meat and sprinkled with sesame seeds. Börek is also very popular in the cuisines of the former Ottoman Empire, especially in North Africa and throughout the Balkans. The Northern Slavic cuisines, historically developed by people living in close contact with the Turkic people of Asia and Europe, also feature derivatives of the börek.
Turkish meze is a popular meal and a great option for visitors as you can sample an array of different dishes. Popular meze include houmous, dolma or sarma (rice-stuffed vine leaves or other stuffed vegetables, such as bell peppers), and köfte (cigar-shaped meatballs consisting of ground lamb, mashed onions, spices and a small amount of ground veal and bread softened in rakı.).
This is one of our personal favourites. It’s basically a Turkish take on pizza. The crust it thin and you choose from delicious toppings: You can choose from meat, vegetables or just cheese. Pide is the perfect snack.
Have you ever been to Turkey? What was your favourite food? Tell us below!