Turkey Cultural Tour   
Traditional Turkish Cuisine
Traditional Turkish Cuisine
Traditional Turkish Cuisine
Traditional Turkish Cuisine
Traditional Turkish Cuisine
Traditional Turkish Cuisine
Traditional Turkish Cuisine
"Do not dismiss the dish saying that it is just, simply food..The blessed thing is an entire civilization in itself"Abdulhak Sinasi
 For those who travel in culinary pursuits, Turkish Cuisine is a very curious one. The variety of dishes that make up the Cuisine, the ways they all come together in feast-like meals, and the evident intricacy of each craft offer enough materiai for life-long study and enjoyment. It is not easy to discern a basic element or a single dominant feature, like the Italian "pasta" or the French "sauce". Whether in a humble home, at a famous restaurant, or at a dinner in a Bey's mansion, familiar patterns of this rich and diverse Cuisine are always present. It is a rare art which satisfies your senses while reconfirming the higher order of society, community and culture.
A practical-minded child watching Mother cook "cabbage dolma" on a lazy, grey winter day is bound to wonder who on earth discovered this peculiar combination of sauteed rice, pine-nuts, currants, spices, herbs and all tightly wrapped in translucent leaves of cabbage all exactly half an inch thick and stacked-up on an oval serving plate decorated with lemon wedges? How was it possible to transform this humble vegetable to such heights of fashion and delicacy with so few additional ingredients? And, now can such a yummy dish possibly also be good for you? The modern mind, in a moment of contemplation, has similar thoughts upon entering a modest sweets shop in Turkey where "baklava" is the generic cousin of a dozen or so sophisticated sweet pastries with names like twisted turban, sultan, saray(palace), lady's navel, nightengale's nest. The same experience awaits you at a "muhallebi" (pudding shop) with a dozen different types of milk puddings. One can only conclude that the evolution of this glorious cuisine was not an accident. Similar to other grand cuisines of the world, it is a result of the comoination of three key elements. A nurturing environment is irreplaceable. Turkey is known for an aounoance and diversity of foodstuff due to its rich flora, fauna and regional differentiation. And the legacy of an Imperial Kitchen is inescapable. Hundreds of cooks specializing in different types of dishes, all eager to please the royal palate, no doubt had their influence in perfecting the cuisine as we know it today. The Palace Kitchen, supported by a complex social organization, a vibrant urban life, specialization of labor, trade, and total control of the Spice Road, reflected the culmination of wealth and the flourishing of culture in tne capital of a mighty Empire. And the influence of the longevity of social organization should not be taken lightly either. The Turkish State of Anatolia is a millenium old and so, naturally, is "the cuisine." Time is of the essence; as Ibn'i Haldun wrote, "the religion of the King, in time, becomes that of the People", which also holds for the King's food. Thus, the reign of the Ottoman Dynasty during 600 years, and a seamless cultural transition into the present day of modern Turkey, led to the evolution of a grand cuisine through differentiation, refinement and perfection of dishes, as well as their sequence and combination of the meals.
 it is quite rare that all three conditions above are met, as it is in French, Chinese and Turkish Cuisine. Turkish cuisine has the extra privilege of being at the crossroads of the Far-East and the Mediterranean, which mirrors a long and complex history of Turkish migration from the steppes of Central Asia (where they mingled with the Chinese) to Europe (where they exerted influence all the way to Vienna).
All these unique characteristics and history have bestowed upon Turkish cusine a rich and varied number of dishes, which can be prepared and combined with other dishes in meals of almost infinite 
variety, but always in a non-arbitary way. This led to a cuisine that is open to improvisation through development of regional styles, while retaining its deep structure, as all great works of art do. The Cuisine is also an integral aspect of culture. It is a part of the rituals of everyday life events. It reflects spirituality, in forms that are specific to it, through symbolism and practice..Anyone who visits Turkey or has had a meal in a Turkish home, regardless of the success of the particular cook, is sure to notice how unique the cuisine is. Our intention here is to help the uninitiated to enjoy Turkish food by achieving a higher level of understanding of the repertoire of dishes, related cultural practices and their spiritual meaning.Early historical documents show that the basic structure of Turkish cuisine was already established during the Nomadic Period and in the first settled Turkish States of Asia.Culinary attitudes towards meat, dairy, vegetables and grains that characterized this early period still make up the core of Turkish cuisine.Turks cultivated wheat and used it liberally in several types of leavened and unleavened breads baked in clay ovens, on the griddle, or buried in ember. "Manti", ( dumpling),and "bugra" (attributed to Bugra Khan of Turkestan, the ancestor of "borek" or dough with fillings), were already among the much-coveted dishes at this time. Stuffing the pasta, as well as all kinds of vegetables, was also common practice, and still is, as evidenced by dozens of different types of "dolma". Skewering meat as well as other ways of grilling, later known to us as varieties of "kebab" and dairy products such as cheeses and yogurt were convenient and staple foods of the pastoral Turks. They introduced these attitudes and practices to Anatolia in the 11th. century. In return they were introduced to rice, fruits, and vegetables native to the region, and the hundreds of varieties of fish in the three seas surrounding the Anatolian Peninsula. Thesnew and wonderful ingredients were assimilated into the basic cuisine in the millennia that followed..Anatolia is a region coined as the "bread basket of the world." Turkey, even now, is one of the seven countries in the world which produces enough food to feed every one and then some to export. The Turkish landscape encompasses such a wide variety of geographic zones, that for every two to four hours of driving, you will find yourself in a different zone with all the accompanying changes in scenery, temperature, altitude, humidity, vegetation and weather conditions. The Turkish landscape has the combined characteristics of the three old continents of the world: Europe, Africa, and Asia, and an ecological diversity surpassing any other place along the 40th. latitude. Thus, the diversity of the cuisine has come to reflect that of the landscape and its regional variations..In the Eastern region, you will encounter the rugged, snow-capped mountains where the winters are long and cold, and the highlands where the spring season with its rich wild flowers and rushing creeks extends into the long and cool summer. Livestock farming is prevalent. Butter, yogurt, cheeses, honey, meat and cereals are the local food. Long winters are best endured with the help of yogurt soup and meatballs flavoured with aromatic herbs found in the mountains, and endless servings of tea.
The heartland is dry steppes with rolling hills, endless stretches of wheat fields and barren bedrock that takes on the most incredible shades of gold, violet, cool and warm greys, as the sun travels the sky. Ancient cities were located on the trade routes with lush cultivated orchards and gardens. Among these, Konya, the capital of the Selcuk Empire (the first Turkish State in Anatolia), distinguished itself as the center of a culture that attracted scholars, mystics, and poets from throughout the world during the 13th century. The lavish cuisine that
is enjoyed in Konya today, with its clay-oven (tandir) kebabs, boreks, meat and vegetable dishes and helva desserts, dates back to the feasts given by Sultan Alaaddin Keykubad in 1237 A.D.
 Towards the west, one eventually reaches warm, fertile valleys between cultivated mountainsides, and the lace-like shores of the Aegean where nature is friendly and life has always been easy. Fruits and vegetables of all kinds are abundant, including the best of all seafood! Here, olive oil becomes a staple and is used both in hot and cold dishes..The temperate zone of the Black Sea Coast, well-protected by the high Caucasian Mountains. is abundant with hazelnuts, corn and tea. The Black Sea people are fishermen and identify themselves with their ecological companion, the shimmering "hamsi", a small fish similar to anchovy. There are at least 40 different dishes made with hamsi! Many poems, anecdotes and folkdances are inspired by this delicious fish..The southeastern part of Turkey is hot and desert-like and offers the greatest variety of kebabs and sweet pastries. Dishes here are more spicy compared to all other regions, possibly to retard spoilage in hot weather, or as the natives say, to equalize the neat inside the body to that of the outside! he culinary center of the country is the Marmara Region which includes Thrace, with istanbul as its Oueen City. This temperate, fertile region boasts a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and the most delicately flavoured lamb. The variety of fish that travel the Bosphorus surpasses those in other seas. Bolu, a city on the mountains, supplied the greatest cooks for the Sultan's Palace, and even now, the best chefs in the country come from Bolu. Istanbul, of course, has been the epicenter of cuisine, and an understanding of Turkish cuisine will never be complete without a survey of the Sultan's kitchen..The most well known sweets associated with the Turkish Cuisine are Turkish Delight, and "baklava", giving the impression that these may be the typical desserts eaten after meals. This, of course, is not true. First, the family of desserts is much richer than these two. Secondly, these are not typical desserts as part of a main meal. For example, baklava and its relatives are eaten usually with coffee, as a snack or after a kebab dish. Let us now look at the main categories of sweets in Turkish cuisine..By far, the most common dessert after a meal is fresh seasonal fruit that acquire their unique taste from an abundance of sun and old-fashioned ways of cultivation and transportation. Spring will start with strawberries, followed by cherries and apricots. Summer is marked by peaches, watermelons and melons; then, all kinds of grapes ripen in late summer, followed by green and purple figs, plums, apples, pears and quince.
Oranges, mandarin Oranges, and bananas are among the winter fruits. For most of the spring and summer, fruit is eaten fresh. Later, it may be used fresh or dried, in competes, or made into jams and preserves. Among the preserves, the unique ones to taste are the quince marmalade, the sour cherry preserve, and the rose preserve (made of rose petals which is not a fruit).
 The most wonderful contribution of Turkish cuisine to the family of desserts, that can easily be missed by casual explorers, are the milk desserts - the "muhallebi" family. These are among the rare types of guilt-free puddings made with starch and rice flour, and, originally without any eggs or butter. When the occasion calls for even a lighter dessert, the milk can also be omitted; instead, the pudding may be flavoured with citrus fruits, such as lemon or orange. The milk desserts include a variety of puddings, ranging from the very light and subtle pudding with rose water to the milk pu
Volumes have been written about Turkish coffee; its history, significance in social life, and the ambiance of the ubiquitous coffee houses. Without some understanding of this background, it is easy to be disappointed by the tiny brew with the annoying grounds on which an uninitiated traveler (like Mark Twain) may accidently end up chewing. A few words of caution will have to suffice for the purposes of this brief primer. First, the grounds are not to be swallowed; so, sip the coffee gingerly. Secondly, don't expect a caffeine surge with one shot of Turkish coffee, it is not "strong", just thick. Third, remember that it is the setting and the company that matters-the coffee is just an excuse for the Occasion..Tea, on the other hand, is the main source of caffeine for the Turks. It is prepared in a special way, by brewing it over boiling water and serving in delicate, small clear glasses to show the deep red color and to keep it hot. Drinking tea is such an essential part of a working day, that any disruption of the constant supply of fresh tea is a sure way to sacrifice productivity. Once upon a time, so the story goes,a lion escaped from the Ankara Zoo and took up residence in the basement of an office building. It began devouring public servants and executives. It even ate up a few ministers of state and nobody took notice. It is said that a posse was immediately formed when the lion caught and ate the "tea-man", the person responsible for the supply of fresh tea!
 A park without tea and coffee is inconceivable in Turkey. Thus, every spot with a view has a tea-house or a tea-garden. These places may be under a plane tree looking into the village or town square, on top of hills with majestic views of a valley or the sea, by the harbor, in the market, on a roadside with a scenic overview, by a waterfall or in the woods. Among the typical tea-gardens in Istanbul: the Emirgan on the European side, Camlica on the Anatolian side of the Bosphorus, the famous Pierre Loti cafe, and the tea-garden in Uskudar. But the traditional tea-houses are beginning to disappear from the more tourist-oriented seaside locations, in favour of "pubs" and "Biergarten"...Among the beverages worth mentioning are excellent bottled fruit juices. But, perhaps the most interesting drink is "boza", traditionally sold in neighbourhood streets by mobile vendors on a winter night. This is a thick, fermentated drink made of wheat berries, to be enjoyed with a dash of cinnamon and a handful of roasted chickpeas. Boza can also be found year-round at certain cafes or dessert shops. Finally, "sahlep" is a hot drink made with milk and sahlep powder. It is a good remedy for sore throats and colds, in addition to being delicious.
 
 
Turkey Cultural Tour
Zincirlidere Cd.Sisli-Istanbul/Turkey
• Tel: +90 532 3163653 • Tel: +90 212 2893252 • Fax: +90 212 2893252
• tours@turkeyculturaltour.com, • http://www.turkeyculturaltour.com
Turkey Cultural Tour
Zincirlidere Cd.Sisli-Istanbul/Turkey
• Tel: +90 532 3163653 • Tel: +90 212 2893252 • Fax: +90 212 2893252
• tours@turkeyculturaltour.com, • http://www.turkeyculturaltour.com