Turks may be lazy?…..but are always busy: talking, eating, visiting.
Walking along the streets of any town in Turkey one realises how popular ‘snacking’ is. One barrow sells cooled peeled salted cucumbers, another warm roasted almonds, another steaming salted maize and yet another roasted chestnuts. Would you like me to continue…….stuffed mussels, etc etc…
Also a street-food is the convenient Sandwich! …..a culture found with transliteration all over the world…(the Earl of Sandwich’s gambling compulsion forced him to sustain himself with salted beef-in-bread… known in Turkey as a ‘sandvic’!
Most famous is the Doner. This consists of layers of lamb-mince and lamb grilled on a turning pole, glazed with butter …so delicious that one requests some of the dripping to be added to the bread to the accompanying pickles.
Less known is the ‘Fish Sandwich…’balik-ekmek’ …an essential part of Istanbul’s street culture.Fishermen in their boats at Galata Bridge or `Kumkapi in Sultanahmet grill or fry their catch accompanied by a squeeze of lemon in half a loaf of bread......delightful!
Another favourite street sandwich is ‘Kokorec’ crisply roasted intestines in a roll.
Some street sellers need a bell to announce their presence; not so the Kokorec seller!
Turkey has speciality restaurants; soup restaurants,pide and lahmacun restaurants, seafood restaurants and further afield the ’kendin pisir’ kebab restaurants where one orders different cuts of meat by the kilo and cooks it at the table’s private grill….very much a male job!
In busy areas such as bus stations one finds the ‘Bain-Marie’ restaurant where one queues up with a tray to choose from a row of tantalising steaming recipes…Sulu Yemek….meat and vegetarian dishes accompanied by a scoop of rice…. the most famous being ‘kuru’, white bean stew accompanied by pilav and a crushed onion!
The Meyhane is a traditional meeting place for happy revellers and lost souls where Raki is King. For some it is a club for others a special night out. Drink to celebrate, drink to drown your sorrows, talk, eat and sing to extend the evening into night. Meyhane songs are an important part of the culture and performed with a singer and small band …song requests are handed in. Repeat requests are frequent!
The speciality of the Meyhane are the many ‘meze’ served on small plates often with the addition of spice, salt and garlic..... eaten slowly to the accompaniment of raki and conversation. By tradition with the first round of drinks a plate of white cheese and honeydew melon arrives.
We can translate the word 'meze' into starter, generally cold and vegetable based; there are also warm starters such as garlic mushrooms, mini-meatballs, and crusty thin cheese pastries called ‘sigara boregi’…..
Bread is the staple accompaniment to all meals. Einkorn and Emmer wheat cultivation dates back 10,000 years with Rye grown where the soil was poor. On the Anatolian plateau during the summer months large batches of round unleavened pastry are cooked on a grid over the fire; dry and wafer-thin they are piled high. Covered in muslin the hoard awaits use through the winter months; fifteen minutes before a meal, several are removed, watered, folded like a napkin and taken to the table.
Anatolian houses also have an outdoor oven conveniently buried outside the kitchen door…the Tandir or Tandoori . A fire is lit deep inside the oven. Once the flames have burnt low terracotta pots are lowered into the oven, each sealed one on top of the other; meat stew, a pot of potatoes, pilav….. all cook together. This accomplished, balls of leavened bread are thrown onto the walls of the oven and the oven is sealed again….. 20 minutes later the meal is ready….The Anatolian woman is a multitasker; mother, shepherdess, wife: her kitchen consists of an open fireplace with a couple of pots, salt and spices a shelf above and a floor table with plates spoons, …..under which is spread a table cloth to catch the crumbs. Her water bottle is also of clay and gives the water a cool sweet taste.
Hunkar Begendi…..Sultans Delight is a popular dish even today:
Diced leg of lamb cooked in tomatoes, capsicums, garlic and onions, served over a bed of creamed roasted aubergines garnished with melted yellow cheese and parsley.
Silver Service comes with extensive menu, quality wines and over-intentive waiters ready put right the slightest fault. There are some areas in Turkey where for religious reasons restaurants do not serve alcoholic drinks....
A proverb: Seytanla ortak buğday eken samanını alır….whoever plants wheat with the devil will be left with the straw!
Silver service...quality wines...varied menus. Beach front venues offer great views and and evening breeze of the rising tide. Sounds of shingle float through the hum of voices and soft background music...From simple to sophisticated…the Ottoman Cuisine is rich and varied: