Turkey, the New Foodies Bucket List Destination : A Travelers Guide | Bangkok Foodies
A Foodies Guide to Traveling and Eating the Best Dishes Around Turkey | Brought to You by Turkish Airlines
Turkey, the country that bridges Europe, Asia and the Orient together, holds a complex and rich history that entices millions of visitors each year. It also holds one of the most diverse cuisines in the world, but for the longest time, their delicacies have often been regarded as quick and casual foods, particularly in the Asian and Western world, where a Kebab was reserved as late-night party snack, eaten outside by the curb, or as an iconic supermarket snack. Anybody else remember the gelatinous rose-coloured candy our parents ate as a kid, which both fascinated and repelled us at the same time?
Plenty of us have had personal encounters with Turkey’s iconic dips and flatbreads, grilled meats and flaky pastry desserts but Turkish food is so so much more. Now, as we find ourselves surpassing the year 2020, we’re finding the movement among the foodies of the world is also forwardly shifting.
The trend for the new and most sought-after taste among discerning gourmands is in exploration. To explore more uncharted menus on strange and exotic lands. Today, ticking off those ‘exotic’ boxes is worth more than its weight in instagrammable kudos. What was cool by mainstream association is now old and done, even the hipster-isation of classic foods have become a mere passe.
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From the trends, it seems the countries perpetually overlooked in the gastronomy scene are now making more than a dent (and taking a slice) of the Asian market. Laotian, Filipino and even Ethiopian cuisine are increasing in world media coverage. Turkey in particular has boomed, when it comes to attracting hungry Asian visitors.
This is not only visible trends that are apparent but there is plenty of evidence in the cold, hard stats! According to The Republic of Turkey Tourism and Culture Ministry In 2018, total tourist in Turkey was at 45.8 Million, with the number of Thai Nationals for example, visiting Turkey from January to November period in 2017 was 25,549 up to 48,237 in 2018, to a whopping 56,610!
People have finally “woke” to the rich cultural tapestry of Turkish cuisine, from the ancient influences of palace kitchens of the Seljuk and Ottoman empire, from the neighboring countries in Asia and Anatolia (Asia Minor) regions, and not to mention the changes brought into the cuisine where Turkey’s landscape and inhabitants change and morph across the diverse regions.
In the SouthEast cities of Gaziantep, Urfa and Andana you will find the ubiquitous kebab (meat on skewers), pistachios, plenty of spices and one Turkish dish you’re bound to have heard of, the sensational Baklava.
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The Aegean Sea will see more familiar European dishes; fresh fish, olives, olive oil and mezze plates, basically your coastal Mediterranean staples live here. In Central Anatolia, you’ll find in the cities Cappadocia, Konya, Kayseri and Beypazari, producing specialties like Manti, Keşkek, Gözleme and Turkish delight.
Last but not least, Istanbul is where you can basically find it all and then some. Istanbul is the multicultural epicenter of Turkey and if you can’t venture out to any other regions, it should be at the very least, the one city on your hit list.
Bangkok Foodies took to the Turkish “planes” and skies, thanks to the Turkish Airlines, to explore some of Turkey’s historical and modern menus along with witnessing some of the cultural wonders, sites and attractions.
Here is a 21 dishes foodies checklist we compiled, along with some ‘Culture Stops’ along the way, and trust us – it was a tough list to get down – there’s a never ending abundance of incredible food to eat in Turkey, and it is everywhere!
1. Fried Anchovies
Turkish Name: Hamsi Tava
In short, Hamsi, literally means Anchovy while Tava means frying pan. Hamsi Tava, therefore, refers to a special way of frying anchovies fish Turkish-style. We know that some of the foodies find anchovy funky but fresh from the market and lightly fried like this is just sensational. Squeeze lemon juice all over, the citrus-y juices gives that added zestiness and refreshing aroma.
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2. Turkish Dips, especially the Roasted Red Pepper and Cucumber Yogurt.
Turkish Name: Muhammara
A spicy roasted red pepper dip that is known to originate from Aleppo, Syria. One of the key ingredients being Aleppo pepper flakes AKA Halaby pepper flakes which offer a mixture of savoury, sweet with a smoky aroma and a touch of spice. Simply rip up a piece of flatbread and scoop it in, it’s perfect just the way it is.
Culture Stop: Bophorus Boat Tour (Istanbul)
There is a very special way to view Bosphorus. and that’s by boat tour. The Bosphorus is 32km long, separates Europe from Asia and connects the Marmara Sea to the Black Sea. Feel the wind blow through your hair with the light buzz of the motor and the smell of marine water while you soak in the spectacular pieces of authentic civic architecture on the European and Asian coast, such as the iconic Ciragan Palace, Beylerbeyi Palace, Bosphorus Bridges, Maiden’s Tower and Ottoman Yalis (sea-side Mansions).
3. Mixed Kebab
Turkish Name: karişik kebap
We all know what kebab is, so there’s no need for further explanation and sure, some of you foodies may love kebab place near your local hangout, but if you’re in Turkey, there’s absolutely nothing like the original!
4. Dry and Spicy Sausage
Turkish Name: Sujuk or sucuk
Sujuk or “sucuk”, “soudjouk”, “sudzhuk” or “soutzoukiin.” the writings and pronunciations are various but It’s just mean a dry and spicy sausage. You can eat it as charcuterie, or put it between two flatbread like a sandwich or you can sprinkle the slices of it along with your fried egg. Best of all if you lightly fry it, dip some fluffy bread in the warm oil, it will blown your mind and tastebuds.
Culture Stop: Karakoy (Istanbul)
Karaköy is a happening harbor-side area with numerous funky cafes and late-night cocktail bars which is also settled among traditional neighborhood bakeries and family-run shops, where you can either sit back and chill at a rustic cafe with a hot Turkish coffee or on the rooftop of a stylish restaurant with a glass of Turkish wine, watching the watery world go by.
5. Turkish Bagel
Turkish name: Simit
Turkish Bagel or “simit”, “gevrek”, “bokegh”, or “koulouri” is a circular bread, typically encrusted with sesame seeds or poppy, flax or sunflower seeds, although these two are less popular than sesame. Getting a Simit from a vending cart is as local as it gets! Turkish people of every age and creed favour this bready snack as their quick filler, it’s cheap and it’s tasty.
6. Oxtail Soup
Turkish name: İŞKEMBE
A gelatin-rich meat slow-cooked as a stew or braised. It is a traditional stock base for a soup which you can eat it with rice or flatbread with a selection of pickled sides, fresh greens, chili and lemon. Most recipes are simple, however it takes time and commitment, plus a quality oxtail from the countryside, to create the the authentic flavours of this melt-in-mouth, traditional Turkish dish. Ask a local to direct you to neighborhood favourite, the one recipe we tried has been in the family for 3 generations!
Culture Stop: Goreme (Cappadocia)
Göreme is a town in the Cappadocia region, central Turkey. There is a Göreme Open Air Museum with cave churches and frescoes from the 10th to 12th centuries. A Uçhisar Castle, a fortification carved into a large rock, with panoramic views from the top and the Cappadocia’s “fairy chimneys” landscape at Paşabağ Valley to the north. You can’t help but get that “Smurf” village feeling. It boggles to mind that people created and lived, prayed in these rocky abodes.
7. Iskender Kebab
Turkish name: Iskender Kebab
One of the most well-known dishes in northwestern Turkey. It takes its name from its inventor, İskender Efendi, who lived in Bursa in the late 19th century Ottoman Empire. It’s a thinly cut grilled lamb topped with hot tomato sauce over a piece or two pita bread spread with melt sheep butter or yoghurt. This was likely one that impressed us the most. The bread bits soak up all that wonderful meatiness and the tomato based sauce offers a sweet and sourness. Difficult to find an authentic one outside of Turkey, so do not miss the opportunity!
8. Turkish Tea and Coffee
Turkish name: Turkish ‘çay’ or ‘chai’
Tea passed through Turkey as part of the Silk Road trade in the 15th Century, but it did not become part of Turkey’s drinking culture until nearly four centuries later. In 1878 Mehmet Izzet, then governor of Adana, published the Çay Risalesi or Tea Pamphlet, touting the health benefits of drinking tea. While coffee was popular hot beverage during this time, tea drinking started to spread and there are tea houses popping up in the Sultanahmet area of Istanbul. Tea then became a cheaper alternative to coffee; four glasses of tea could be purchased for the price of one cup of Turkish coffee which caused the popularity of tea to soar. Most of the tea produced in Turkey is made in Rize Province on the eastern Black Sea coast with a mild climate and high precipitation rate and fertile soil called, creatively enough, Rize tea. It is the tea that is used for black tea.
Culture Stop: Balloon Riding Cappadocia (Kayseri)
Kayseri is a large industrialised city in Central Anatolia, Turkey. It is one of the most important carpet and kilim (rug) production centers in Anatolia. It is where you can experience a unique hot air balloon flight over the beautiful sceneries in Cappadocia. Don’t worry if you can’t catch a ride, typically you need to book close to a year advance, but watching balloons take off as the sunrises is absolutely breathtaking, plus you can take some killer Instagram pics, safely from the ground!
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9. Turkish Dumpling
Turkish name: çerkez mantisi
What is it: Manti or “manty”, “mantu” or “manta”, is a type of dumpling popular in most Turkic cuisines, as well as in the cuisines of the South Caucasus, Central Asia, Afghanistan, and Chinese Muslims. Pretty much, it’s similar to both Chinese dumpling and Italian stuffed pasta (Ravioli, Fagottini, Tortellini, Sacchetti or Agnolotti.) This is really a marriage between Asia and Europe, and a dish made iconic for a good reason. It’s absolutely succulent and moreish, the particular technique that goes into folding those tiny dumplings take delicate hands with deft and swift ability, there could be well over 100 in a single dish, hence it is mostly a task reserved for ladies or the young. We tried it too, it was fun but certainly not easy.
10. Yoghurt drink
Turkish name: Ayran
It is a yogurt drink otherwise called “Tan”, “Daweh” or Yogurt Milk. This drink is popular beyond the Middle East region, but be prepared, it can be quite sour, although it’s perfect with BBQ meats or pastry sweets, just right for a Turkish spread.
Culture Stop: Sultan Sazlik National Park (Kayseri)
Sultan Sazlik National Park a.k.a. Sultan Marshes was established on March 17, 2006. Today, it is a national park in central Turkey located around Lake Yay between the Yeşilhisar, Develi and Yahyalı districts of Kayseri Province. It was designated a Ramsar site on July 13, 1994. Ideal for those who enjoy the serenity and nature, sit back and sail slowly through the wild mangroves, this location is also popular for bird spotting buffs.
11. Okra Stew
Turkish name: Bamya
Bamia, or bamia bi-lahm, is a Middle Eastern, Anatolian and Greek okra stew prepared using lamb, okra and tomatoes as primary ingredients. Additional ingredients include tomato sauce, onion, garlic, cilantro, vegetable oil, cardamom, salt and pepper. Known for its savoriness, spiciness and deep, earthy aroma which permeates the taste sense. Go ahead and have more than one serving, it’s not a common dish to come by elsewhere in the world.
12. Baked Potato
Turkish Name: Kumpir
Kumpir is made from a baked potato. Cut the baked potato then mixed with butter and pale yellow cheese made from sheep milk. Then add Turkish mezes, mushrooms, sausage, corn, olives, Russian salad and sauces are added on top of the baked potato. The best place to eat Kumpir is Ortaköy, located on the European shore. The best café to try Kumpir in Ortaköy is Beltaş. It is located on the seaside and it’s also an amazing spot to catch a panoramic view of Istanbul city.
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Culture Stop: Kadikoy Market (Istanbul)
Kadikoy Market or Kadikoy Bazaar is situated on the Kadıköy, a famous district of Istanbul in Anatolian Side and probably one of our most favourite of the entire Istanbul trip. Considered one of the most important historical bazaars which have been shaped by the cultural mixture of Turkish and Greek people since the 18th century. It’s also the perfect place to get the freshest street-side food for foodies. Plenty of locals and tourists will be out in full force, buying up fresh olives, butchery, cheeses and amazingly fresh seafood which may be prepared, cooked and served-up by the local cafes along narrow cobbles street roads. The vibe is electric and the food is undeniably some of the best we’ve tried. We challenge you to try everything.
13. Turkish Meatball
Turkish name: Kofte or Köfte
Kofta or Köfte is a type of meatball or meatloaf dishes found in the Indian subcontinent, South Caucasian, Middle Eastern, Balkan, and Central Asian cuisines. Koftas consist of balls of minced or ground meat—usually beef, chicken or lamb mixed with spices and/or onions. There are hundreds of different varieties and vary greatly in size and shape. The combination of spices and tasty meat will immediately hit you, from then-on you will be looking for it everywhere. Accompany a plate of Kofte with some bread, pickles, roasted vegetables like tomatoes and pepper and even some crispy hot chips.
Turkish name: Baklava
What is it: Baklava is a rich, sweet dessert pastry made of layers of filo filled with chopped nuts and sweetened and held together with syrup or honey. It is the first and most authentic type of Mediterranean sweets with the characteristic of the cuisines of the Levant and the broader Middle East, along with Greece, the South Caucasus, Balkans, Maghreb, and Central Asia. This is the people pleasure dessert of Turkey and one Turkish people are famous for, however, you haven’t truly tried one until you’ve actually been here!
Culture Stop: Galata Bridge (Istanbul)
The Galata Bridge is a bridge that spans the Golden Horn in Istanbul, Turkey. The famous bridge has featured in Turkish literature, theater, poetry and novels, particularly from the 19th century. If you happen to be a connoisseur of the arts, this visit could very well unblock your writers block or certainly enhance your artistic imagination!
15. Stuffed Meat Bulgur
Turkish name: Içli Köfte
Içli Köfte, Turkish stuffed meat Bulgur or Turkish stuffed meatballs. The balls of dough made from a mix of fine bulgur, potato, and spices are used as the outer shell which gives provides a fantastic chew and absorption to the rich meat and spices.
16. Crispy Pancake with Pistachio and cream
Turkish name: Katmer
It is a Turkish crunchy crêpe with pistachio and clotted cream. It is from Gaziantep, one of the must-visit gastronomic regions in Turkey. The dish may date back to the 11th century, however, the earliest written reference to it comes from the late 14th century, during the Ottoman rule. It sort-of similar to a crêpe, one that had an affair with the most sensuously sticky “ice cream”. If there is one dessert you need to try, it’s this foodies!
Culture Stop: Bebek Pier (Istanbul)
Bebek has one of the most stunning views in Istanbul amidst a charming neighborhoods. It is located beneath Boğaziçi University on the Bosporus and a 15-minute walk from the South Campus and has its own ferry station. Find a spot to sit to take in the view of the commuting yachts and boats gliding by then take a stroll to the market where you can enjoy shopping for Turkish trinkets and loads of other foodie gems.
17. Turkish Pizza
Turkish name: Findik Lahmacun
It is said that Lahmacun to Turks is what pizza is to the Italians. Findik Lahmacun, Findik Pide or Firin Sis refer to baby meat pies comprises of minced meat, tomatoes, onions, Capia peppers, banana peppers, tomato paste, pepper paste, parsley, sumac, red pepper, salt and black pepper. Once made, these can be frozen and kept for a good few days while still retaining it’s deliciousness. What? You’ve never had day-old or cold pizza before? You know it’s going to be good.
18. Turkish stewed egg
Turkish name: Menemen
Menemen aka melemen in some parts of Turkey is a dish made from stewed tomatoes and peppers, mixed with egg. This is a ubiquitous breakfast dish is seen all over Turkey. Simple but terrific. Dig into the pan with a spoon and scoop up that wonderfully moist and bouncy mixture, place it on some fluffy bread and straight into the mouth. Don’t to wash it down with a side of Turkish coffee and tea.
Culture Stop: Avanos Village (Cappadocia)
Avanos is a quaint town and district of Nevşehir Province in the Central Anatolia region of Turkey. It is about 18 km north of Nevşehir, the capital city of the province, and is known as the historic and tourist region of Cappadocia , there are tented market touting clothes, fruits and vegetables and handmade pottery which is the town’s claim to fame. The Kizilirmak (red) river (ancient Halys river) is the longest river in Turkey and is where the red pottery clay is sourced from. Don’t expect to see many tourists, it’s a wonderful stop over to slow down the pace and appreciate the the way of living and handicrafts of a small country town.
19. Turkish Delight
Turkish name: Lokum
Turkish delight or lokum, this gelatin-y confection has existed since the late 18th Century. This old treat consists of chopped dates, pistachios, hazelnuts or walnuts bound by the gel while the traditional varieties are usually flavoured with rosewater, mastic, Bergamot orange, or lemon. It’s likely the best way to bring home one of Turkey’s iconic treats, it travels well and can be packaged in beautiful gift boxes, show your loved ones what real Turkish Delights taste like!
Turkish name: Kokorec or Kokoretsi
Kokorec is a dish of the Balkans and Asia Minor, consisting of lamb or goat intestines wrapped around seasoned offal, including sweetbreads, hearts, lungs, or kidneys, and typically grilled; a variant consists of chopped innards cooked on a griddle, but the intestines of suckling lambs are more popular. The dish is possibly an invention of the nomadic sheepherders of the Central Asian Plateau and brought by travelers to Anatolia. This dish reflects the history of the nomadic people, who came up with a “zero-waste” dish, a technique adopted for better survival and now has now become a trendy way to cook in hip or high end restaurants.
Culture Stop: Kapuzbasi Waterfall
Kapuzbasi Waterfall is a natural area under protection where seven of falls are formed near Kapuzbasi Village in Aladaglar National Park. Another Instagram worthy shot but more than anything, a divine sight to see in one’s life! Here’s a tip, there is a guy that sells the freshest tomatoes at the bottom of the waterfall, be sure to buy a few from him for the trip and munch on them like apples, they are simply sensational.
21. Turkish Pide
Turkish Name: Etli Ekmek
Another pizza-like dish originated in Konya in Turkey but at the same time, nothing like pizza. The word “Etli ekmek” means “bread with meat” in Turkish and that’s probably the closest comparison. The boat shape bread is light and fluffy, and the toppings are always very fresh and drizzled with olive oil. You simply can not stop at one.
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Culture Stop: Turasan Wineries (Capadocia)
It is the biggest and oldest winery based in Cappadocia with over 25 types of wine. The winery is in Urgup, where they offer vineyard tours and tasting for a small fee. It was established in 1943 and their wines can be found in many stores and restaurants throughout Turkey. Hang out at their cabin-like tasting room where a friendly staff will set you up with a range of wines to taste. Saunter through the vineyard or relax on the benches, with one of their wonderful roses and watch the luscious green trees sway gently in the breeze.
Culture Stop: Wild Yilki Horses
The word “Yilki” means ‘free horse living on their own environment’. The Yilki Horses refer to hundreds of free, wild, noble and gorgeous Anatolian horses living in the centre of Turkey. These beautiful creatures are a kind of Anatolian racehorse and the majority of the population live in Hürmetçi Village which is close to Cappadocia. This village provides a natural environment to them with its green areas, wetlands and spread areas where they can roam freely. When you witness the horses running by you, you can feel the ground shake but you can also feel your heart burst with pure happiness.