Turkish Eats: More than Kebabs

Cuisine this side of the world is familiar to my palette and something I have always enjoyed. Fresh salads, tasty grilled meats, flavorful rice, and a variety of mezzes make for an exciting culinary thrill. Of course, the breads and the sweets are in a class of their own and deserve their own blog.

Here are my own Turkish delights (not referring to the sweet):

Bread, bread, bread and more bread. Just like in Azerbaijan whose cuisine is very similar to Turkey’s, bread is sacred in the Turkish table.

Breads are everywhere.

Where lots of people are such as squares, you’ll never fail to see these carts with freshly-baked simit, soft round bread with sesame.

Order a meal and you get bread.

Even at fastfoods. there are piles of bread by the cashier. Complimentary, of course. For a budget traveller keen on carbs, you can skip the pilav and just have free bread.

I think the only time you don’t get bread is when you order a sandwhich or a roll. Imagine having bread to complement your sandwhich?

The breads are really delicious and baked fresh. Makes me wonder though what happens to all the leftover breads that people don’t eat? I’m guilty myself for not finishing my bread as I’m just so stuffed.

With a culture so in love with bread, it’s no surprise that meals or snacks made with bread would be popular. This Turkish “pizza” called pide is perfect if you’re caught between a real meal and a sandwhich. A crust boat-shaped flat dough is stuffed with a variety of filling such as cheese, egg, meats, vegetables, then baked in an oven. It’s very filling and quite cheap. Have it with some pickled green chiles.

This is pide with cheese, ground meat, and egg.

This is just cheese and egg.

Lahmacun is also like pizza. Thin flat dough is topped with minced meat, onions, and tomatoes and baked in an oven. Squeeze some lemon over it, slice some grilled chile, roll-it up, take a bite, and weep for its deliciousness. but the dough is thin and flat. Perhaps, this is where Western restos got the idea for those fancy rolled-up pizzas?

It’s not bread but more of a pastry. Borek is love! Layers of thin phyllo sheets filled with either cheese, spinach, ground meat, or a combination of those. Stumbled on Pesrevzade, a nice small cafe at Fatih which serves delicious borek. The one pictured below only costs 10 lira (roughly Php 112).

You can also just have it plain with confectioner sugar dusted on it.

Kebabs are probably the most iconic of all the meats to all non-Turkish including myself. The ground meat grilled in sword-like flat skewers are always tasty thanks to the variety of spices mixed in. It’s still a toss-up on whether I prefer it with pilav (rice) or durum (flat bread).

One of my favorite meals is tandir where grilled meat, usually lamb, is served atop very flavorful pilav.

This particular eatery at Fatih with outdoor seating had such wonderful pilav I had to close my eyes taking a spoonful so I could really relish it.

Talking about pilav, the Turkic’s take on rice is just wonderful. Lovely basmati rice that’s aromatically flavorful. Sorry, bulgur but I’m not too fond of you.

Pilav with a hint of cinnamon.

The Turkish really know how to grill meats. This grilled chicken ordered at at fastfood in Taksim was so tender and had the right salty and smoky flavor. With pilav and a small bottle of sprite, it only cost 15 lira!

Had this meal of green bell peppers stuffed with rice and meat, chicken with vegetables and mushrooms, pilav, and a small bottle of Sprite for only 20 lira!

Istikal Caddesi in Beyoglu has such wonderful eateries where there’s a wide variety of freshly-cooked food to choose from.

Servings are generous and the prices are reasonable.

This is a kind of beef stew with vegetables and topped with mashed potatoes.

This is a large ground beef patty (kofte) with mashed potatoes.

Stuffed green pepper, chicken with mushrooms and vegetables, pilav for about Php 200 only!

Kofte (meatballs) with potatoes and carrots and a think crepe stuffed with chicken and vegetables.

Meatball (kofte) and eggplant.

Baked pasta.

Accompanying these meals are side dishes called mezze such as vegetables, olives, and a whole lot more.

I enjoyed eating my way around Istanbul. Whatever I chose to eat always turned-out delicious.

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