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Traditional Turkish Food: A Guide to What to Eat and Drink in Turkey

Updated: Jun 1, 2023


Travelling is a great way to awaken your taste buds, try new flavour combinations, and discover new dishes from around the world! I was eager to try traditional Turkish cuisine and discover the local dishes of the country. Turkey's gastronomic culture is particularly diverse with a mix of Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Asian flavours, and during our three-week trip through this amazing country, we ate very well for very little money. So here's my guide to what to eat and drink in Turkey!


What to eat and drink in Turkey


Pide


These boat-shaped pizzas are a staple in Turkey and usually consist of melted cheese, sausage or ground meat baked in a wood-fired oven. You can also opt for vegetarian pides with grilled vegetables!




Lahmacun

A paper-thin dough topped with seasoned ground meat. That's all you need to enjoy this Istanbul street food that reminds a bit of the famous margarita pizza. If you want to enjoy a lahmacun like a local, fill it with parsley, drizzle it with lemon juice and then roll it up like a wrap!


Dürüm Kebab


Dürüm is a Turkish word meaning "roll". Dürüm refers to any type of preparation rolled up in a Turkish pancake/wrap. Kebab (döner kebab and döner dürüm) is one of the most popular sandwiches in Turkey. The meat is cooked for a long time so that it's full of flavour and melts in the mouth.





Kebab fun fact: The origin of the döner kebab dates back to the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century. It was a dish made of thin slices of meat cooked on a rotating spit. The method of vertical roasting on a spit as we know it today came much later, towards the end of the 19th century!



Manti

Although there are similar variations in other countries, manti ravioli originated in Turkey! These ravioli, usually filled with meat and herbs, but also with potatoes, are prepared by hand by Turkish women and displayed in shop windows. This dish is usually served with a fragrant sauce of yoghurt, garlic and mint and is truly delicious - probably my favourite traditional Turkish food!








Gözleme


These Anatolian savoury pancakes are made of a very thin, almost toasted dough that is traditionally baked on a hot plate in the shape of a dome. They're filled with various fillings such as potatoes, mushrooms, minced meat or cheese. This was my favourite snack when I travelled by bus through Turkey, because they're guaranteed to be very cheap and delicious at the rest stops!




Simit


The French have the baguette, the Americans have the bagel, and the Turks have the simit! These round loaves of bread, a cross between a pretzel and a bagel, are sold on every street corner for a few cents. The simit has been around since the 16th century and is eaten today with cheese, jam or even Nutella!



Turkish Delight


How can I talk about traditional Turkish food without mentioning the famous Turkish Delight? This Turkish dessert is famous all over the world and abroad it could be called the most important dessert in Turkey. However, many locals told us that they rarely eat Turkish Delight as it's more of a dessert served at parties or other occasions.




Turkish delight has a chewy consistency similar to sweets and is made from starch and sugar. They're then flavoured with lemon or rose water and sometimes rolled in pistachios, hazelnuts or even rose petals... simply delicious and surprisingly not too sweet!



Baklava


The Ottoman influence is particularly noticeable in Turkish gastronomy. Baklava is a traditional dessert and consists of filo pastry layered with a paste of crushed nuts bathed in syrup or honey, two ingredients commonly used for this type of dessert. Sometimes they also contain dried fruits such as hazelnuts or almonds.






Raki


Raki is a traditional Turkish alcohol served with iced water in transparent glasses. It's an integral part of all Turkish aperitifs, but can also be drunk with meals to accompany meze. It tastes of aniseed and is very similar to the French alcohol pastis. It wasn't my cup of tea but Ismaïl liked it! I was quite surprised when I discovered that raki was a thing in Turkey, as it's also a staple alcohol in Crete, although it doesn't have the same taste!




Ayran

Ayran is one of the most common drinks in Turkey. It's very refreshing and its salty taste is a bit surprising at first, but it's quickly addictive!


It's undoubtedly its simplicity that makes it so successful, because all you need is a little salt water and fresh yoghurt (usually made from sheep's milk, but it works with cow's or goat's milk too). I particularly appreciated this drink when eating kebab, as the yoghurt breaks down the fat of the kebab and makes it more enjoyable to eat!


Çay


Çay, or tea, is a way of life in Turkey! You'll have many opportunities to drink this rather bitter black tea, which you can sweeten with a little sugar. Another advantage, apart from keeping you awake, is that çay is extremely cheap!




I hope you enjoyed my guide on what to eat and drink in Turkey. You're now ready to explore traditional Turkish cuisine and eat your way through Turkey!

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