The Turks take food seriously and no trip to Turkey would be complete without a visit to some of the many glorious restaurants on offer. From fine dining looking over the Bosphorus to borek in Bodrum, meze in Antalya to fresh fish in Fethiye, the choice of food and restaurants in Turkey is endless and suited to all tastes and budgets.
Many assume traditional Turkish food is spicy – Turkey being known as the spice capital, but you may be surprised. Turks don’t tend to use too much chilli, not in the way the Indians, Thais and Mexicans do. They tend to stick with pul biber (red pepper flakes) and the odd few pickled or grilled peppers with their kebabs and toasties. The majority of the local food isn’t that spicy, just simply tasty, seasoned well with undertones of tomato, onions, garlic, cumin and parsley. Turks everyday food tends to be a healthy affair of vegetable, lamb or chicken guvec (stew), fresh or dried bean dishes (fasulye), BBQ fish, kebabs or kofte (meatballs), pastry dishes, salads and meze (similar to tapas). Everyday Turkish food relies heavily on what is cheap and in season in the local markets. Take a trip to any vegetable market to see the Turkish women all perusing the produce, haggling over the price of peppers and buying fresh vegetables by the kilo. A trip to a lokanta (local restaurant), or an invite to a family home for dinner, generally results in an impressive spread of dishes served up with bulgur, rice, salad and bread. Turks also like their sweets and puddings. Larger supermarkets sell a good array of baklava, cakes and biscuits and fresh fruit and yogurt seems to be a staple with breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Fancy traditional dishes are normally found in restaurants. Fabulous clay pot stews and slowly cooked lamb and meat dishes (tandir) are particular favourites, as is seafood served simply with salad, fresh bread and the all important raki.
International Food in Turkey
Turkeys unique location between Asia and the Middle East has meant that its cuisine has been influenced by many flavours for centuries. For years Istanbul and the larger Turkish cities have been known for their fusion food and wonderful international restaurants. Many resorts have followed suit but it can’t be denied that UK and European tourism has certainly made its impact. English breakfasts, shepherds pie and English fish, chips and mushy peas can now be found in most places alongside Chinese, Italian and Indian restaurants. Some may say this is a shame or too commercial as the traditional food on offer is fabulous but, let’s face it, there are certainly occasions when a little home comfort cooking is a good thing!