We were surprised by the variety and quality of the food in Turkey. There was the döner and the shishkebab (souvlaki made from pork in Greece, in Turkey usually from lamb) we already knew from Greece and Berlin, that Sol was looking forward to. We were also accustomed to grape leave rolls, garlic laced thick jogurt and the amazingly tasteful tomatoes, cucumbers and olives of the Mediterranean Coast. What we didn’t expect was the variety of dishes and sweets we found in tavernas, restaurants and markets of Turkey.
We loved the buffet-style appetizers in Üçagiz, were we filled our plates with dolmas, stuffed peppers, marinated eggplants and rice with orzo – dishes which made us think and talk about Sittee, Sol and Leonie’s grandmother, who always used to spoil us with her amazing Arabic cuisine.
In a park in Finike the kids and I tried Simit, a circular bread with sesame seeds, that reminded me of the Bavarian Brez’n. A man was balancing a large basket filled to the brim with those goodies gracefully on his head. Some of you might have tried the sesame sprinkled Turkish flatbread. It is round and tastes delicious. It was in Finike as well were we got served a (free) Meze, a variety of appetizers kind of like tapas, with a long, still steaming flatbread. It was so yummy, we hardly had any room left for the main dishes that came after.
Turkish professionals and families like to go to a cafeteria style restaurant where you can choose your food at the counter from large warming bins. The prize is very reasonable, the service is immediate and the quality is amazing. We had chicken with potatoes and peas, lentil soup, lambchops with mashed potatoes and stuffed peppers for five with water, tea and baklava and paid all of 24 Euros. The restaurant didn’t serve any alcohol because it was close to the neighbourhood mosque.
Because of Ramadan the restaurants were very busy after sunset and twice we got told we had to wait a bit because serving the starved fasters had priority.
A fest for our senses, sight, taste and smell alike, were the markets in Istanbul. Leonie couldn’t get enough of the colours and tastes of the “candy shops” in the Grand Bazaar. The dried fruit, nuts, dates, Lokma (sweet fried dough balls), pistachio rolls, Turkish delight in all kinds of flavours and of course, our all time favourite: Baklava. The decadently succulent phyllo pastry is so sweet and rich that I can only eat one, but we tried it pretty much every day from a different maker.
Our very last meal in Turkey was at a restaurant in Istanbul not far from the Blue Mosque. Opa discovered “Testa Kebab” on the menu and even though it was lunch time, Sol and him had to try this speciality we had read about in a guide book. Meat and veggies get cooked slowly in a clay pot. When it is ready, the hot pot gets smashed in front of the guests by a special chef (at our restaurant they had to call him in). The stew- like dish has a lot of flavour and the meat is very tender. Yum!