You know you’re in a really great country when your tummy loves the local food and doesn’t yearn at all for KFC, Burger King or McDonald’s. For me, this great place was Turkey.
I love Turkish food. Turkey was the only country where I never once stepped into a burger or pizza joint and never felt the need to look for a Thai, Indian or Chinese restaurant. These fall under the category of ‘food which is familiar to me’ – anything with noodles or rice, which I usually seek out after a few days.
So what is it about Turkish food then?
Let’s begin with breakfast. The basics are bread, cheese, salami, olives and a cup of strong coffee. I was lucky and happened to pick a hotel
which had a pretty generous breakfast with some extras thrown in, like goat’s cheese, cereal, three types of bread and five varieties of olives. My favourite were the boiled eggs with paprika sprinkled on top.
Lunch and dinner in Turkey are wonderful affairs. There’s nothing like a succulent, freshly grilled kebab with a crunchy salad on the side. That’s another thing I like about Turkish food- the main ingredient may be meat, but it’s always eaten with lots of vegetables. The aubergines, carrots, pickles and tomatoes aren’t included just to add colour.
|Grilled chicken with rice and salad
|Kebab with vegetables and a dollop of yoghurt
I’m not a big fan of desserts or sweet stuff in general but I knew I had to have authentic baklava once I arrived. I prefer baklava to lokum or Turkish delight, which can get a bit ‘too much’ and cloying after a while.
I love baklava for its simplicity. Those nice, crisp layers with crushed nuts in between, all drenched in honey. Yum.
Don’t wait to eat baklava after dinner at a restaurant- make it an event in itself. There was a little cafe near my hotel in Sultanahmet which I stopped at a couple of times after breakfast just to have a plate of baklava and some tea.
Keep an eye out for Istanbul’s bakeries. There are dozens all over the city and they sell a huge variety of baklava filled with pistachios, almonds, walnuts and chocolate.
Unless you order a small plate for dessert at a restaurant, baklava is sold according to weight. This is good, because it means that you can buy different varieties to make up 1 kilogramme, or however much you want.
If you’re thinking of bringing some back home with you, buy it a day before you leave and ask the bakery to pack it well. Your precious baklava should last more than a week after you reach home.
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