Turkish cuisine is an amalgamation of flavors from regions such as Central Asia, the Middle East and other bordering regions. Fruits and vegetables are the stars of meals, whereas meats are used as flavorings or on the plate in smaller amounts. Milk fed lamb is the most commonly consumed meat, though other proteins are also prepared. The most common cooking styles favor grilling and roasting, and for the most part, an authentic Turkish diet is very healthy.
The national dish of Turkey is without a doubt, the “döner kebap”. Layers of meat are vertically spitted and slowly roasted, then thinly sliced and served plain, on flatbread, stuffed into bread and served with or without a variety of sauces. This kebab can be found all over the country, as can “pide”, which is also known as Turkish Pizza. Pide is a thin, crescent shaped bread dough that is topped with various toppings and then baked in a hot oven. It is then sliced and served piping hot. Minced lamb, spicy sausage and vegetables are common toppings.
The national alcoholic drink is “raki”. This anise flavored spirit is drunk frequently with mezze or meals where red meat is present, and is served chilled and straight, or mixed with a tiny bit of cold water. When mixed with water it turns cloudy white and is known as lion’s milk. For non-alcoholic beverages, Turkish tea, known as çay, is the national drink consumed all throughout the day.
Various regions of Turkey have their own specialties. Istanbul and the surrounding areas are famous for their yogurt, the “iskendar kebap” is a regional specialty in Bursa, Gaziantep is known for their pistachio nuts, the Black Sea region is famous for their “hamsi” (fried anchovies) as well as delicious corn bread, and the southeast is renowned for their spicy kebabs as well as “baklava”. Pasta specialties such as “manti” and “gözleme” are regional specialties of the Central Anatolian region.
Turkish food is a delight; subtly flavored meats and an abundance of vegetables make meals healthy and delicious. Turks love their food and drink and celebrate locally grown produce and ingredients by incorporating them into fabulous dishes that are loved the world over.