Discovering Turkish Food

Updated: Mar 28

By Mary Bloyd

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think about Turkish food? Kebabs, rice pilaf, cucumbers and tomatoes at every meal, yogurt, baklava? You might be surprised to know that the cuisine of Turkey is both simple and complex, and more diverse than a few simple food items might suggest.

Because of my love for food and cooking, after becoming interested and immersed in the wonderful storytelling of Turkish dizis and films, I knew researching the food and cuisine of Turkey would not be far behind.

One of the first things I learned is that Turkish cuisine is largely the heritage of Ottoman cuisine. Ottoman cuisine is best described as a fusion and refinement of Central Asian, Middle Eastern, Eastern European, and Balkan cuisines. The Ottomans fused various culinary traditions of their realm with influences from the traditional cuisine of the Levant, (which covers a large area of the Eastern Mediterranean), along with traditional Turkic elements from Central Asia (such as yogurt and manti). This resulted in the creation of a vast array of specialties, many with strong regional associations.

It surprised me to learn that Turkey is one of the few self-sufficient countries in the world in terms of food. With fertile soil, varying regional climate conditions, and abundant rainfall, growing almost any kind of crops is possible. Farming is an occupation in all seven regions in Turkey but less practiced in the mountainous regions, where the main activity is animal husbandry. Turkey has a long coastline and large freshwater bodies of water which are great resources for different seafoods. The main fishing grounds are the Black Sea, Sea of Marmara, the Aegean Sea, and the Mediterranean Sea.

Turkish cuisine varies across the country. For example, the cooking of Istanbul is done with a lighter hand in the use of spices, a preference for rice over bulgur, and more variety in vegetable stews. The cuisine of the Black Sea region uses fish extensively. The cuisine of the southeast is famous for its variety of kebabs, mezes, and dough-based desserts like baklava.

The name of any specialty includes that of a city or region, either in or outside of Turkey, and may refer to the specific technique or ingredients used in that area. Meat-based foods such as kebabs are the mainstay in Turkish cuisine as presented in foreign countries. However, native Turkish meals largely center around rice, vegetables, and bread.

A variety of Turkish dishes on a "sini", or large tray, formerly

used in rural areas as a traditional alternative to a table.

A variety of Turkish dishes on a "sini", or large tray, formerly

used in rural areas as a traditional alternative to a table.

It has been said that three major kinds of cuisine exist in the world: Turkish, Chinese and French. Over the centuries, Turkey has developed a cuisine which has a very pure quality. The variety and simplicity of Turkish recipes and the quality of the ingredients guarantees delicious meals. Tourist boards claim that Turkish Cuisine is always a pleasant surprise for the visitor.

In upcoming posts, we will explore culinary customs about breakfast, homemade food, summer cuisine, key ingredients in Turkish cuisine, different dishes, and other cuisine-related topics.

Mary Bloyd is a retired corporate manager, living in Centerville, Ohio with her husband, Jon. A mother of one daughter and grandmother of four beautiful children, she loves cooking for her family and friends. Taught by a professional chef how to use spices and herbs, make stocks and mother sauces, she developed a curiosity about all manner of food and cuisine. A dedicated colorist, she is also a journal-keeper, writer of short stories and poetry, and loves to travel.

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#turkishcuisine #turkishfood #kebabs #turkishdizis #sini

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