Back in Sydney, Turkish food would be classified as popular – one of the most popular in the city actually, but I have to admit that I haven't ever been a fan of Turkish food... until now.
I just spent 10 days being transported around Turkey to discover that what I thought was Turkish food – the stereotypical pide and kebab, both made of lamb – is far from the main brunt of the cuisine. Instead, I was met with stews, lentil soups, manti, some delicious rice, bread (both Turkish and French) and grilled meats with amazing flavor.
In other words, the Turkish cuisine really stands out in my mind as one worth getting excited about.
Then again, I don't really enjoy lamb, so the fact that Turkish people don't eat as much of it as one might expect is a major plus. While in Cappadocia, I was privy to a conversation between a customer and a shop owner where the customer was asking where to get lamb doner. The shop owner stated that they don't do the lamb doner in Cappadocia as much and instead focus on beef or chicken. This would be one point that I feel the foreign Turkish food places tend to exaggerate as lamb is always the star the show in places like Sydney.
The soup culture of Turkey is reminiscent of that in the USA, and I loved every bit of it. Lentil soup for lunch, tomato soup stocked with soup rice as a starter for dinner, and soup when the wind gets too cold in Cappadocia. But, forget chunky lentils, the soup in Turkey comes cooked down until it's smooth and sometimes with a healthy dose of butter.
Stews are also ripe for windy weather, and they can be made with chicken, beef, or lamb and combined with roasted tomatoes, peppers, and mild chilli peppers.
When it comes to dumplings, I had been familiar with manti in Central Asia – those of which were the size of the palms of your hands and stuffed with meat and onions. However, the manti in Turkey are like little tortellini filled with meat and topped with yogurt sauce and a spicy tomato sauce.
Travelers with a sweet tooth will love the Turkish desserts, like baklava (in photo), that are just drenched in sugar syrup. However, a simple cup of Turkish tea with a lump of sugar (or two) is also a customary end to a meal.
This post only begins to delve into the world of Turkish food, so if you have something to share, please do so in a comment below. What's your favorite Turkish dish? Did the food in Turkey surprise you?
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