Dining in Turkey

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Turkey is a dining paradise and Turkish cuisine is one of the most varied and richest of the world’s cuisines. Each area of the country has developed its own cooking style and use of ingredients and it would take the visitor many years to “eat their way” through the countless and very different dishes served within Turkey’s borders. İstanbul cooking is, perhaps, the most cosmopolitan, a composite of dishes and food preparation styles from many different cultures, regions, and ethnic groups. The traditional İstanbul restaurants are usually either “vegetable” or “meat” based.

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You are in Turkey and have the opportunity to sample very different and wonderful food. So we suggest that you not be shy. Take advantage of this opportunity while you have it. Turks are very friendly and will help you with a menu that you don’t understand. You can walk down a main street and either get a glimpse of the food from the window, study the menu posted at the door, or even just march into the restaurant kitchen! You will first notice the restaurants with food on display in steamers in window cases. These are generally self-serve type restaurants and you simply point at what you want. Try the stuffed vegetables. You will love them; especially if you nod that “yes” the server should dribble some yoghurt over the food. Meat lovers will like the joint of lamb that has been slow cooked in a lemony sauce. Don’t be put off by the small servings. Unlike westerners, the Turks choose several small plates of different dishes. The prices are very economical, so choose more than one serving. A meat restaurant will offer varieties upon varieties of kebabs. Most popular is the “doner” kebab, meat packed down and then cooked as it turns on a spit. The doner can be eaten “plain (sade),” or over rice, or as an “İskender,” meat over flat bread and topped with a tomatoes and yoghurt sauce. Like your food hot? Then choose a variety with an “Adana” or “Diyarbakır” prefix because the people from those towns prefer hot and spicy foods.
Turkish “home cooking” restaurants offer just that! The meal will begin with a soup (the Turks must definitely have the world’s widest selection of delicious soups. Try their lentil soup “mercimek”, or their fermented yoghurt soup “Tarhana,” or their vegetable and meat “Ezo Gelin”). Next is a cold plate, usually vegetables that have been cooked in a small amount of olive oil and spiced, or cold stuffed vegetables. If the lunch is a large one you will next be served a hot dough wrapped bundle that has been either baked or fried and stuffed with either meat or cheese. Finally the main dish is served. The main dish usually consists of meat, chicken, or fish and has been cooked in one of the sauces that make Turkish cooking so distinctive.
Dessert is either a serving of fruit, a fruit compote, a pudding like concoction (of which there are many delicious varieties), or a traditional Turkish sweet such as baklava or one of the many other varieties available. For some of the world’s best fish, head for the Coastal areas of town where the restaurants serve the day’s catch. Ask the price of the fish before you order! Some rare catches can be very costly while a large catch of a very delicious fish may be very cheap. Most fish restaurants will “display” what they have on hand that day.

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