While many of you engulfed tryptophan-toting poultry over Thanksgiving, I met up with the 2013 international version of the Breakfast Club in Turkey. After seeing a No Reservations episode of Bourdain in Istanbul, I fancied fresh flavorful eats where Europe meets Asia. While we partied at Reina in Istanbul and on side streets of the Alsancak in Izmir, hiked and hot air-ballooned in Cappadocia, and trekked through the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Pamukkale and Ephesus, we completely immersed ourselves in the old and new. Below you will find a brief description of the staple food items that you can find throughout the beautiful country.
Pide – Turkish pizza sans the sauce.
Lahmacun – A Turkish pizza with minced meat, tomato, and pepper.
Döner – Beef, lamb, or various blends of different types of meat cooked on a vertical rotisserie. Be sure to get it with the cacik, or yogurt sauce. This succulent meat is synonymous with shawarma and gyro. I often opted for the baguette over pita since we were trekking for long hours between meals.
Köfte – Ground meat on skewers cooked to perfection.
Kebaps – Grilled meats on a skewers served with a surplus of sauces.
Baklava – Turkish baklava wasn’t as crisp as the Greek version. Still, it was better than what we eat back in the states.
Kokorec – As a child, I would leave the house when my mother made chitterlings. But when you are leaving the club late at night, lamb intestines don’t sound like such a bad idea. With the right amount of seasoning stuffed into a baguette, it hit the spot.
Efes – The Turkish version of Anheuser-Busch but better. They had various types such as Malt, Dark, and Pilsen. My favorite was the Dark, which features double-roasted malt with hints of caramel and coffee.
Midye Dolmasi – In Turkey, mussels are illegal and it’s because you’d spend your entire paycheck on this heavenly street food. No, the real reason is because everyone doesn’t clean them properly and food poisoning was occurring far too often. Stuffed with rice and a special blend of spices, this delightful treat was hands-down, my favorite street food.
Raki – The official drink of Turkey, raki is an anise-flavored alcohol that is often mixed with water. It is an acquired taste to say the least. If you have been to Colombia, it is similar to aguardiente.
Cay – Served with every meal and throughout the day, real Turks break bread over tea, or cay
While Bourdain raved about the food in Istanbul, I found it to be fresh but bland. Often, I would commit the faux pas act of asking for additional spices to add to my food after it had been served. Although the food was slightly disappointing, the opportunity to experience the people and places of Turkey will forever remain in my soul. And for that, I am thankful.