Turkey Must-Try Dishes from Different Regions
You're probably familiar with the renowned döner kebab, but the richness of Turkish cuisine extends far beyond. Situated at the crossroads of Southeast Europe and West Asia, Turkey boasts diverse landscapes, ranging from mountains and beaches to deserts, influencing a plethora of distinctive regional dishes.
UNESCO recognized the town of Gaziantep in the southeast for its gastronomic heritage, emphasizing the profound culinary diversity across Turkey's 81 provinces. Navigating this culinary tapestry can be challenging, so here's a guide to some must-try Turkish dishes.
Adana Kebab — Adana
In Adana, located 22 miles inland from the Mediterranean's eastern shores, the Adana Kebab takes center stage in a cuisine dominated by meat. Dating back almost 4,000 years to the Çukurova district, this skewered, hand-minced meat kebab has found its way onto menus throughout Turkey.
The authentic version requires mutton from a one-year-old ram, kneaded with fat, salt, chili powder, and spicy peppers. Grilled over charcoal, the kebab is served with pita bread to soak up the delectable juices, accompanied by rice, grilled tomato wedges, green pepper, and the local beverage, şalgam.
Deniz Börülcesi — Izmir
Deniz börülcesi, often labeled as sea beans, is more accurately samphire or glasswort. Thriving in salty water, it's a staple in Izmir's Aegean cuisine. Boiled and cooled, Deniz börülcesi is served with olive oil, lemon, and crushed garlic, delivering a taste reminiscent of leisurely days by the beach. Beyond its deliciousness, samphire is rich in antioxidants, calcium, magnesium, and other vital nutrients.
Manti — Kayseri
Kayseri, the capital of Cappadocia, introduces Kayseri mantı, small dumplings filled with a precise amount of ground beef, reflecting the locals' frugality. Boiled and served in a bowl, these dumplings are topped with garlic-infused yogurt and seasoned with pul biber (spicy red chili flakes), presenting a simple yet flavorful dish.
Lor Kurabiyesi — Ayvalık
Lor kurabiyesi, cookies from Ayvalık, derive their unique flavor from lor, a crumbly white cheese with a slightly dry texture. Sweetened with grape juice instead of sugar, these moist and delightful treats capture the healthy Aegean lifestyle of Ayvalık, a coastal town north of Izmir.
Hummus — Tarsus
In Tarsus, hummus takes center stage as more than just a side dish or appetizer. Served with various toppings, including pastirma, sucuk, or perfectly cooked entrecote, Tarsus's hummus is a culinary delight. Tarsus, known for its historical significance, provides a unique twist to this Middle Eastern dish.
Lahmacun — Gaziantep
Gaziantep's lahmacun, often called Turkish pizza, stands out with its use of lamb, specifically male lamb with limited fat content. The thin rounds of dough are topped with minced lamb, parsley, spicy pepper, garlic, and cooked in a wood-fired oven. The uniqueness lies in the balance of crispiness and softness, often served with roasted and peeled eggplant.
Baklava — Gaziantep
For the finest baklava, many Turks will direct you to Antep, where over 100 baklavacı (baklava makers) craft this delectable dessert. Using pistachios instead of walnuts, and meticulously layering thin sheets of pastry brushed with butter, Antep baklava is a masterpiece of culinary skill.
Urfa Kebab — Şanliurfa
Originating from Şanliurfa, Urfa Kebab pays homage to the city's resistance against French troops in 1919. Similar to Adana Kebab but without intense spices, Urfa Kebab is cooked on round skewers and should be a culinary highlight for those exploring the region's rich history and cultural heritage.
This is just a glimpse into the vast culinary tapestry of Turkey. From the fiery delights of Adana to the delicate sweetness of Ayvalık's cookies, each region offers a unique experience for your taste buds. So, ditch the tourist traps and embark on a culinary adventure, discovering the hidden gems that await in the heart of Turkey's diverse and delicious landscape.