Before traveling to Turkey, I had always heard wonderful things about their cuisine. And now I can personally report that the food was terrific!!
Our very first night in Istanbul we strolled along the waterfront and stopped at a restaurant for dinner. Neither of us was incredibly hungry because, believe it or not, Turkish Airlines fed us really well throughout our flight! But we decided to stop anyway to have a drink and order some light fare. I ordered the stuffed grape leaves (yum!) and Rob ordered a seafood salad and seaweed salad. Between our appetizers and the bread they served us with a delicious olive tapenade, our meal was perfect! (And my introduction to Efes sparked the beginning of our 2 week friendship throughout all of Turkey!)
After that first night we got our full appetites back and we dove right in to the traditional Turkish dishes. First stop….Kebabs! Kebabs are a staple in Turkey and can be found throughout the country (we ate them in practically every city we visited). Kebabs are made from tasty slices of seasoned meat (usually lamb) that are typically served on plates, skewered, or on sandwiches. They are delicious and affordable. Each kebab plate only cost about $5, maybe less.
As delicious as the kebabs were, they weren’t exactly a new culinary experience since you can find them in many other countries. But gözleme was a new dish that I had never tried before, nor heard of. Gözleme is kind of like a Turkish quesadilla. It is made of hand-rolled dough and then filled with various toppings (meat, potatoes, vegetables, cheese, etc.), sealed with another layer of dough and then cooked on a griddle. I tried several varieties and they were all delicious. I had the opportunity to watch a woman preparing gözleme and she was quite a ham! She didn’t speak any English, but she was encouraging me to take her picture, to which I happily obliged.
Another new dish we both enjoyed was pide. Pide is basically a Turkish pizza. The dough is generally molded into an oval shape and then topped with cheese, meat, and/or vegetables. It was really delicious! (Rob’s version doesn’t look quite as appetizing without the cheese, but he swears it was still good.)
But my favorite meal every day was breakfast, hands down! Breakfast always consisted of fresh watermelon that I paired with feta cheese (A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! Don’t knock it till you try it), fresh cucumber and tomato wedges, lots of olives, dried apricots and figs, and yogurt. I’m not quite sure how I didn’t manage to get a picture of this wonderful display of tasty goodness, but I am assuming that I was far too anxious to start eating it every morning to worry about taking pictures. Sorry.
And to satisfy anyone with a sweet tooth, Turkey has the most amazing desserts! One of my absolute favorites is Turkish baklava; not Greek baklava or Iraqi baklava or any other country’s version of baklava. It has to be Turkish baklava. If you’ve never had baklava before, it is a sweet pastry made of layers of filo dough, filled with chopped nuts, and sweetened with honey. I have always found Greek baklava to be far too sweet. But Turkish baklava has the perfect nut:honey ratio.