The ancient crossroads of the East and West, Turkey has a distinct style of cuisine drawing from both Mediterranean and the Middle East influences. Local recipes date back to the Ottoman Empire, when thousands of chefs working under the sultans would take part in competitions reminiscent of Iron Chef to perfect one dish at a time. Turkish food relies on purity of flavor. Many fruits, vegetables, and meats are left standing on their own so that you can appreciate each flavorful burst of the sun-soaked local produce.
Turkish Cookery Staples
If the bread in Turkey tastes heavenly, it may be because Ottoman bakers believed that the archangel Gabriel himself passed down the art of bread making to Adam. You'll find bread in any number of delicious permutations when you take cheap flights to Turkey, and always warm from the oven. Pide and lavash are popular flat breads which can help sop up sauces or wrap around any number of delectable fillings, particularly Middle Eastern favorites such as hummus and baba ghanoush.
Yoghurt is a Turkish creation, and its creamy tang is used to compliment grilled meat kebabs, fried eggplant, or dished up alongside bread and olive oil for a simple yet satisfying snack. Rice, olive oil, and seafood are common ingredients in many dishes, and both meat and vegetables are usually grilled to bring out a greater intensity of flavor.
Top Foodie Regions
The benefit of a gastronomic tour around Turkey is that the cuisine will change along with the landscape. You can start in the Mediterranean region with Dalaman flights. Fresh cheese, almonds, and seafood are all typical bites in this area. Midye dolma are a popular seaside take on the classic stuffed grape leaves known as dolma. Instead of leaves, mussels are filled with spiced rice, closed back up, and then steamed and served with fresh lemon. This region is also filled with olive trees, so you will find that the best dishes are those which are glistening with fruity oil.
From there you can move inland to Central Anatolia, which features heartier cuisine including meat stews and dumplings. Mantu are dumplings stuffed with spiced meat and served with yoghurt, pepper, and sumac on top. Further north in the Marmara region, which includes the capital of Istanbul, you will find the greatest Ottoman influence. Expect to see a heavier use of rice and more elaborate spice blends in this region.
Hopping a bus and sampling your way through the various Turkish markets and taverns in these regions is a great way to get your taste buds acquainted with the local offerings. If you can't bear to part with Turkish cuisine at the end of your holiday, there are numerous cooking schools to teach you how to roll the perfect dolma.