Let me begin by saying that I have yet to try any food in Turkey that I did not immediately like. I’m the kind of person that is willing to try almost anything, but I also like to think I have high standards for judging food. I would rate my experience with Turkish cuisine just below Italian and on par with French cuisine. Upon my return, I vow to crusade against whatever set of unjust immigration and trade regulations that have prevented Turkish food from becoming a staple in the American diet.
The basic unit of Turkish food is the kebab, which refers to a wide variety of meat-based deliciousness. Turkish cuisine incorporates elements from Middle Eastern, Central Asian and Balkan traditions. Here are some of the most memorable meals from Istanbul:
4 course meal at Ottoman Hotel Imperial: The theme of this restaurant is to recreate actual meals eaten at the Ottoman court. The restaurant had hired our guide Günhan as an advising historian to ensure that the dishes were made with historically accurate methods and ingredients. My favorite dish was Mutanjene: Sun- dried Apricots,Raisin,Shallot,Honey & Almond flavoured diced Lamb Casserole.
Iskender Kebab: I had dinner with some university students, one of whom did not eat at all because he had “eaten Iskander Kebab today for lunch.” I later understood what he meant when I sat down and proceeded to ingest upwards of 4,000 calories in one sitting without pausing to breathe. Iskender Kebab consists of very thin slices of grilled lamb meat with tomato and pita, which is then fully saturated in butter and yoghurt. The waiter came by every few minutes with a bucket of melted butter to pour over and replenish the meat.
Pide: Essentially the Turkish version of pizza, it consists of bread baked over with cheese, vegetables, meat and spices. Our favorite place to stop for a quick bite was called Karadeniz, near Sultanahmet.
Turkish Coffee: No description of Turkish cuisine would be complete without mentioning Turkish coffee, which comes at the end of every meal. Turkish coffee is like strong espresso with the consistency of hot Nutella. Turkish
Antioch food: This region of Turkey is heavily influenced by Arab cuisine. My favorite dish consisted of skewers of spiced shredded lamb which were rolled around pine nuts and eaten on pita with vegetables.
Köfte: Essentially Turkish meatballs. There’s a really famous place in Sultanahmet where celebrities go to have their pictures taken.
Red Beans: Probably the best non-meat item to be found at the famous Kanaat restaurant, which I only knew about because it is mentioned in the Turkish language tapes I was listening to on the plane.
Since I can’t walk or do any exercise and I now eat 8,000 calories a day, if I ever decide to leave, I may be taking a cargo ship back to America.