Discover the flavors of real Turkish cuisine
During your stay in Istanbul, do not miss out on the richness of Turkish cuisine! Turkish cuisine is one of the most varied in the world. It is considered as the third richest cuisine after the French and the Chinese gastronomy.
However, in the West, this cuisine is not recognized enough, as it is often limited to the Döner Kebab!
Turkey is a crossroads between Europe, Asia, and the Orient. This unique location combined with the migration of Turks from Central Asia to Europe has shaped the identity of its gastronomy over the centuries. Because of six centuries of Ottoman regional domination and the reciprocal influence between Turkey and its neighboring countries (Greece, Bulgaria, The Balkans, Irak, Syria Iran, Armenia…) is the reason why we find so many common dishes in those cuisines such as dolma, börek, kebab, mantı (Turkish ravioli), and so on.
- The Western and Turkish Aegean cuisine is based on the remnants of the Ottoman court and the Greek cuisine with a preference for rice over the bulgur. Fewer spices are used compared to other regional Turkish cuisines, and seafood is abundant and enjoyed in any season.
The main dishes of this region are dolmas, mezes, and seafood.
Read our article: The best fish and mezes restaurants in Istanbul.
- The cuisine of the Black Sea is heavily based on sea products and finds its influence in the Balkans and Slavic cuisines.
The main dishes of this region are pides (Turkish pizza), fish, dry beans (kuru fasülye), and cheese.
- Anatolian and South East of Turkey’s Cuisine is known for its kebabs (grilled meat in Turkish), its mezze, spices, and desserts including the famous baklava.
Read our article: The best kebabs restaurants in Istanbul.
Amidst this regional diversity 3 elements are recurrent in a traditional Turkish meal :
- Yogurt (yoğurt): A little of history first, yogurt originates from Central Asia, and would have reached Europe and the Balkans through Turkish peoples. The origin of the word “yoğurt” is also found in the Turkish verb “yoğurmak” meaning “kneading”. Turkish people use yogurt in combination with salty dishes. It is denser and has a touch of acidity. Do not be surprised if you find some next to your meat and vegetables. In supermarkets, you will find jars of 1kg or more of yogurt.
- Tea (çay): Tea in Turkey is a real institution, it is a sign of hospitality. It is served when you visit people, and often offered at the end of a meal. Most of the time, it is black tea. It is drunk in a small glass (çay bardağı). We drink it any time of the day or even during the evening.
- Turkish coffee (türk kahvesi): This coffee is different from our traditional coffee because the marc is present in the cup. Be careful not to drink it! When you order a Turkish coffee you need to specify its cooking, or rather the amount of sugar you want in it. If you want a coffee without sugar say “sade” (pronounced “saad-eh”), with a little sugar, say “orta”, with many sugars, say “şekerli” (pronounced “sheh-ker-lee”). Once you’ve finished your coffee you can interpret your future in the marks of the coffee. Return your cup on the saucer, just wait until the cup cools and then return the cup, the marc traces are indications of your future!
Istanbul is a condensate of Turkey, the massive internal migrations of the 80s and 90s are the reason why you’ll be able to find here all the regional cuisines! You still have to know the good places to eat, you can find them in our articles about the best restaurants.
To discover Turkish cuisine and some of its specialties in more depth while discovering two neighborhoods still little-visited, we invite you to participate in our culinary and cultural walk on two continents.