Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A brief guide to eating out in Turkey

By Tanisha Alger

Turkey's cuisine is famous for its flavour and diversity, with influences drawn from all areas of the former Ottoman Empire. Each region of the country has its own specialities. In the west of the country the cuisine is based heavily on seafood, olive oil and vegetables, whilst the food in the south and east is generally richer and spicier.

Many restaurants serve a typical Turkish breakfast. This normally consists of bread, beyaz peynir (a white cheese similar to Greek Feta), butter, honey or jam, and Turkish tea - although it may also include boiled eggs, menemen (a type of spiced omelette), olives, tomato & cucumber salad, and sliced beef sausage.

The main meal of the day could be taken at midday or in the evening. A main meal usually starts with soup or meze. Meze is a selection of small dishes served to share, and may include hummus, baba ghanoush (a type of aubergine dip), stuffed vine leaves or peppers, or fried calamari.

The main course usually consists of meat or fish. The most popular meats are lamb and chicken, often served as kebab (cubes of meat grilled on a skewer) or as kofte (minced and served as small spicy burgers). Fish and seafood are popular in coastal resorts such as Istanbul. Fish is often served simply grilled to bring out its natural flavour. Bread is always served with a meal in Turkey, and main courses are usually accompanied by rice, together with a salad of tomato, cucumber and onion with an olive oil and lemon dressing.

Dessert usually consists of a plate of fresh fruit, particularly melon or watermelon, but there are also many sweet desserts such as baklava (a confection of layers of filo pastry filled with nuts and honey). The famous Turkish delight (loukoumi), a sweet jelly flavoured with rosewater, is best served to accompany black tea or thick Turkish coffee.

Those who prefer a quick snack to a full sit-down meal are also well catered for in Turkey. Popular snacks include borek (a type of pasty made with filo pastry and filled with vegetables or spicy meat), stuffed mussels, corn on the cob, lahmacun or pide (types of Turkish pizza), and of course the world-famous doner kebab.

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