Kahvaltı is the Turkish word for breakfast. No, I didn’t name this post kahvaltı because it is a turkish word and I wanted to be clever. No. I named this post as such because Turkish breakfasts deserve their own word. They are in no way comparable to any American breakfast I have ever had, outside of those served by Turkish Americans. Here is a small sampling of things that you may find at kahvaltı, but this is in no way everything! This morning our breakfast was actually very basic, and I hope to include additional breakfast items in a second installment, Turkey 201b: Kahvaltı part 2 in the future.
Before beginning, I want to stress that kahvaltı can vary dramatically by location, and by season! For example, when fresh tomatoes are hard to find in January, you may find a tomato sauce food instead. In the eastern side of Turkey, eating a lot of meat at breakfast is much more common than in the western region, where fresh fruits and vegetables reign. So, if I don’t mention something here, that’s simply because my experience has been limited to the Aegean during the summer…but that will change soon inşallah!
The first item of discussion is the ubiquitous çay (ch-ai), which can be found on any Turkish table throughout the day. Much like coffee or orange juice in the US, this drink must accompany breakfast. Preparing tea in Turkey is not necessarily an easy task. Utilizing a çaydanlık (which I posted on instagram), a certain ratio of a variety of black teas are added to the top and slightly dampened, while the bottom container comes to a boil. The hot water is added to the moistened tea leaves and steeped for as long as the drinker desires. The tea I made, seen above, is actually kind of light…but I really liked it! SO THERE! Drink your tea plain, with sugar, or with a candy in your mouth.
Another common item found on the table when you get up is peynir (pay-neer), cheese. There are a metric ton of different types of cheeses in Turkey (you think I’m being hyperbolic, but I am serious), and any number of them can find their way to the breakfast table. Not to be confused with indian cheese paneer, the name peynir applies to all cheeses, and you have to qualify which one you are talking about.
In my experience I’ve always found a chopped assortment of taze sebzeler (tah-zey seb-zey-lehr), fresh vegetables, drowned in olive oil and salt when I woke up for breakfast. Tomatoes are always present, but sometimes you will find peppers and/or cucumbers. At least something on the table isn’t fattening haha!
If you are at all familiar with a Turkish kitchen, you know that ekmek (ehk-mek), bread, is never very far away when it comes to meal time. Much like cheese, there are many types of bread, depending on what you are eating. Sandwich breads, dipping breads, wrapping breads…but here you see a standard bread that visited the toasting press before serving.
Most of the time you will find yumurta (you-murt-ah), egg, in some shape or form. Today we kept it simple and boiled it, but you can also prepare a scrambled Turkish omelette (menemen), scrambled egg with yogurt (çilbur), or even plain fried eggs. It is all up to the cook.
The sky opens up, a light shines down, angels sing…and there lies kaymak (kai-mahk). Yes, if you think that is sweet cream, it is. Soft and supple, this super fattening delight is worth every calorie. I try to only eat it once, like, ever in my life, because when I get started I can’t stop. Dip your bread in it and go to town. I can’t even describe in words the glory that is kaymak.
There are many other things that can be served at breakfast, such as olives (zeytin), jams (reçel) a variety of savory pastries (börek), beef sausages (sucuk, sosis), and others. I hope to share them with you soon.
In Turkey, breakfast is KING!
Where are you in the world, and what did you have for breakfast?