My Mouth-Watering, Indulgence-Worthy, Im-Going-To-Gain-20lb Turkish Food Favorites

Wow, that title was a mouthful.

… Get it?

One of the questions I get asked most often when people find out I’m foreign is “what’s your favorite Turkish food?”.  I never know what to say, because I can’t really chose a stand-alone favorite.  I do have a few dishes ready that I list off when this inevitable query is mentioned.  Some days I prefer one over the other, but it’s all just on a whim.  Honestly, whenever I see one of these dishes on the table, I immediately have a smile on my face!

These are my top ten favorite foods, broken down into their respective categories.  I didn’t include things that we also eat in the US (like kumpir/baked potato and the like).

Main Dish

1. DOLMA: If you don’t like dolma, we can’t be friends.  A variety of vegetables fall under the category “dolma”, but they all have one thing in common: they are stuffed with rice, herbs, spices, and sometimes meat (depending on your recipe).  Boiled/steamed,  the rice is cooked and the flavors of the vessel veggie are trapped inside.  You can find pepper, onion, tomato, eggplant, dried eggplant, grape leaf (aka sarma), and cabbage dolmas, among others.  My favorites are sweet red pepper, dried eggplant, and sarma!

Oh,  the remaining water after boiling makes an excellent soup with a few additions!
2. ISKENDER: A shaved meat dish similar to döner, these meat is laid on a bed of soft pita bread and drowned in tomato sauce, chhhsssss melted butter,  and a side of plain yogurt.  Unfortunately this meal tends to be a bit pricey compared to its sandwich counter part.  For us it is a special indulgence… A delicious, fattening indulgence.
3. KARNIYARIK: Lightly fried eggplant halves filled with a ground beef mixture then baked.  There is something about fried eggplant (without breading)  that is just… Amazing. So soft, so velvety, somewhat sweet…mhm.  Whenever we eat something fried, we usually serve it with yogurt and a salad. The spices, herbs, onion, and other additions to the meat mixture make it flavorful without being overwhelming and losing the flavor of the eggplant.
4. KÖZLEME PATLICAN: Speaking of eggplant… Fire roasted eggplant.  Oh. My. Gosh. You can’t jar the flavor of eggplants actually cooked over an open flame.  We roasted a few kilos of eggplant from our garden last summer and froze it for the winter.  I prefer mine drowned in garlic yogurt, mixed with olive oil, parsley, mint, cumin, red pepper flakes, and black pepper.  I mean,  dang. Hubby likes it without the yogurt and adding tomato. But… But… Garlic yogurt!
5. BEZELYE YEMEĞİ :We all remember pushing peas around our plates as kids… But no one will be turning up their nose at this! A classic sulu (with water) food, bezelye yemeği consists of chopped and sautéed onions, carrots, and potatoes, swimming in a tomatoe-y broth with the peas happily joining in the fray. This is my favorite of the “standard” (I call sulu foods standard because everything can be made like this lol) Turkish meals. You can also add ground beef!

Breakfast

6. BİBERLİ LOR :Nom. Nom. Nom. This is a great way to give in to my cheese addiction. Lor is basically ricotta cheese, and biberli lor is ricotta cheese mixed in with sautéed peppers. Heat it all up together and make sure there is plenty of olive oil! I hope you aren’t worried about gaining a few pounds…
7. ÇILBUR :This mix sounds weird but I swear it is delicious. Pan cooked eggs (no milk, not beaten, and not quite fried… Just oil and eggs cooked until it’s not runny) smothered in plain yogurt (and if you have caught on to my preferences… Garlic is an option for a lunch time meal). I like to drizzle a sauce made from butter and salça (like manti) on top.

Dessert

8. MUHALLEBI : Basically a very light, plain pudding that I just love.  It’s almost fluffy because it’s made with rice starch instead of corn or wheat.  Add a little sakiz, and I’m in heaven!
9. AYVA TATLISI : Poached quince with cinnamon and whipped cream.  Hello, delcious!
10. BAKLAVA : No list of delicious Turkish foods is complete without baklava. I’m pretty picky about it, though! I like mine to be crunchy, flaky, and not drown in sugar syrup!  And while you’re at it, make it with walnuts.  I know for some it is sacrilege, but I really like walnuts…

Anyway, when you get the chance give these a try! I hope you didn’t gain a few kg just reading!

Honorable mentions (you’ll have to look up for yourself!): Cig kofte, mercimek kofte, patlican yemegi, kisir, bamya yemegi, yayla corbasi…ok I need to stop or I’ll list everything!

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‘Tis the Season to Make Aşure

As the onslaught of winter holidays are preparing to commence in the US, Turkey has a few unofficial holidays of their own.  While you may be spying colored leaf decor, pilgrim hats, and probably a few Christmas trees, in the states…in Turkey you will be seeing tons and tons of aşure!

asure2

Aşure (Ah-shur-eh), or Noah’s Pudding, is a dessert that I personally adore.  Sweetened with both sugar and fruit, aşure is a sure sign of the changing season. At least, it is right now.

Along with being a dessert, this is also the nickname of the Muslim month of Muharram (the first month on the islamic calendar- which operates by the moon phases).  For this reason, the months change over time- so in 10 years we may be preparing aşure around Easter rather than Christmas!

asure ingredients

  But I digress.

This dessert comes from the ubiquitous story of Noah (or Nuh) and the flood.  While Muslims and Christians don’t necessarily agree on how big the flood was, we can all agree that there was a guy on a boat for quite some time.  At the end of that time, there was only so many ingredients available to prepare much of anything.  With what remained, Noah prepared aşure.  There is a lot of significance to this month that you can search for on your own, I’m sticking to the dessert!

When one prepares aşure, they prepare A LOT.  That’s because you share your dessert with the whole neighborhood!  Invite over your closest neighbors, say some prayers, read a little Quran, then eat!  Later, load up a tepsi (tray) with as many bowls as you can and distribute them to the neighbors on your block.  More likely than not, you have some coming your way as well!  Just last week we visited Amca and his family, their aşure flavored with orange and clove felt like being back in the states again.DSCN3030

My favorite part of eating/making aşure is that everyone does it differently. While the base is pretty much the same, how people chose to flavor it can vary. Some people put figs and apricots, others put orange and apple.  Rose water? why not. Clove? Bring it on.  And the toppings sprinkled on top are always a treat! It literally took us one entire day to prepare the toppings.  Cracking, blanching, toasting, and pulverizing your own almonds and walnuts is not an easy task. Oh, but the reward…asure toppings

Without further ado, here is our recipe for aşure.  It makes a huge stock pot worth, so if you don’t plan on sharing with a dozen people- feel free to cut down the recipe.  Change it as you like!  We prepared the beans the day before.

Asure

Ingredients

1kg whole bulgur wheat

2c dried chickpeas

2c dried great northern beans

2c rice

1kg sugar

3 apples, peeled and diced

3 mandarine orange rinds, diced finely

1-2c raisins

2tsp cloves

1tbsp rose water

hot water

salt

toppings:

toasted sesame

toasted almonds, pulverized

toasted walnuts, pulverized

pomegranate seeds

toasted pine nuts

currants

cinnamon

Preparation

1.Soak the dried beans separately for several hours until ready to cook. Add a generous hand-full of salt to the water.

2. Wash the bulgur wheat very well*, then cook in a pressure cooker until done.

3. Remove the bulgur and place in a large stock pot. Cook the chickpeas in the pressure cooker until soft.

4. Cook the beans and rice separately in standard pots, until soft.

5. Put all of the legumes and grains, drained, in the same stock pot, add sugar. Meanwhile, boil the mandarin rind twice, removing any undesirable bitter flavors.

6. Fill stock pot with water until everything is submerged, plus two or three inches more.

7. Add the fruits/rind/clove and bring to a boil, letting everything mush together (its ugly but delicious). Add the rose water after boiling and stir it in.

8. Try and maintain a pourable consistency with hot water. Serve with garnish, hot.

AFIYET OLSUN!

*you know, go ahead and wash everything well.  EVERYTHING. Even the raisins.  Any residual color compounds can make your dessert ugly and discolored!

Muhallebi (pudding)

Today I tried making one of my husband’s favorite desserts, muhallebi! Muhallebi is a simple pudding that is light and delicious for these hot summer days. Mashallah, the dessert came out perfectly the first time! Let me share it with you!

nom nom nom
nom nom nom
Ingredients:
  • 2c milk
  • 2tbsp rice flour
  • 1/2c sugar
  • 1tsp vanilla
Preparation:
  1.  Mix rice flour and sugar together in a dry pot until fully incorporated
  2. Pour in 1/2c of milk, turn pot on to medium-high and whisk thoroughly,  making sure to dissolve all the granular bits.
  3. As the temperature increases add milk in 1/2c increments and whisk continuously.  Add the vanilla.
  4. Whisk and boil until the bubbles leave craters in the mixture.
  5. Pour into a pyrex dish and cool in the fridge for a few hours or until it sets.
  6. Serve with cinnamon and walnuts (or any crushed nut)
Afiyet olsun!