Turkish Cuisine

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Turkish cuisine reflects the variety of cultural influences crisscrossing the peninsula. It draws on rich influences from Central Asia, the Middle East, the Mediterranean, and the Balkans, though it does vary some by region. Much of the cooking in Turkey is rich in olive oil, vegetables, herbs and spices.

Olives are especially popular in the western regions, where olive trees grow. Fruits often accompany meats as a side dish, yogurt and flatbreads are widespread, and world-famous Turkish coffee is a must. A typical Turkish meal often starts with a thin soup.

Breakfast usually consists of a variety of cheeses, eggs, jams, olives, and breads. In Istanbul and the cities around the Aegean, Ottoman court cuisine is a heavy influence. Seafood plays a primary role, the use of spices is relatively light, and rice over burghul is popular.

The Black Sea region draws on Balkan and Slavic influences and also uses a heavy dose of seafood. You’ll see a lot of hamsi, a Black Sea anchovy, as well as maize. In the southeast, away from the water, there’s more of an emphasis on kebabs and dough-based dessert like baklava.

 Anatolia, in the central part of the country, strays a bit from what you’d expect to see on your plate; the specialty here is pasta. You’ll find dolmas nearly everywhere in Turkey. The stuffed grape leaves are eaten either as a main dish or on the side, and there are too many recipes to name.

They’re usually filled with a rice and spice mixture, and can be made with meat or vegetarian-style. Various dolmas include: tomato ("domates"), pumpkin ("balkabağı"), pepper ("biber"), cabbage ("lahana") (black or white cabbage), chard ("pazı") and mussel ("midye").