Turkey is a famous country known for its beautiful cities like Istanbul, dramatic soap operas, and delicious traditional delicacies. Turkey’s large landmass of 783,562 square kilometers (according to The World Bank) and two continent borders (Europe and Asia) explain the wide range of variety of dishes and tastiness of its meals. Traditional foods in Tukey rely on fresh ingredients, careful preparation, and perfect recipes to bring out the unique taste of goodness. Whether it is their traditional dishes or street food, you’re sure to get a food experience of a lifetime when you visit Turkey. We’ve put together a list of 6 traditional dishes and street food you should try when you visit Turkey.
- Iskender Kebab (Slices of lamb with tomato sauce)
Iskender Kebab is one of the popular traditional meat dishes in Turkey. This dish was named after Iskender Efendi, who created it and served it to city workers in 1867. Iskender Kebab consists of tenderly boiled and grilled lamb meat cut into thin slices with hot tomato sauce. You can have this delicious meal at different locations as seen in this blog. The thin slices of lamb and tomato sauce are served on top of pieces of pita bread with a topping of melted butter. Iskender Kebab can be served with yogurt, tomato, and pepper slices.
- Șehriyeli Pilav (Turkish rice)
Șehriyeli Pilav is a staple dish in Turkey. Șehriyeli pilav is known for its buttery and rich taste. This dish is made with heated butter, șehriye, and rice all boiled together. There are different types of șehriyeli pilav depending on the extra ingredients in it. Hamsili șehriyeli pilav is the seafood version of șehriyeli pilav, with fish, prawns, and other seafood. When șehriyeli pilav is baked, it becomes perde pilav. Șehriyeli pilav is served at traditional occasions like weddings, naming ceremonies, and also in traditional Turkish restaurants.
- Piyaz (Turkish beans)
Piyaz is one of the earliest traditional Turkish dishes, with beans being its main ingredient. While piyaz may be a salad dish everywhere else, it is considered a main dish in Antalya province Piyaz is a salad made with beans, onions, parsley, and sumac. It is prepared by soaking the beans in water overnight, then boiling the beans the next day with fresh water. The combination of onion slices, parsley, sumac is seasoned with salt, lemon juice, olive oil, and pepper and added to the already-boiled beans. Cowpeas can be used to replace beans, and sliced hard-boiled eggs can be used to garnish the dish. It can be served with meatballs or grilled beef on the side.
- Balik Ekmek
Balik ekmek is a popular street food found in every roadside food kiosk, mobile food shop, by the seashore, and even restaurants in Turkey. Balik ekmek is derived from the combination of balik- meaning fish and ekmek- meaning bread. Balik ekmek is a fish inside a Turkish bread sandwich. The fish is usually an oily fish that is fried, grilled, or boiled. Different kinds of vegetables can be added to the sandwich. Locals say that balik ekmek is best eaten while standing/walking.
- Lahmacun (Turkish pizza)
Lahmacun is a Turkish street food that has been around for as long as the 17th century. It is a dough with toppings of minced meat, garlic, onions, tomato paste, and pepper. It is like regular pizza but its dough is thin and can be folded and stuffed with vegetables. A large piece of lahmacun can be served to many people by being cut into slices like a pizza. Lahmacun is prepared by spreading the toppings on thin dough and baked for a short time. Fresh lemon juice is squeezed on top of lahmacun after baking. It is served hot with a cold glass of ayran.
Kumpir is a cheap and nutritious potato dish sold in kiosks and food stands in Turkey. A large potato is baked whole, divided right in the middle, and filled with salad and sausages. The potato is baked with its skin intact. The salad and sausage filling are mixed with mayonnaise, butter, or ketchup. Mashed potatoes, cheese, and peas may also be added to the filling. Kumpir is a versatile street food as it can be filled with different combinations of fillings. Minced meat or shredded fish can also be added as a filling.
Most of these Turkish dishes have healthier and vegan versions with vegetables. These dishes will challenge your palate and probably have you begging for more, so you should be open to trying as many as you can. Your travel to Turkey is not complete without trying at least one of these traditional dishes and one street food.