|Arriving Istanbul by Sea|
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In Istanbul, and many parts of the country, meat has now also become a staple of the local diet. While here on my last trip, we enjoyed a large platter of roasted meats including beef, veal, lamb and sausages. No pork is served in the country, because of the country's predominantly Muslim faith. Kebabs (skewered meat roasted over a fire) are hugely popular and delicious as well. Most kebabs are served with a variety of Turkish-style salads, shredded lettuce, pickled red cabbage, tomatoes, raw cucumbers and lemon.
The Doner kebab should not be confused with traditional kebabs. This is a typically a street and casual food, shaved off of the spit, usually consisting of lamb but sometimes chicken and served in a pita pocket, and much like what Americans think of as the Greek gyros. But you can find restaurants that specialize in Doner kebab cooking and during this trip our local hosts took us to Istanbul's most famous restaurant, Beyti.
This restaurant began in 1945 and is still run by the same owner. We had the pleasure of having him spend some time with us at dinner. On the walls near the entry you'll see letters from heads of state, kings, princes, film starts and members of high society. They are well known for their traditional meat dishes as well as the restaurants unique atmosphere. If you are out by the airport in Istanbul, give this restaurant a try.
Of course, most meals wouldn't be complete with out some type of bread and the Turks serve Lavas. This is a thin, leavened flat bread and you find it with most every meal. Sometimes it comes with toasted poppy or other seeds, but most often it is plain and makes a good accompaniment for foods of all types.
Yogurt is also an important item in Turkish cuisine. In fact, the English word comes from the Turkish word "yoğurt." Yogurt usually comes with most meat dishes (kebabs, köfte), vegetable dishes (especially fried eggplant, courgette, spinach with minced meat etc.), meze and a speciality called mantı (folded triangles of dough containing minced meat). One of the most common Turkish drinks, ayran, is also made from yoghurt.
This post wouldnt' be complete without some mention of the world famous "Turkish Delight". Lokum, the turkish word for this candy which in Arabic means morsel, has been produced since the 15th century, when it originated in the Ottoman Empire. Originally, honey and molasses were its sweeteners, and water and flour were the binding agents. Lokum was introduced to the West in the 19th century reported by a Briton shipped cases of it to Britain under the name Turkish delight. This sweet chewy confection is based on a gel of starch and sugar. Premium versions consist of chopped dates, pistachios and hazelnuts or walnuts bound by the gelatin. Less expensive versions are mostly lemon or other inexpensive fruit-flavored gels. Whether expensive or not, most all are packaged and eaten in small cubes dusted with powdered (icing) sugar. Based on the quantities being purchased by the tourists, I would say this must be the single most popular take home item.
|Blue Mosque, Istanbul|
Turkey offers a wealth of varieties to visitors: from dome-and-minaret filled skyline of Istanbul to Roman ruins along the western and southern coasts (highly recommended), from heavily indented coastline against a mountainous backdrop of Lycia and wide and sunny beaches of Pamphylia. While I've only been to a few places in Turkey so far, I hope to return again in the future as I continue to explore this wonderful land and to enjoy the many foods they offer.