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Local Cuisine

Experience the Authentic Turkey... Your way
Turkeys cusine has its roots in Ottoman times, and can be described as a mixture and refinement of Central Asian Caucasian, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and Balkan foods.

It in turn has influenced neighbours around it and also Western Europe. And of course spread also to Western countries with migration. Turkish cuisine has variations in regions around the country. Istanbul. Izmir and the Aegean side of Turkey generally use lighter spices and prefer rice over bulgur. Olives grow abundantly on the Western side of Turkey and olive oil is generally used for cooking although sunflower oil is used for some dishes. The Black Sea region use a lot fish in their diet and have been influenced more by the Balkan and Slavic cuisine with maize dishes. Sanliurfa and Adana are famous for kebabs and mezes and deserts such as baklava, kunefe and kadayif. Central Anatolia has manti (type of pasta) and gozleme. In each region of Turkey techniques vary either more or less spicy, with vegetables or without, with pistachio and nuts or perhaps spicy pappers. And of course and with their own specialiy desert.

Turkish Breakfast


A typical breakfast consists of cheese, white and yellow, butter, olives, eggs, cucumbers, tomatoes, jam and honey – also kaymak (clotted cream) eaten with fresh bread. Sometimes soup in the winter. Simit, a circular bread with sesame seads delicious eaten fresh from the above. is also a quick on the run breakfast or snack at any time.  At B&Bs and small hotels a Turkish breakfast similar to the above is served, with Turkish Cay.

Cay and Khave (tea and coffee) and other drinks!!


Cay is the most important drink in Turkey – offered as the first hospitality to visitors to your home or place of business. Served in small shapely glass the tea is grown in Rize on the Black Sea Coast. It is made in a what is called a caydalyer. a double potted affair. In the bottom the water is boiled while in the small top the tea is softened in readiness! Once the boiling water is ready it is poured into the top and the tea brews for a minimum of 5 minutes before it is ready to pour. The small cup is filled to the strength required and boiling water added! Served with sugar normally as it is quite strong and black.

Turkish coffee (Turk Khavasi) is the 2nd most popular drink in Turkey. It is prepared in a pot (or though these days there are also electic pots special for the purpose). The coffee is roasted then finely ground, then boiled usually with suger as you like it. Served in small cups the grounds are allowed to settle. It is always served with a glass of water! Turkish women are adept are reading coffee grounds, much like teac cup reading in the West.

Ayran, a refreshing drink made from yoghurt water and salt, is widely drunk through Turkey. You can buy it now in small cartons, but most Turks prefer to drink acik ayran, which means prepared in a vat like affair and kept very cold. An acquired taste it is so refreshing on a hot day.
Raki (called Lions Milk or Aslan Sut in Turkish) is generally the drink for Turkish men! After a few rakiis it is rumoured that men turn into lions! Mixed with water it turns a cloudly milky colour, and is normally drunk with an equal amount of water by its side. Served with melon and white cheese, it is the drink of choice when Turkish men get together!



Key ingredients include fish, lamb, chicken, liver, eggplants, green peppers, lentils, tomatoes, dried and green beans olives, onions and garlic. Spices and herbs include parsley, cumin, black pepper, mint, oregano, red pepper, thyme and basil. Olives are common for both breakfast and meze plates. Nuts have a special place in Turkish quisine! Pistachios, chestnuts, almonds, hazelnuts and walnuts have a specially place in food and are used or deserts or just eaten separately.

Fruits are seasonal and rich and varied, cheap and abundant. Plums, apricots, pears, apples, grapes and figs as well as oranges and mandarins and of course in the summer, Karpus (watermelon) and green melon. Dried grapes, figs and apricots are part of every day life. Komposto (compote) are used as side dishes to meat and rice. Dolma and pilav also can contain dried currents or raisins. Turkish women are great jam makers and choose their fruits from across the range in season!

Home cooking


Home cooked food is still preferred by Turkish people, although the new generation like to eat out ! A typical home cooked meal would consist of soup (corba) especially in the winter time, dishes made of vegetables, legumes cooked with diced lamb and minced meat, also salad and cacik (made of cucumber and yoghurt) which cleanses the palate. In earlier times meat was only eaten at wedding ceremonies or during the Kurban Bayram celebreation but now has become part of the daily diet as production has been modernized.

The main use of meat remains the combination of ground meat and vegetables, with beans (fasulye) or ispanak (spinac) and is servied with yoghurt. In coastal towns and in Istanbul fish is widely available such as sea bass and sea bream, sardines or the famous hamsi dish. Chicken and poultry products play a large part in Turkish cooking. Pork is not readily available and plays no part in Turkish cuisine.


Pastries and Breads

Turkish cuisine has a variety of savoury and sweet pastries and bread is taken with every meal – it is rumoured that Turkey consumes 4 times more bread than any other country. The use of layered dough comes from the nomadic character of Central Asia. Borek, a delicious pasty made with filo type pastry called yuvka, and brushed with walnut oil. It contains white cheese, but can also be made with spinach, potato and spices and minced meet. Sigara borek is shaped like a cigarette. It is usually eaten for breakfast but also as a lunch snack. Pogaca is the name of a salty pastries and gozleme is a food usually made in rural areas more like a phyllo and filled with a variety of things, such as cheese, spinach and parsley mince and potato – cooked on a rounded griddle it is delicious. Lahmacun is a very popular thin flat bread cover with a layer of spiced minced meat, tomato, peper onion or garlic. Pide and pizza type dish can also be made with minced meat, chopped tomatoes parsley spcies and kashar (tasty) cheese. Sucuk sausage, pastirma and eggs. Pide which can be made with minced meat (together with onion, chopped tomatoes, parsley and spices), Acma is a soft bread found in most parts of Turkey. It is similar to simit in shape, is covered in a glaze, and is usually eaten as a part of breakfast or as a snack.

Street Food

Street food abound sall over Istanbul! Not to mention Kebab shops on every corner. Corn on the Cob. chestnuts, watermelon, the famous balik ekmek (fish sandwich) stuffed mussels (dolma midya). Pilav and Tavuc (rice. chicken & chick peas) Simitci (simit seller) fresh fruit carts and even little carts with cake and kaymak! Holes in the walls where you can buy a sish with pickled vegetables, tiny famous kebab shops where the locals queue for their lunch. If you see a long queue at lunch time you know that the food is fresh and good! Down by the spice market you will find Kokorec, which is lambs intestines roasted nice and crispy, eaten with bread and spices it is delicious!


There is such a diversity of restaurants in Istanbul and indeed all over Turkey that it is impossible to start to list them!!! The best are sometimes the smallest in the side streets where the food is delicious. There are specialist restaurants that sell just one thing, for example liver dishes. or another one that sells just sis or again kebabs! Or a shop that sells only soup, such as Iskembe (tripe) or mercemik (lentil) – or a tatlici – selling only deserts, such as sutlac and baklava.
A trip to Kadikoy on the Asian side is well worth it to-stroll down a street full of fresh food of every description, restaurants like Ciya selling tasting dishes of Ottoman food. The back streets of Beyoglu are full of great restaurants, as is the area near Balat the old Greek area.
For fine dining you can choose Mikla, with its amazing views of the old city. Hamdi terrace for views of the Galatala Bridge and Mosques, Adamar has great views of the old city, as well as the terrace of Seven Hills. The streets off Divanyolu have many restaurants! For fish enjoy dinner along the wharf at Karakoy or for a fun evening visit the Kumkapi Fish area, where there are gypsy musicians and dancing!  Along the Bosphorus are Mavi Balik, Ferihye for fine dining, or one of the many fish restaurants at Ortakoy!

Turkey Travel Guide Tours