This summer I had the chance to spend a month in Turkey with the Lions Club Exchange Youth Camp and Exchange Program.
It was an absolutely incredible experience, and I fell in love with Turkey and all that it had to offer. One of the things that I especially loved about Turkey was the incredible food. From breakfast to dinner, I was overwhelmed with the sheer variety and deliciousness of the cuisine. Turkey will forever leave a lasting impact on not only my heart but also my taste buds!
Here’s a quick glimpse at all that Turkey has to offer…
Turkish Breakfast is probably one of the best breakfasts in the world.
Enjoying the meal, typically consisting of fresh bread, vegetables, fruits, cured meat, olives, homemade jams, a variety of soft and hard cheeses, nuts, Turkish Menemen (eggs with olive oil and spicy sausage), and the quintessential Turkish tea, on a Turkish family’s patio in the warm summer sun is truly an experience to be had.
I will always remember the incredible times bonding with my host family over “the most important meal of the day”, a statement that is truly not an understatement in Turkey!
Incredible Meat Dishes
When it comes to meat, the Turkish have mastered it to an tee. Due to their historic position at the heart of the Silk Road, Turkey has incorporated so many incredible flavours from all over the world into their cuisine, and it results in a unique, and absolutely delicious, cuisine of its own.
At the core of this cuisine is Turkish meat dishes. The most popular, doner kebab, is enjoyed around the world in restaurants owned by Turkish immigrants. However, in addition to doner, Turkey has incredible spiced ground lamb kebabs and meatballs, tantalising grilled meats, and fresh shish kebabs. My personal favourite is definitely Köfte meatballs served with tomoato sauce and heaps of fresh yogurt.
Of course.. the incredible food is even better when enjoyed at sunset by the Bosphorus!
Istanbul has an incredible restaurant scene. From upscale Turkish restaurants to hipster fashion cafes to trendy international cuisine, the city truly has it all. (After all… Istanbul is home to the iconic Salt Bae, an icon of the hip dining scene )
While in Istanbul, I enjoyed exploring a wide variety of restaurants, and I cannot wait to return soon! to try even more!
Pasta with pesto, marinara, and fresh burrata cheese at an Italian restaurant in one of Istanbul’s upscale shopping centres
Tantalising Home-cooked Food
My lovely host mother prepared some of the best home-cooked food that I’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting
One of my absolute favourite Turkish foods that she prepared was Turkish Manti. Manti are super tiny dumplings that are stuffed with ground, spiced lamb and covered in fresh yogurt and tomato sauce. They are absolutely heavenly!
Another home-cooked food that I had the chance to try was Mercimek Köftesi. While they look like meat, they are actually 100% vegetarian patties made of heavy-spiced bulgar and herbs. They are served with lemon juice and wrapped in lettuce leaves.
Street Food Galore!
Hands-down my favourite part of Turkish cuisine is the street food.
My favourite dish was defiantly midye dolma, or mussels stuffed with aromatic rice and lemon. Served individually by the oyster or by the bowl at a street food cafe, these mussels are heavenly and incredibly addicting!
Another favourite is Kokoreç, or lamb intestine sandwiches. While their ingredients sound less than appetising, they are spicy, filling, and the perfect late-night street food!
Grilled Corn, a classic street food worldwide, is equally available and refreshing when enjoyed on the streets of Istanbul.
Kumpir, an iconic Turkish street food, is a baked potato loaded to the top with butter, spicy sausage, pickles,Russian-style potato salad, peppers, olives, sweetcorn, red cabbage, carrots, peas, and cheese. However, kumpir stalls, sort of like the American Subway restaurant, are “build-your-own”, and you can customise it to your own tastes.
While the mix of wide mix ingredients may sounds bizarre and even unappetising, I suggest trying lots of toppings together because it truly does make for a delicious (and filling!) meal.
Simit, another typical Ottoman-inspired dish, is sort of like a sesame bagel, and is served on all street corners throughout Turkey. Served plain, with soft cheese, or with a slathering of Nutella (like in the picture) for a more modern take, Simit makes for a great on-the-go breakfast, afternoon snack, or carbohydrate-loaded sightseeing fuel.
Lahmajoun – also known as Turkish pizza- is a simple flatbread loaded with a mix of ground meat, peppers, and onions. While it’s not exactly street food, It’s a truly great and cheap lunch or simple dinner served at almost any restaurant or cafe serving Turkish food.
Sweets Worth Swooning Over
Can I just take a moment to reflect on how incredible Turkish sweets are? Giving off a unique almost royal-esq vibe, the sweets are truly beautiful and indulgent.
As some who loves the rich taste of roses and pistachios, Turkish delight and baklava are foods that I could eat almost everyday.
I especially love the fancy Turkish delight covered in dried rose petals in the photo below. Not only is it incredibly aromatic, but it is also the perfect accompaniment to coffee at the end of any meal.
In addition to Turkish sweets, Istanbul also has a plethora of European-style chocolates and cakes that are simply scrumptious. Pictured here is an absolutely heavenly chocolate cake served a small chocolatier/ Italian restaurant. Needless to say… I was defiantly in a sugar coma for a long time following this treat!
Turkish coffee, tea, and Raki… oh my! While a lot of countries do coffee and tea well, I’m convinced that no one quite does it like the Turkish. Steeped with tradition and ritual, Turkish coffee and tea is not just a drink, but an experience.
The coffee is made by mixing spices and freshly ground coffee with a small amount of water. Instead of straining the grounds out, the coffee is served with the grounds sinking to the bottom of the glass. It is even richer than espresso and has a delicious spiced flavour. It is also always served with a glass of ice cold water, and it often comes with Turkish delight or chocolate-covered almonds for sweetness. When done finished drinking the coffee, there is even a specific ritual to flip the glass upside down and let the ground cool until your fortune can be read from the pattern left by the grounds!
My finished coffee, ready to be read by a fortune teller. Luckily, you don’t even need to know a fortune teller personally to take part: there is even an app that you can send a picture of your cup to and get your fortune back in a text message!
Turkish tea time is also an occasion to be held. Drank multiple times per day, this tea is prepared in a special type of tea kettle and served in a special, small-sized bottle necked glass. It is made of a special type of black tea grown that is in Turkey, and it is very strong compared to many types of tea.
In addition to great coffee and tea, Turkey also has an iconic alcohol- Raki. The drink, typical served with seafood, is anise-flavoured and is served by mixing the alcohol with ice cold water. When the alcohol combines with the water, it turns a milkly colour.
Alluring Food Markets
For milenias, Turkey has undoubtably been the home of the best markets and bazaars in the world, and this extends to its food. Whether its vibrant fruit bazaars, fresh-caught fish bazaars, or sensuous spice bazaars, Turkey’s food markets are a treat for both your eyes and taste buds.
Dried nuts, fruits, and spices in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar.
But Best of All… Great Food, Great Memories, and Great Friends!
Overall, my experience in Turkey was absolutely incredible. I’ve never been to a country with such rich culture, kind people, and beautiful scenery and architecture as Turkey. The is truly a never-ending number of thing stovetop-proof explore and experiences to be had. I’ll forever be fond of the people I’ve meet and memories made there!
Have you ever been to Turkey or tried Turkish food? If so, comment below!
When you Google Tunisia, you are faced with a pretty grim picture. All the websites use phrases such us “conservative Muslim country, prone to terrorism, and underdeveloped.” I cannot tell you how far that is from the truth, and I think that it has truly shown me just how biased and unrealistic the media can be.