Turkish food… a vegetarian approach!

At the first days words like borek, pide, dondurma, donner, baklava, lokum, gozleme, ayran… sound strange and confusing, but gradually they will become associated with delicious flavors, tasty meals and sweet pastries.

Definitely the Turkish cuisine is far from be vegetarian “friendly” as most of the dishes are dominated by meat, with the smell of the kebab, grilled minced meat served in bread, spreading thought the streets… but with it isn’t so difficult as it look like at the first sight, offering a wide range of vegetarian options  and after two weeks the Turkish cuisine left a delicious memory!!!

But the vast territory of Turkey, from the Mediterranean to the Black Sea, from Europe to Asia, hosting various ethnic groups and absorbing influences of different empires that have passed here, result in a rich and diverse gastronomy, where a short time cannot do justice.

The Kuru Fasulye, one of the few traditional Turkish dishes that are vegetarian, made with bean stewed in slightly spicy sauce and served with rice. Often yogurt serves as a side dish at Turkish meals. In a country where alcohol is not very frequent, the yran is usual presence at meals; a drink made of fermented milk with a taste similar to yogurt that sometimes can have a salty taste. It is sold in pack in supermarkets and shops but in traditional restaurants comes in vats where the yran circulates and is kept fresh, bringing soft foam when it is served.

Dairy products are a strong presence in Turkish cuisine, such as yogurt and yran, but is the cheese that stands out, not only by the wide variety of flavours, textures and shapes.

The cheese is traditionally served for breakfast, as well as the olives, which are available in a wide variety.

The borek is also consumed in the morning, but can be found throughout the day at shops that typically engaged in the production and sale of snacks, like borek and pide, a kind of pizza based on a single ingredient: beef, spinach, cheese …

The borek consists of a succession of filo dough layers, stuffed with cheese, forming a roll that is cooked in the oven. Although delicious, this option is quite greasy. Another variant is a borek is similar to lasagna layers, piled on a tray and stuffed with salty cheese, or sometimes spinach or meat.

The borek as the pide were the best options in terms of light meals for vegetarians in Turkey. However, there are many restaurants, especially in Istanbul, serving meals ready made with a large diversity of food, where is always possible to have a meal based on a combination of different dishes.

Çorbası cannot be unnoticed: a traditional soup, which is available at most of the restaurants. There some places specialised in this type of meal that is always served with bread. The most common is the lentil soup, which can present different aspects of the orange to more brown tones, depending on the type of lentil used.

The gozleme is a similar to a thicker crepe, stuffed with cheese, and sometimes spinach or meat. It is a bit all over the place and can serve as a meal or as a snack between meals. Made traditionally in a metal plate heated by fire, but that can also be cooked in a frying pan.

Sweets….

Pastries in Turkish, Pastanesi, are one of the first things that catch the eye upon arrival in Istanbul, that also selling bread but focused mainly on sweets from cakes, cookies, puddings… and the famous baklava: sweet made with filo dough, soaked in a sugar syrup or honey and stuffed with different kinds of nuts like almonds, pistachio and walnuts. Also popular is the lokum, sweet with a texture that resembles gelatine but consistent, which takes the form of rolls that are trim and covered with sugar powder. No doubt that honey and nuts are a common dominator the Turkish pastry, which shows elaborate and intense.

the amazing turkish bread!

As all over the world, the bread plays an important rule in Turkish gastronomy, presented in many different forms, from rings, to flattened rolls of different thickness, loafs… in a great variety and richness of flavors.

The most popular, the simit, and sell in the Istanbul streets, has a shape of a ring with sesame or sunflower seeds on top.

tea or coffee?!?!?

Being a vast country with a great mix of cultures, Turkey, offers a wide variety of food that was not possible to know in such a short travel time. Yet topic on Turkish cuisine cannot be complete without reference to coffee and tea.

The traditional Turkish coffee, resulting from a very fine grinding to which is added boiling water and then is taken to the fire, but without letting the mixture to boil. Is served in small cups and drink slowly savoring the smooth coffee taste. In the bottom of the cup, are the dregs, forming a thick, dark paste, which second tradition can reveal the “secrets” of the future; this requires turning the cup on the saucer and let the coffee remains cool down and trickle, leaving a trail in the cup which is then interpreted by who is instructed in this “science”.

But it’s the tea, here called chai, that is definitively elected as national drink and is drunk in the morning as well as throughout the day… as justification for a break in the working day, for a gathering of friends, a pause to relax.

And here in Turkey we can even speak of the tea cult, considering the way it is prepared and served, always in small glass cups. Like other countries such as Russia and Iran, the preparation of tea is often made in somovar consisting of a container placed over the fire, to heat the water until boiling; on top of samovar is placed a pot, where the tea is prepared, mixing the leaves with boiling water, were must rest for a few minutes. A small amount of this tea is poured into the cups, and then added hot water, which is kept warm in somovar base.

Definitively Turkish gastronomy is rich, with a wide variety of ingredients, delicious bread and amazing sweets.

 

uma das muitas variantes da baklava, um doce feito com massa filo, embebida num xarope de açúcar ou mel e recheada com diverso tipos de frutos secos como amêndoa, pistácio e nozes
one of the many variants of baklava, a sweet made with filo dough, soaked in sugar syrup or honey and stuffed with different kinds of nuts like almonds, pistachio and walnuts

baklava, numa outra variante recheada de pistácio
baklava, stuffed in another variant of pistachio

Hafiz Mustafa, uma loja centenária de 1864, especializada em baklava
Hafiz Mustafa, a century-old store in 1864 at the center of Istanbul, specialized in baklava and Lukum

Cheese is a constant presence in the Turkish cuisine, lying in dozens of variants
Cheese is a constant presence in the Turkish cuisine, lying in dozens of variants

 

Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi, marca de café que é uma referência na Turquia; pode ser encontrada em supermercados um pouco por todo o país, mas é em Istanbul, junto ao Spice Bazar que se encontra uma loja onde se faz a moagem e a embalagem do café, numa pequena área onde trabalham freneticamente uma dúzia de empregados tentando atender as dezenas de pessoas que constantemente fazem fila junto às duas janelas que servem de balção de venda
Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi, coffee brand that is a reference in Turkey; can be found in supermarkets all over the country, but is in Istanbul, near the Spice Bazaar which is a store where you do the grinding and packaging of coffee, a small area where they work frantically a dozen employees trying to meet dozens of people who constantly line up next to two windows

casa de chá em Erzurum, onde o samovar ocupa o centro da mesa e de onde é servido o chá.
Traditional tea-shop in Erzurum, where the samovar occupies the center of the table and where they served tea

forma tradicional de cozinhar o gozleme, numa chapa metálica sobre fogo
traditional way of cooking gozleme, on a metal plate over the fire

gozleme recheado de queijo e espinafres
gozleme stuffed with cheese and spinach

Kuru Fasulye um prato tradicional, um dos poucos pratos que é vegetariano
Kuru fasulye a traditional dish, one of the few traditional Turkish dishes that are vegetarian: beans served with rice, yogurt and cabbage pickle.

lokum
Lokum
Pastanesi, que vende pão e pastelaria
Attractive pastries, “pastanesi” in Turkish, with delicious cakes, cookies, pudings and where you can also find a big variety of bread.

pide, uma espécie de pizza de forma oval que pode ser recheada com queijo, espinafres, ovo e carne
pide, a kind of oval shaped pizza that can be stuffed with cheese, spinach, egg and meat

sütlaç (rice pudding) um pudim à base de leite com arroz, cozinhado no forno e servido com topping de pistácio e amêndoa. Encontra-se nas pastelarias e lojas de doces mas este foi “descoberto” num vendedor ambulante junta a Galata Tower em Instanbul
sütlaç (rice pudding) milk based pudding with rice, cooked in the oven and served with pistachio and almond topping. It is found in bakeries and candy stores but this was “discovered” a street vendor joins the Galata Tower in Istanbul

yran, bebida à base de leite fermentado, com sabor semelhante a iogurte e que pode ser por vezes ter um paladar salgado
Yran drink made with fermented milk, with a yogurt flavour and salted

Turkish Coffee servido em pequenas chávenas
Turkish Coffee serve in small cups

simit, um dos pães mais populares na Turquia
Simit, one of the most popular breads in Turkey, taty and with a good price that can be found in bakeries as also in the streets of Istanbul

pequeno-almoço Turco onde pão, tomate, azeitonas, pepino, ovos, e uma grande variedade de queijos estão sempre presentes. A isto acrescenta-se compotas e mel
Turkish breakfast where bread, tomato, olives, cucumber, eggs, and a variety of cheeses are always present; to this it added jam and honey

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