If you discover a new country and you learn a new language you should do that with all five senses. And believe me if you try the food you will get appetite to learn the language. I make this experience each time. And the Turkish cuisine is as full of traditions as the whole Ottoman culture. Of course I don’t need to introduce to you kebab and baklava as those of you living in Germany, Austria, the Netherlands or any other European country will know it from the Turks living there. But this is only a fraction of what you will get in Turkey. You will notice it when visiting the Kapalı Çarşı which means roofed market and is the official Turkish name of the Grand Bazaar. That’s where I’m standing on this picture.
Salep – A rare drink
And here at the Grand Bazaar I have tried a drink you won’t get anywhere in Europe. It’s called salep or by tourists also white cocoa and it’s made of orchid roots. In Istanbul you will get it everywhere and the Turks love to drink it in winter with cinnamon.
But the most popular drink is tea which you can buy even on the street. You will never see taxi drivers in London, Paris or Berlin drinking tea in the middle of the street. Here in Istanbul this is nothing special.
Greek influences in the Turkish cuisine
The most curious thing are some names of the Turkish dishes. And if you speak some Turkish or you started learning it I give you the advice to pay attention to it. You will find many Greek influences especially in the names of vegetables. For instance the Turkish word for tomato is domates. And if you look carefully you will recognize the feminine plural suffix here. The singular form in Greek is ντομάτα (domáta). But the Turks borrowed the plural form ντομάτες (domátes) from Greek. When you come to Turkey you will probably try some Iskender kebap which is kebab in yoghurt sauce with some peppers. But few people know that this name although sounding very Turkish has a Greek origin as Iskender is the Turkish translation of Alexander The Great whose statue you will find in Thessaloniki and Skopje the capital of FYR Macedonia. The Turkish cuisine offers the biggest amount of spices along with the Chinese and the Indian cuisine and most of them you will find here at the Grand Bazaar. The shopkeepers will invite you to have some tea in hope that they will sell you a carpet, a leather jacket or anything else. I can tell you that it’s not always very easy to resist.
Men’s fantasies in the kitchen
When learning Turkish you will notice another interesting detail of the Turkish cuisine. Most of all Turkish dishes were created in times when the cooks tried to prepare something new for the sultan each time. And if you translate the names of some dishes into your language you will know what they were thinking about during their work in the kitchen. There are some meat balls called kadın budu which means women’s thighs. Along with the desserts it’s getting even more exciting. There’s a kind of sweet pastries called dilber dudağı which I would translate as gorgeous lips. A kind of small donuts is called hanım göbeği which means women’s belly and a sweet cake looking like a women’s breast. And yes that’s exactly how they call them in Turkish namely kız memesi. The story behind the lokum which you will probably know as Turkish delight is a similar one by the way. In the Ottoman culture love and and the preparation of sweets always have been very close to each other. But I don’t want to degress too much from the topic as there might be some underage people among you reading this. At the end I will introduce you my favourite dessert. It’s keşkül and it’s a pudding made of rice floor (pirinç unu), almonds (badem) and rose water (gülsuyu).
I hope that I could make you some appetite and that you will check out the Turkish cuisine and this amazing city with all its delights on your own. So enjoy it ir as they say in Turkish Afiyet olsun!