When the opportunity came up to meet my university friend and fellow foodie, Michelle, in Turkey where she had been staying for six months, I jumped at the chance. What an exciting way to experience a new country, new culture, and amazing new food! Michelle loves to eat as much as I do, and has a particular soft spot for sweets, especially chocolate. Mix this with her ability to speak Turkish and I knew that this trip was going to be terrific.
My first few days were spent exploring Istanbul with Michelle. Our visits included the Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque and a boat trip down the Bosphours. Unknowingly, I happened to plan my trip during Ramazan, the Islamic month of fasting. A family Michelle knew invited us to experience an Iftar at their home. Iftar is an evening meal for breaking the daily fast and is often usually a family meal, and was my favourite meal during the entire trip. It was amazing to be a part of ritual and tradition involved and the Turkish flatbread Pide was delicious.
Leaving Istanbul, we traveled to the town of Goreme in Cappadocia (Central Turkey) to see the fairy chimneys, tall thin spires of rock that shoot out of the ground, and rock houses which the region is famous for. We also rode a scooter to visit an underground city nearby and woke up at 5am to take a hot air balloon ride. This was no easy feat, considering we’d at an late night before and I get nervous when it comes to heights. But the experience was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Breathtaking views and not one bit scary. All the while, we had been sampling a wide variety of desserts, delicious stews, grilled meats, freshly baked breads and many dinners of meze, small plates like tapas.
Next we headed for Pamukkale to see the mineral travertine terraces, hot springs and natural pools. As there are many Korean and Japanese tourists in this area, we were constantly greeted with “Konichiwa!” and “An nyoung ha seh yo!”. Asian tourism is so prevalent in the tiny village that there is even a Korean restaurant, difficult to come by in other parts of the country.
My first seafood on the trip was a delightful meal of grilled fish in the town of Izmir on the Aegean Coast, where we had met up with a local friend of Michelle’s. While there, I tried an Intestine sandwich from the back of a truck that had been converted into a rotisserie. I was a bit weary after disliking the intestine I had tried in Argentina on a previous trip, but was pleasantly surprised when the Turkish sheep’s intestine was mouth-wateringly delicious!
Rounding off my holiday was a day trip to the relatively vacant beach of Alacati. The summer tourists had left so we there were no crowds to contend with and were able to join a great day of relaxing and swimming.
Though my trip was short, I feel I experienced a fabulous sampling of the tastes, sights and customs that Turkey has to offer. I will definitely be back for another visit, but in the meantime I am inspired to incorporate a few Turkish touches in my next menu experiments.
– Taryn Wa
Favourite Turkish Foods:
- Turkish breakfast – Definitely my kind of breakfast: tomatoes, cucumbers, cheeses, olives and bread were always served. Unlike Michelle, I’m not a big fan of sweets, so I really enjoyed eating this light breakfast everyday.
- Lokum (Turkish Delight) – I had to try it, and it was wonderful. Soft and not too sweet. Nothing like the Turkish Delight we find in North America.
- Tea – Not a food, but a huge part of everyday Turkish life.
- Anything made with eggplant – my favourite mezze was eggplant fried, then stewed with tomatoes and garlic.
- Any grilled meats – Sis stands were everywhere!
- Fresh figs – Juicy and delicious
- Breads – So many different varieties, my favourite were Simit (bread ring covered in sesame seeds) and pide (flatbread). The restaurant in Goreme had a wood burning oven and made absolutely delicious Pide. We saw many people buying their bread from the restaurant for their night time meal.
- Produce – I am a huge meat eater, but I must say that I really loved the produce here. All the fruit and vegetables tasted very good. The first couple of days I didn’t eat any meat as Michelle is a vegetarian and we shared all of our meals (not eating meat is unheard of for me).