Turkish Cuisine

Find out about some of Turkey's food highlights and national speciality dishes...

Turkish cuisine is based on wheat, rice and vegetables. Bread made from wheat flour is the basis of Turkish food. There are many types, most of which should be eaten on the day that it is baked:

  • Ekmek - standard white bread
  • Yufka - a very thin bread
  • Pide - flat bread
  • Manti - dumplings
  • Simit - sesame seed rings

Dishes usually contain only one or two main ingredients, as Turks believe dishes should celebrate the flavours of these rather than hiding them in sauces or spices. Most desserts are fruit based, so no spices are needed, leaving subtle and simple flavours. Meat is used sparingly, even in meals based around the kebabs for which the country is famous. Kebabs originate from the days when nomadic Turks learnt to roast and grill their meat over fires. The meat in kebabs is sometimes marinated and either stewed or grilled.

In Turkey the setting is considered as important as the food. Markets are important places to buy ingredients and they can be found in every city centre. Typically they will have permanent stalls selling vegetables and fish. Even small villages will come to life on market (pazar) day.

Traditionally Turkish people ate their meals fast. Food was often served on a single platter, so slow eaters could well miss out on their share. In rural areas, eating is still often considered a duty that should be done as quickly as possible before getting on with other tasks. In these areas it is not uncommon for people to eat on the floor; tables are still seen as a status symbol rather than something for daily use.

In towns and cities people tend to take more time to enjoy their food and make it more of a social occasion. Most Turks still prefer to eat home-cooked rather than restaurant food on the grounds of flavour, cleanliness and economy. However, the canning and ready-prepared food markets are rapidly expanding in the country as more women work, therefore having less time to prepare meals themselves.