Turkish cuisine is considered to be among the best in the world. So many civilizations, so many styles and the abundant food supply contribute to today’s cuisine.
“Afiyet olsun!” is an expression used to wish that a meal is enjoyed. Unlike many other languages it is used both before and after the meal.
When anybody wants to express appreciation about food prepared by somebody else, he says “Elinize saglik!” which means “May God give health to your hands”. When proposing a toast, the expression “Serefe!” is used which literally means “To honor!”.
This kind of restaurant is typically Turkish and offers home-cooking style food. From a selection of meals, it is possible to go to the window and choose whatever you like. Guvec is any kind of meat prepared in a casserole. Bulgur pilavi is cooked crushed wheat. Dolma is stuffed vegetables, usually grape leaves, peppers, eggplants, cabbage leaves or mussels filled with rice, minced meat and raisins. Meatballs, vegetables or liver are among traditional Turkish food.
This is the place where kebaps are sold. Kebap is a roast, broiled or grilled meat prepared in many different ways each of them called by adding a word to kebap; doner kebap, sis kebap, patlican kebap, etc. Doner kebap is lamb meat roasted on a revolving spit. Sis kebap is cubes of meat on skewers. Kofte is grilled or fried meatballs.
Farinaceous Food Restaurants
These differ from Italian pizza to Turkish farinaceous foods such as borekci, pideci, lahmacuncu, mantici, etc.
Borek is a flaky pastry filled with cheese, eggs, vegetables, or minced meat, then fried or baked. Gozleme is a thin dough filled with cheese and parsley and baked on thin iron plate placed in wood or charcoal fire. Pide is a thick dough base filled or covered with any combination of meat, cheese, eggs, etc. It is quite similar to pizza but served with butter and grated cheese. Lahmacun is a thin round dough base covered with a spicy mixture of minced lamb meat, onions, tomatoes and parsley. Manti is a kind of pasta filled with minced lamb meat and served with yogurt and garlic.
In the times before there was fast food, people went to these restaurants to eat tripe or chicken soup either for breakfast or after heavy nights of drinking. These places also sell a special food: Kokorec, roast and grilled lamb intestines, also sold in push carts by peddlers in the streets.
Meyhane and Fish Restaurants
These restaurants are generally for proper dinner meals. First, a large variety of soguk (cold) meze, (hors d’oeuvres) will be offered on a big tray among which you can choose a few, then you should sample a few sicak (hot) meze before the main dish. The main dish is either fish or meat. After having desserts or fruit, it is time to drink a cup of Turkish coffee.
Soguk meze: White cheese, olives, lakerda (salted bonito), dolma (stuffed vegetables), cacik (chopped cucumbers with yogurt and garlic), piyaz (beans salad), Arnavut cigeri (spiced liver), fava (bean paste), imam bayildi (stuffed eggplant), pilaki (white beans), patlican kizartma (fried eggplant), etc.
Sicak meze: Fried mussels or squid, various kinds of borek, fried potatoes, etc.
This is a place where they sell different kinds of sweets. There are many of them like baklavaci, muhallebici, dondurmaci, helvaci, etc.
Baklava is thin layers of flaky pastry stuffed with almond paste, walnuts or pistachio nuts in syrup. Its name comes from the shape in which it is cut; lozenge-shapes. Kaymak is thick clotted cream eaten with most sweets as well as on its own with honey or jam. Asure (Noah’s pudding) is made from numerous types of dried fruits and pulses. Sutlac is rice pudding. Kadayif is shredded wheat in syrup. Kestane sekeri is glacÈ chestnuts. They are generally canned or kept in glass jars in syrup. It is common in Bursa. Lokum (Turkish Delight) is cubes of jelly like or gummy confection flavored with flower or fruit essences and dusted with powdered sugar. Pismaniye is a sweet-meat made of sugar, flour and butter which resembles flax fibers. Tahin-Pekmez is a mixture of both Tahin, sesame oil and Pekmez, molasses or treacle (heavy syrup obtained from grapes). Helva is a flaky confection of crushed sesame seeds in a base of syrup. Dondurma is ice cream.
Turkish coffee is a ritual rather than a drink. Although coffee is not grown in Turkey, it is called Turkish coffee because it was introduced to the western world by Turks during the Siege of Vienna in the 16C.
It is made by mixing an extremely finely ground coffee with water and sugar. According to your taste, you should let the waiter know in advance how much sugar you want in it: sade (without sugar), az sekerli (a little sugar), orta (medium sugar) or sekerli (with much sugar).
Turkish coffee is drunk in small sips after you’ve rinsed your mouth with a little water which comes in a glass together with the coffee. While drinking you should leave the coffee grounds at the bottom of the cup. Turkish coffee is drunk any time especially after meals but definitely not at breakfast. It is believed that after a heavy meal, one should either drink a cup of coffee or take a 40-step walk for digestion.
Cay (tea) is much more common. Especially at breakfast, but is also drunk anytime from small glasses and stirred with tiny spoons.
Boza is a fermented and sweetened drink made from corn or wheat.
Salep is a boiled milk flavored with orchis plant.
Ayran is a refreshing tangy drink of yogurt, water and salt whipped together.
Raki (lion’s milk) is the national drink; a 90-proof aniseed-flavored alcohol. To drink raki properly, one needs two long and narrow glasses. One of the glasses changes its color from a clear liquid to a milky-white when it is filled with half raki and half water. The other is for just plain water. The aim is to keep the levels of the two glasses more or less the same. Raki is generally a drink that goes with a good meal. It is drunk cold, mostly with ice and requires some sort of food, the best accompaniment being some meze. The average number of glasses for one person is between 2-4.
Wine: There is a good variety of Turkish wine. They are comparatively reasonable in price and of good quality. Some selections are Kavaklidere Yakut (red),Selection (red), Cankaya (white) and Muscat (white), Doluca Moskado (white) and Villa Doluca (both red and white).
Although water is considered safe to drink in most places in Turkey, chlorination and the different mineral contents of the tap water, particularly in the larger cities and tourist resorts, can sometimes cause problems for the visitor. It is therefore advisable to drink bottled water or mineral water as a safeguard.
Local people in major or touristic cities, especially in Istanbul, do not drink water from the tap. In fact, there are drinking water stations similar in organization to gas stations, where the locals go to “fill up” their water storage containers.