Would someone come to Turkey just to eat out? Yes! Turkish food is famous throughout the world, and is considered one of the 3 pre-eminent cuisines alongside French and Chinese. The painstaking preparation of simple but fresh ingredients brings out the richness of their flavours in a way that never fails to delight. The range is enormous, from an array of soups to an astonishing variety of meze (traditional Turkish appetizers), followed by meat and fish dishes.
All Turkish food is prepared from fresh ingredients, often grown organically or raised free range. All this is seasoned with herbs and spices often found locally – oregano, marjoram, and thyme grow wild in profusion on the hills along the Mediterranean coast. The country produces a wide variety of fruits, nuts, and vegetables, and being surrounded by sea on three sides, the range of fish to be found is considerable.
Alcoholic drinks include light Turkish beer, excellent wines, and the national drink, ‘raki’ (a potent anisette), which clouds when water is added giving it the popular name “lion’s milk.” Drinking raki is a pleasurable rite in itself, and is traditionally accompanied by a variety of ‘meze’ (small plates, dips etc). “Efes” and “Tuborg” are the most common local beers.
The Turkish wine industry has been making a great deal of progress in recent years. The region was famed in ancient Greek times for the quality of its grapes and wine, and there is now a great profusion of very drinkable Turkish wines on the market.
Juices and water
There is a wide selection of fruit juices ‘meyve suyu’ on offer, and through the summer and autumn you can find freshly squeezed orange juice and then pomegranate juice all over the place. Tap water in the major cities is chlorinated and so drinkable, but very good bottled mineral water from Turkey’s mountains is widely sold. Just ask for “sise suyu” (bottled water), pronounced as “she-shey sue-you”. Turks can argue for hours on the respective merits of different mineral waters, or their own local springs.
We highly recommend trying a cool glass of yogurt whipped with water (and sometimes salt) to make a refreshing drink called “ayran” (pronounced ‘I ran).You’ll also be able to supp a cup of Turkish coffee. It was Turkey that first saw the growth of coffee houses, centuries before Starbucks, so try one of these miniature hits of caffeine (no grande/huge lattes here) when you can. Be sure to let the coffee grounds settle, then drink only about half the cup, avoiding the sludge at the bottom.