Eating my way across Turkey
Updated: Jan 11, 2020
The ubiquitous doner.
The moreish baklava.
The scalding tea.
These have been our constant companions as we have travelled east across Türkiye…
I’m not sure that the quality of the doner itself varies – ultimately it is just mystery meat squished together and flavoured with passing flies; it is the accompaniments which make all the difference.
My first ever (sober) experience of a doner was a somewhat classier version with fresh salad, spicy roasted peppers, chips and delicious homemade tomato & yoghurt sauces.
This was worlds away from the dirty doner that was presented on the Dogu Express Train.
The origins of baklava is a hotly contested issue but regardless of which country first produced it, the Turkish version is excellent, especially when eaten with a curved cup of hot çay (pronounced ‘chai’).
Be prepared to get ripped off in touristy Istanbul where it’s common to see baklava sold at 180TL/kg (£25/kg) whereas outside the city or in the markets, you can get it for around 15TL/kg. (£2/kg).
The older generation still tend to drink their çay in the traditional Ottoman way: by taking a sugar cube, holding it between their remaining front teeth and drawing the tea through the cube into their mouth.
Combined with their propensity for chain-smoking, it’s no wonder that a full set of teeth is a rarity amongst the seniors.
The Alcohol Alternative
Q: What to do on a Friday/Saturday night when there’s no booze-culture?
A: Raise your insulin levels with a sugar hit.
As a predominantly Islamic society - albeit quite secular in the western cities - there is a noticeable lack of bars and pubs around. Thus, the youngsters use dessert parlours as a fashionable way to socialise sans alcohol.
Yeni Yerim Cafe is a saccharine paradise in Ankara. Firstly, you choose two chocolate sauces to cover a freshly-baked waffle, then add sliced banana, fruits and copious amounts of toppings.
Finally coat everything in one last caramel sauce and top with a few more treats for good measure; it is Friday night after all.
Our two waffle delights (with tea, of course) came to 48TL (£6.50). About the price of a London pint, although you probably wouldn’t do rounds here. You might still end up in a coma though.
In the eastern town of Kars, the local specialities are a tasty lentil soup, and roasted goose leg on a bulgur wheat & rice mix, served with pickled veg and fermented yoghurt.
Accompanied by a spot of traditional music and storytelling.
Quality: Ankara vs Istanbul
Although Ankara is the capital city, it is much less touristed and felt more authentically Turkish as it was more focused on the locals’ preferences. The food in Istanbul was general tourist fare, ie. average and overpriced, but to be expected if you go to the most visited place in the country.
Note: this post was suggested by my Generation-Z cousin who said that my blog needed more pictures of food!