Food Safari ~ Turkish

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Host Maeve O’Meara enters the delicious colorful world of one of the cuisines least known about in Australia—Turkish food.  While kebabs and Turkish delight are well known, some of the amazing array of vegetable dishes, salads, dips and marinated meats are yet to be discovered. 

Maeve journeys into an emporium filled with ingredients for Turkish cooking with her friend, chef Serif Kaya from the acclaimed Ottoman Restaurant in Canberra and now Sydney—capsicum paste, pomegranate molasses, bulgur, dried beans and pulses (legumes), even something called "Turkish viagra" are all in the shopping basket.  In his home kitchen, Serif shows Maeve the famous meat dish köfte—made in under 30 minutes. 

Young makeup artist Esma Koroglu discusses the Turkish love of colorful dips and whips up two beauties—a beetroot dip and a carrot dip.  Ishil Ihtiyar also works in the glossy fashion world but loves the tastes of her mother’s Turkish cooking—she makes two dishes that are winners with her friends:  a salad made with golden roasted eggplant and a bulgur pilaf made with the adored cracked wheat and capsicum paste—it’s like a no-stir risotto and is easy and delicious.

Turkish Delight maker Bill Pektuzun takes us home and makes the famous stuffed vegetables using a rice filling and a range of vegetables as well as mussels.  We see how Turkish Delight is made to a classic recipe at Real Turkish Delight in Auburn and have a quick sampling of some Turkish sweets before joining passionate home-cook and great baker Gulbahar Kaya who whips up the lightest easiest Semolina Syrup Cake.

Click here for the recipes featured in this episode.

About Turkey


Turkey, known officially as the Republic of Turkey, is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia (mostly in the Anatolian peninsula) and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe. Turkey is bordered by eight countries Bulgaria to the orthwest; Greece to the west; Georgia to the northeast; Armenia, Azerbaijan and Iran to the east; and Iraq and Syria to the southeast. The Mediterranean Sea and Cyprus are to the south; the Aegean Sea to the west; and the Black Sea is to the north.

Turkey is one of the six independent Turkic states. The vast majority of the population are Muslims.  The country's official language is Turkish.

Turkey might be the world’s most contested country.  Its landscape is dotted with battlegrounds, ruined castles and the palaces of great empires. This is the land where Alexander the Great slashed the Gordion Knot, where Achilles battled the Trojans in Homer’s Iliad, and where the Ottoman Empire fought battles that would shape the world.

Modern Turkey was founded in 1923 from the Anatolian remnants of the defeated Ottoman Empire by national hero Mustafa KEMAL, who was later known as "Father of the Turks."

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Ancient Turkey:

The Anatolian peninsula, comprising most of modern Turkey, is one of the oldest continuously inhabited regions in the world.  The earliest Neolithic settlements such as Çatalhöyük (Pottery Neolithic), Çayönü (Pre-Pottery Neolithic A to Pottery Neolithic), Nevalı Çori (Pre-Pottery Neolithic B), Hacılar (Pottery Neolithic), Göbekli Tepe (Pre-Pottery Neolithic A) and Mersin are considered to be among the earliest human settlements in the world.

The settlement of Troy started in the Neolithic and continued into the Iron Age.  The Hattians were an ancient people who inhabited the southeastern part of Anatolia, noted at least as early as 2300 BCE.  Indo-European Hittites came to Anatolia and gradually absorbed Hattians 2000–1700 BCE.  The first major empire in the area was founded by the Hittites, from the eighteenth through the 13th century BCE.

The Assyrians colonized parts of southeastern Turkey as far back as 1950 BCE until the year 612 BCE, when the Assyrian Empire was conquered by the Chaldean dynasty in Babylon.  Following the Hittite collapse, the Phrygians, an Indo-European people, achieved ascendancy until their kingdom was destroyed by the Cimmerians in the 7th century BCE.

Starting around 1200 BCE, the coast of Anatolia was heavily settled by Aeolian and Ionian Greeks.  Numerous important cities were founded by these colonists, most notedly Byzantium (later renamed Constantinople and then Istanbul).  Armenia was the first state established in Anatolia by the Armenian Orontid dynasty.

Anatolia was conquered by the Persian Achaemenid Empire during the 6th and 5th centuries BC and later fell to Alexander the Great in 334 BCE.  Anatolia was subsequently divided into a number of small Hellenistic kingdoms, all of which had succumbed to the Roman Republic by the mid-1st century BCE.  Arsacid Armenia, the first state to accept Christianity as its official religion had lands in Anatolia.

In 324 BCE, the Roman emperor Constantine I chose Byzantium to be the new capital of the Roman Empire, renaming it New Rome (later Constantinople and Istanbul).  After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, it became the capital of the Byzantine Empire (Eastern Roman Empire).  By the end of the 4th century, the Holy Land, know named Palestine, had become a predominantly Christian region under the Byzathine Empire.  Churches commemorating various events in the life of Jesus had been erected at key sites.

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Medieval Ages & Early Modern Era

The spread of Islam started shortly after the death of the Islamic prophet Muhammad in 632 CE, reaching as far east as China by 651 CE.  During his lifetime, the community of Muhammad, the ummah, was established in the Arabian Peninsula by means of conversion to Islam and conquering of territory.  Oftentimes the conquered had to either accept Islam or pay tax for protection if they chose to not convert.  The tax permitted the non-Muslim citizens to practice their faith and ensured protection from outside aggressors.

Umayyad Caliphate:

Umar the Great, a leading companion and adviser to the prophet Muhammad, became the second Muslim Caliph after Muhammad's death.  Under Caliph Umar, the Islamic empire expanded at an unprecedented rate, controlling the whole territory of the former Sassanid Persian Empire and more than two thirds of the Eastern Roman Empire, then known as the Byzantine Empire.  His legislative abilities, his firm political and administrative control over a rapidly expanding empire, and his brilliantly coordinated attacks against the Sassanid Persian Empire that resulted in the conquest of the Persian empire in less than two years, marked his reputation as a great political and military leader.

It was to Caliph Umar that the Byzantine Patriarch of Jerusalem, Sophronius, finally surrendered the city following the Siege of Jerusalem in 637 CEThe Muslim conquest of the city solidified Arab control over Palestine, control which would not again be threatened until the Crusades in the late 11th through the 13th centuries.  Thus, it came to be regarded as a holy site by Islam.  After the Muslim conquest of Jerusalem, Jews were allowed to live and practice their religion freely in Jerusalem by Umar.

The Umayyad Caliphate was ruled by the Umayyad dynasty, whose name derived from Umayya ibn Abd Shams, the great-grandfather of Caliph Umar.  Although the Umayyad family originally came Mecca, their capital of Caliphate was Damascus, Syria.  The Umayyad caliphate was one of the largest empires the world had yet seen, and the fifth largest contiguous empire ever to exist.  It was marked both by territorial expansion and by the administrative and cultural problems that such expansion created.

The Umayyad Caliphate constructed famous buildings such as the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount at Jerusalem, and the Umayyad Mosque at Damascus.  The Dome of the Rock was the world's first great work of Islamic architecture.  The Temple Mount had remained unbuilt for 600 years since Titus's destruction of Herod's Temple in 70 CE.

Many non-Arabs such as Persians, Egyptians, and Turks converted to Islam.  Newly converted non-Arab Muslims, referred to as mawali, were treated as second-class citizens by the ruling Arab elite.  The Umayyads tended to favor the rights of the old Arab families, and in particular their own, over those of the mawali, who they excluded from government and the military.  Therefore, many of them were drawn to the anti-Ummayyad activities of the the Abbasids who considered themselves the true successor of Muhammad as opposed to the Umayyads who were a clan separate from Muhammad's.

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Abbasid Calipahte:

The Abbasid Caliphate was the third of the Islamic caliphatesThe Abbasids had depended heavily on the support of Persians in their overthrow of the Umayyads, so the first change they made was to move the empire's capital from Damascus to Baghdad in Iraq and welcome non-Arab Muslims to their court.  This was to both appease as well to be closer to their Persian mawali support base.  Under the Abbasids, Islamic civilization flourished during the "Islamic Golden Age", with its capital at the cosmopolitan city of Baghdad.

During this period the Muslim world became an intellectual center for science, philosophy, medicine and education as the Abbasid Calipahte championed the cause of knowledge and established the House of Wisdom in Baghdad where both Muslim and non-Muslim scholars sought to translate and gather all the world's knowledge into Arabic.  Many classic works of antiquity that would otherwise have been lost were translated into Arabic and Persian and later in turn translated into Turkish, Hebrew and Latin.  During this period the Muslim world was a cauldron of cultures which collected, synthesized and significantly advanced the knowledge gained from the ancient Roman, Chinese, Indian, Persian, Egyptian, North African, Greek and Byzantine civilizations.  However, the Abbasid Caliphate slowly fell into decline with the rise to power of the Turkic army it had created—the Mamluks.

The first Turkic people lived in a region extending from Central Asia to Siberia with the majority of them living in China historically.  Turkic people may be related to the Xiongnu, Dingling and Tiele peopleTurkic tribes, such as Khazars and Pechenegs, lived as nomads for many years before establishing the Göktürk Empire in the 6th century.  In 705 CE, the Göktürks clashed with the Umayyad Califate in a series of battles (712-713) but the Arabs emerged as victors.

However, military slavery in Islamic societies began with the Abbasid caliphs.  The Abbasids bought slave-soldiers mainly from areas near the Caucasus (mainly Circassian and Georgian), and from areas north of the Black Sea (Kipchak and other Turks).  Those captured had non-Muslim backgrounds.  After mamluks had converted to Islam, many were trained as cavalry soldiers.  Initially the use of mamluk soldiers gave Arab rulers troops who had no link to any established power structure, who could not conspire against the ruler, and who could easily be punished if they caused trouble, thus making them a great military asset.  After the fragmentation of the Abbasid Empire, the mamluks became the basis of military power throughout the Islamic world.  The Fatimid Caliphate of Egypt bought Armenian, Turkic and Sudanese slaves, who formed the bulk of their military and often their administration.

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Seljuq Empire:

By 1055 CE, the Oghuz Turks, under the leadership of the Seljuk dynasty, captured and dominated various countries and eventually captured the territories of the Abbasid dynasty and the Byzantine Empire, resulting in a permanent Turkic settlement in Anatolia and the establishment of the nation of Turkey.  The Seljuqs united the fractured political scene of the Eastern Islamic world and played a key role in the First (1095–1099) and Second (1147–1149) Crusades.  

At the height of its power, the Great Seljuq Empire was a Turko-Persian Sunni Muslim empire that controlled a vast area stretching from the Hindu Kush to eastern Anatolia and from Central Asia to the Persian Gulf.

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The Crusades:

Parts of Syria, including its capital Damascus, comprised part of the territories of the Holy Land during the Crusades.

The Muslim armies' successes put increasing pressure on the Eastern Orthodox Byzantine Empire which had originally claimed the region as their territory.  Initially, the Crusades had the goal of recapturing Jerusalem and the Holy Land from Muslim rule, and their campaigns were launched in response to a call from the leaders of the Byzantine Empire for help to fight the expansion of the Muslim Seljuk Turks into Anatolia.  

Crusaders took vows and were granted a plenary indulgence by the pope.

The Crusades were fought mainly by Roman Catholics against Muslims, though some campaigns were diverted to fight Greek Orthodox Christians in Byzantium.  Later campaigns were waged against pagan Slavs, pagan Balts, Mongols, and Christian heretics. The Crusades had some temporary successes, but the Crusaders were eventually forced out of the Holy Land.  Nevertheless the Crusades had major far-reaching political, economic, and social impacts on Europe.

Because of internal conflicts among Christian kingdoms and political powers, some of the crusade expeditions were diverted from their original aim, such as the Fourth Crusade (1202–1204), which resulted in the sack of Christian Constantinople and the partition of the Byzantine Empire between Venice and the Crusaders.  The Sixth Crusade (1228–1229) was the first crusade to set sail without the official blessing of the Pope.  The Seventh (1248–1254), Eighth (1270) and Ninth Crusades (1271–1272) resulted in Mamluk and Hafsid victories.  

The Ninth Crusade marked the end of the Crusades in the Middle East.

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Mamluk Sultanate:

Over time, the Turkic Mamluks had became a powerful military caste in various Muslim societies.  Particularly in Egypt, but also in the Levant, Iraq, and India, mamluks held political and military power.  In some cases, they attained the rank of sultan, while in others they held regional power as amirs or beys.  Under Saladin and the Ayyubids of Egypt, the power of the mamluks increased until they claimed the sultanate for themselves in Egypt and Syria in 1250 CE, ruling as the Mamluk Sultanate (1250–1517).  

The Mamluk Sultanate famously beat back the Mongols at the Battle of Ain Jalut and fought the Crusaders, effectively driving them out from the Levant by 1291 and officially in 1302 ending the era of the Crusades.  Despite humble origins, Mamluks were respected by their Arab subjects.  They earned admiration and prestige as the “true guardians of Islam" and many people viewed them as a blessing from God to the Muslims.

Ottoman Empire:

The Seljuq dynasty controlled Turkey until the country was invaded by the Mongols following the Battle of Kosedag in 1243 CE.  During the years when the country was under Mongol rule, some small Turkish states were born.  One of the Turkish principalities governed by Osman I would, over the next 200 years, evolve into the Ottoman Empire after a string of conquests that included the Balkans, parts of Greece, and the capture of Constantinople in 1453, thus completing their conquest of the Byzantine Empire.  Constantinople was renamed Istanbul, which became the capital of their empire.

The Ottoman army was among the most advanced fighting forces in the world, being one of the first to use muskets and cannons.  In 1515 CE, they waged a war against the Mamluk Sultanate in which Mamluk cavalry proved no match for the Ottoman artillery and their own military slaves, the Janissaries.  Egypt and Syria was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire.

The Ottoman Empire's power and prestige peaked in the 16th and 17th centuries, particularly during the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent, the tenth and longest-reigning Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, from 1520 to his death in 1566.  Suleiman became a prominent monarch of 16th century Europe, presiding over the apex of the Ottoman Empire's military, political and economic power.  At the helm of an expanding empire, Suleiman personally instituted legislative changes relating to society, education, taxation, and criminal law.  Not only was Suleiman a distinguished poet and goldsmith in his own right; he also became a great patron of culture, overseeing the golden age of the Ottoman Empire's artistic, literary and architectural development.

He personally led Ottoman armies to conquer the Christian strongholds of Belgrade, Rhodes, and most of Hungary before his conquests were checked at the Siege of Vienna in 1529.  He annexed most of the Middle East in his conflict with the Safavids of the Persia Empire and large swathes of North Africa as far west as Algeria.  Under his rule, the Ottoman fleet dominated the seas from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf.

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Modern Turkey:

The Fall of the Ottoman Empire can be attributed to the failure of its economic structure, with the size of the Empire creating difficulties integrating its diverse regions economically.  Also, the Empire's communication technology was not sufficiently developed to reach all territories.  In many ways, the circumstances surrounding the Ottoman Empire's fall closely paralleled those surrounding the Decline of the Roman Empire, particularly in the ongoing tensions between the Empire's different ethnic groups, and the various governments' inability to deal with these tensions.

World War I & the Ottoman Empire's Collapse:

The Ottoman Empire gradually grew weaker in the face of maladministration, repeated wars with Russia and Austro-Hungary, and the emergence of nationalist movements in the Balkans, and it finally gave way after World War I to the present-day republic of Turkey.

During nearly two centuries of decline, the Ottoman Empire gradually shrank in size, military power, and wealth.  It entered World War I on the side of the Central Powers and was ultimately defeated.  During the war, an estimated 1.5 million Armenians were deported and exterminated in the Armenian Genocide.  The Turkish government denies that there was an Armenian genocide and claims that Armenians were only relocated from the eastern war zone.  Large scale massacres were also committed against the empire's other minority groups such as the Greeks and Assyrians.  Following the Armistice of Mudros on October 30, 1918, the victorious Allied Powers sought to partition the Ottoman state through the 1920 Treaty of Sèvres.

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Independence & the Republic of Turkey:

The Occupation of Constantinople and Smyrna by the Allies in the aftermath of World War I prompted the establishment of the Turkish national movement.  Under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Pasha, a military commander who had distinguished himself during the Battle of Gallipoli, the Turkish War of Independence was waged with the aim of revoking the terms of the Treaty of Sèvres.

By September 18, 1922, the occupying armies were expelled, and the new Turkish state was established.  On November 1, the newly founded parliament formally abolished the Sultanate, thus ending 623 years of Ottoman rule.  The Treaty of Lausanne of July 24, 1923, led to the international recognition of the sovereignty of the newly formed "Republic of Turkey" as the successor state of the Ottoman Empire, and the republic was officially proclaimed on October 29, 1923, in the new capital of Ankara.

Mustafa Kemal became the republic's first President of Turkey and subsequently introduced many radical reforms with the aim of founding a new secular republic from the remnants of its Ottoman past.  According to the Surname Law of 1934, the Turkish parliament presented Mustafa Kemal with the honorific surname "Atatürk" (Father of the Turks) in 1934.

Turkey remained neutral during most of World War II but entered on the side of the Allies on February 23, 1945, as a ceremonial gesture and in 1945 became a charter member of the United Nations.  Difficulties faced by Greece after the war in quelling a communist rebellion, along with demands by the Soviet Union for military bases in the Turkish Straits, prompted the United States to declare the Truman Doctrine in 1947.  The doctrine enunciated American intentions to guarantee the security of Turkey and Greece, and resulted in large-scale U.S. military and economic support.  After participating with the United Nations forces in the Korean War, Turkey joined NATO in 1952, becoming a bulwark against Soviet expansion into the Mediterranean.

Turkey is a parliamentary representative democracy.  Since its foundation as a republic in 1923, Turkey has developed a strong tradition of secularismTurkey's constitution governs the legal framework of the country.  It sets out the main principles of government and establishes Turkey as a unitary centralized state.

The single-party period ended in 1945.  It was followed by a tumultuous transition to multiparty democracy over the next few decades, which was interrupted by military coups d'état in 1960, 1971, 1980 and 1997.  In 1984, the PKK began an insurgency against the Turkish government; the conflict, which has claimed over 40,000 lives, continues today.  Since the liberalization of the Turkish economy during the 1980s, the country has enjoyed stronger economic growth and greater political stability.

Human rights in Turkey have been the subject of much controversy and international condemnation.  Between 1998 and 2008 the European Court of Human Rights made more than 1,600 judgements against Turkey for human rights violations, particularly the right to life and freedom from torture.  Other issues such as Kurdish rights, women's rights and press freedom have also attracted controversy.  Turkey's human rights record continues to be a significant obstacle to future membership of the EU.

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The economy of Turkey is largely developed.  Turkey has the world's 15th largest GDP-PPP and 17th largest Nominal GDP.  The country is a founding member of the OECD (1961) and one of the G-20 major economies (1999).  Since December 31, 1995, Turkey is also a part of the EU Customs Union.  The country is among the world's leading producers of agricultural products; textiles; motor vehicles, ships and other transportation equipment; construction materials; consumer electronics and home appliances.  In recent years, Turkey had a rapidly growing private sector, yet the state still plays a major role in industry, banking, transport, and communications.


As of 2010, the population of Turkey is estimated to be 73.7 million, nearly three-quarters of whom lived in towns and citiesİstanbul, the capital of Turkey, has a population of 13.1 million.  The country's population is relatively young with 26.6% falling in the 0-14 age bracket; people within the 15–64 age group constitute 67% of the total population, while senior citizens aged 65 years or older make up 7%.  Life expectancy stands at 71.1 years for men and 75.3 years for women, with an overall average of 73.2 years for the populace as a whole.  In 2008, 76.0% of the Turkish population are of Turkish ethnicity.  The Kurds, a distinct ethnic group concentrated mainly in the southeastern provinces of the country, are the largest non-Turkic ethnicity, estimated at between 15.7% and 18% of the population.

All other ethnicities make up the remaining 6-8% of the population.  The three officially recognized major minorities ethnic groups are:  Armenians, Greeks and Jews.  Other ethnic groups include Abkhazians, Albanians, Arabs, Assyrians, Bosniaks, Circassians, Georgians, Hamshenis, Laz, Pomaks (Bulgarians), Roma.  Minorities of West European origin include the Levantines (or Levanter, mostly of French, Genoese and Venetian descent) who have been present in the country (particularly in Istanbul and İzmir) since the medieval period.

Turkish is the sole official language throughout Turkey.  It is spoken by 70–75% of people and the Kurdish language is spoken by approximately 18% of people.  About 3% of the population is Atheist.  According to the government, 96.8% of the Turkish population is Muslim.  Even though many Turkic peoples became Muslims under the influence of Sufis, often of Shī‘ah persuasion, 80-85% of Turkic people today are Sunni Muslims, and 15-20% are Alevi.  Of the remaining 0.2% of the population, 0.13% are Christians (60% Armenian Orthodox, 20% Syrian Orthodox, 10% Protestant, 8% Chaldean Catholic, 2% Greek Orthodox), 0.03% are Jews (96% Sephardi, 4% Ashkenazi), and 0.01% are of the Bahá'í Faith.  According to the Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation, 62% of Muslim women wear the headscarf or hijab in Turkey.

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Turkish culture has undergone profound changes over the last century.  The Ottoman system was a multi-ethnic state—derived from Ottoman, European, Middle Eastern and Central Asian traditions—that enabled people within it not to mix with each other and thereby retain separate ethnic and religious identities within the empire (albeit with a dominant Turkish and Southern European ruling class).  Upon the fall of the empire after World War I, the Turkish Republic adapted a unitary approach, which forced all the different cultures within its now reduced borders to mix with each other with the aim of producing "Turkish" national and cultural identity.  This mixing, instead of producing cultural homogenization, instead resulted in many shades of grey as the traditional Muslim cultures of Anatolia collided with (or had imposed upon them) the cosmopolitan modernity of Istanbul and the wider West.  Thus, Turkish culture in many ways represents a continuum that bridges past and present.  Today, Turkey may be the only country that contains every extreme of Eastern and Western culture (along with many compromises and fusions between the two).

The nation was modernized primarily by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk starting from 1923.  As he transformed a religion-driven former Ottoman Empire into a modern nation-state with a strong separation of state and religion, a corresponding increase in the methods of artistic expression arose.  During the first years of the republic, the government invested a large amount of resources into fine arts such as paintings, sculpture and architecture.  This was done as both a process of modernization and of creating a cultural identity.



Tourism in Turkey has experienced rapid growth in the last twenty years, and constitutes an important part of the economy.  It is focused largely on a variety of historical sites, and on seaside resorts along its Aegean and Mediterranean Sea coasts.  In the recent years, Turkey has also become a popular destination for culture, spa, and health care tourism.  In 2010, Turkey attracted more than 28.6 million foreign tourists.

Istanbul is one of the most important tourism spots not only in Turkey but also in the world.  There are thousands of hotels and other tourist-oriented industries in the city, catering to both vacationers and visiting professionals.  Turkey's largest city, Istanbul, has a number of major attractions derived from its historical status as capital of the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires.  These include the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (the "Blue Mosque"), the Hagia Sophia, the Topkapı Palace, the Basilica Cistern, the Dolmabahçe Palace, the Galata Tower, the Grand Bazaar, the Spice Bazaar, and the Pera Palace Hotel.

Istanbul has also recently became one of the biggest shopping centers of the European region by hosting malls and shopping centers, such as Metrocity, Akmerkez and Cevahir Mall, which is the biggest mall in Europe and seventh largest shopping center in the world.  Other attractions include sporting events, museums, and cultural events.

Beach vacations and Blue Cruises, particularly for Turkish delights and visitors from Western Europe, are also central to the Turkish tourism industry.  Most beach resorts are located along the southwestern and southern coast, called the Turkish Riviera, especially along the Mediterranean coast near Antalya.  Antalya is also accepted as the tourism capital of Turkey.  Major resort towns include Bodrum, Fethiye, Marmaris, Kuşadası, Çeşme, Didim and Alanya.

Lots of cultural attractions elsewhere in the country include the sites of Ephesus, Troy, Pergamon, House of the Virgin Mary, Pamukkale, Hierapolis, Trabzon] (where one of the oldest monasteries is the Sümela Monastery), Konya (where the poet Rumi had spent most of his life), Didyma, Church of Antioch, religious places in Mardin (such as Deyrülzafarân Monastery), and the ruined cities and landscapes of Cappadocia.

Diyarbakır is also an important historic city, although tourism is on a relatively small level due to waning armed conflicts.  Ankara has an historic old town, and although it is not exactly a touristic city, is usually is a stop for travelers who go to Cappadocia.  The city enjoys an excellent cultural life too, and has several museums.  The Anıtkabir is also in Ankara.  It is the mausoleum of Atatürk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey.

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Turkish Cuisine

Turkish cuisine is largely the heritage of Ottoman cuisine, which can be described as a fusion and refinement of Central Asian, Middle Eastern and Balkan cuisines.  Turkish cuisine has in turn influenced those and other neighboring cuisines, including that of western Europe.  The Ottomans fused various culinary traditions of their realm with influences from Middle Eastern cuisines, along with traditional Turkic elements from Central Asia (such as yogurt), creating a vast array of specialities—many with strong regional associations.

Turkish cuisine varies across the country.  The cooking of Istanbul, Bursa, Izmir, and rest of the Aegean region inherits many elements of Ottoman court cuisine, with a lighter use of spices, a preference for rice over burghul, and a wider use of seafoods.  The cuisine of the Black Sea Region uses fish extensively, especially the Black Sea anchovy (hamsi), has been influenced by Balkan and Slavic cuisine, and includes maize dishes.  The cuisine of the southeast—Urfa, Gaziantep and Adana—is famous for its kebabs, mezes and dough-based desserts such as baklava, kadayıf and künefe.

Especially in the western parts of Turkey, where olive trees grow abundantly, olive oil is the major type of oil used for cooking.  The cuisines of the Aegean, Marmara and Mediterranean regions are rich in vegetables, herbs, and fish.  Central Anatolia is famous specialties, such as keşkek (kashkak), mantı (especially from Kayseri) and gözleme.

A specialty's name sometimes includes that of a city or region, either in or outside of Turkey, and may refer to the specific technique or ingredients used in that area.  For example, the difference between Urfa kebab and Adana kebab is the thickness of the skewer and the amount of hot pepper that kebab contains.  Urfa kebab is less spicy and thicker than adana kebab.

Meze is a selection of food served as the appetizer course with or without drinks.  Some of them can be served as a main course as well.

Key Ingredients:

Frequently used ingredients in Turkish specialities include: lamb, beef, chicken, fish, eggplants, green peppers, onions, garlic, lentils, beans, and tomatoes.  Nuts, especially pistachios, chestnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, and walnuts, together with spices, have a special place in Turkish cuisine.  Preferred spices and herbs include parsley, cumin, black pepper, paprika, mint, oregano, pul biber (red pepper), and thyme.

Butter or margarine, olive oil, sunflower oil, canola oil, and corn oil are widely used for cooking.  Kuyruk yağı (tail fat of sheep) is used mainly in kebabs and meat dishes.  Sesame, hazelnut, peanut and walnut oils are used as well.


A Turkish meal usually starts with a thin soup (çorba).  Turkisk soups are usually named after their main ingredient, the most common types being lentil, yoghurt, or wheat (often mashed) called mercimek çorbası and tarhana çorbası.  Delicacy soups are the ones that are usually not the part of the daily diet, like (shkembe) İşkembe soup and paça çorbası, although the latter also used to be consumed as a nutritious winter meal.  Before the popularization of the typical Turkish breakfast, soup was the default morning meal for some people.


Yoghurt is an important element in Turkish cuisine.  Yoghurt can accompany almost all meat dishes, vegetable dishes (especially fried eggplant, courgette, spinach with minced meat etc.), meze and a speciality called mantı (folded triangles of dough containing minced meat).  In villages, yoghurt is regularly eaten with rice or bread.  A thicker, higher-fat variety, süzme yoğurt or "strained yoghurt", is made by straining the yoghurt curds from the whey.  One of the most common Turkish drinks, ayran, is made from yoghurt.  Also, yoghurt is often used in the preparation of cakes, some soups and pastries.

Turkey produces many varieties of cheese, mostly from sheep's milk.  In general, these cheeses are not long matured, with a comparatively low fat content.  The production of many kinds of cheese is local to particular regions.


In some regions, meat, which was mostly eaten only at wedding ceremonies or during the Kurban Bayramı (Eid ul-Adha) as etli pilav (pilaf with meat), has become part of the daily diet since the introduction of industrial production.  Veal is now widely consumed.  Although Turkey has many meat dishes, the main use of meat in cooking remains the combination of ground meat and vegetable, with names such as kıymalı fasulye (bean with ground meat) or kıymalı ıspanak (spinach with ground meat, which is almost always served with yogurt).

Kebab refers to a great variety of meat-based dishes in Turkish cuisine. Kebab in Turkey encompasses not only grilled or skewered meats, but also stews and casseroles.

Alternatively, in coastal towns, cheap fish such as sardines (sardalya) or hamsi (anchovies) are widely available, as well as many others with seasonal availability.  Poultry consumption, almost exclusively of chicken and eggs, is common.  Milk-fed lambs, once the most popular source of meat in turkey, comprise a small part of contemporary consumption.  Kuzu çevirme, cooking milk-fed lamb on a spit, once an important ceremony, is rarely seen.  Because it is a predominantly Islamic country, pork plays no role in Turkish cuisine.

Vegetable Dishes:

A vegetable dish can be a main course in a Turkish meal.  A large variety of vegetables are used, such as spinach, leek, cauliflower, artichoke, cabbage, celery, eggplant, green and red bell peppers, string bean and jerusalem artichoke.  A typical vegetable dish is prepared with a base of chopped onions, carrots sautéed first in olive oil and later with tomatoes or tomato paste.  Minced meat can also be added to a vegetable dish but vegetable dishes that are cooked with olive oil (zeytinyağlılar) are often served cold and do not contain meat.  Spinach, leek, string bean and artichoke with olive oil are among the most widespread dishes in Turkey.

Dolma is the name used for stuffed vegetables.  Many vegetables are stuffed, most typically green peppers (biber dolması), eggplants, tomatoes, courgettes, or Zucchini in the U.S.  (kabak dolması), vine leaves (yaprak dolması).  If vine leaves are used, they are first pickled in brine.  However, dolma is not limited to these common types; many other vegetables and fruits are stuffed with a meat and/or rice mixture.  Fillings used in dolma may consist of parts of the vegetable carved out for preparation, rice with spices and/or minced meat.

Rice pilaf can be served either as a side dish or main dish but bulgur pilavı (pilav made of boiled and pounded wheat -bulgur) is also widely eaten.  The dishes made with kuru fasulye (white beans), nohut (chickpeas), mercimek (lentils), börülce (black-eyed peas), etc., combined with onion, vegetables, minced meat, tomato paste and rice, have always been common due to being economical and nutritious.


Turkish cuisine has a range of savory and sweet pastries.  Dough based specialities form an integral part of traditional Turkish cuisine.

Börek is the general name for salty pastries made with yufka (a thicker version of phyllo dough), which consists of thin layers of dough.  Poğaça is the label name for dough based salty pastries.  Likewise çörek is another label name used for both sweet and salty pastries.

Gözleme is a food typical in rural areas, made of lavash bread or phyllo dough folded around a variety of fillings such as spinach, cheese and parsley, minced meat or potatoes and cooked on a large griddle (traditionally sač).  Lahmacun is a thin flatbread covered with a layer of spiced minced meat, tomato, pepper, onion or garlic.  Pide, which can be made with minced meat (together with onion, chopped tomatoes, parsley and spices), kashar cheese, spinach, white cheese, pieces of meat, braised meat (kavurma), sucuk, pastırma or/and eggs put on rolled-out dough, is one of the most common traditional stone-baked Turkish specialities.

Açma is a soft bread found in most parts of Turkey.  It is similar to simit in shape, is covered in a glaze, and is usually eaten as a part of breakfast or as a snack.


In the Ottoman cuisine, fruit frequently accompanied meat as a side dish.  Plums, apricots, dates, apples, grapes, and figs are the most frequently used fruits (either fresh or dried) in Turkish cuisine.  Dolma and pilaf usually contain currants or raisins.  Etli yaprak sarma (vine leaves stuffed with meat and rice) used to be cooked with sour plums in Ottoman cuisine.

Eggplanthas a special place in the Turkish cuisine.  It is combined with minced meat in karnıyarık.  In a large number of mezes, side-dishes, and main courses eggplant is the major element.  In Antalya province it is used for making eggplant jam (patlıcan reçeli).


One of the world-renowned desserts of Turkish cuisine is baklava.  Baklava is made either with pistachio or walnut.  Kadaif ('Kadayıf') is a common Turkish dessert that employs shredded yufka, and can also be prepared with either walnut or pistachio.

Turkish delight or lokum is a family of confections based on a gel of starch and sugar.  Premium varieties consist largely of chopped dates pistachios and hazelnuts or walnuts bound by the gel; the cheapest are mostly gel, generally flavored with rosewater, mastic, or lemon.  The confection is often packaged and eaten in small cubes dusted with icing sugar, copra, or powdered cream of Tartar, to prevent clinging.  Other common types include such flavors as cinnamon and mint.

Some traditional Turkish desserts are fruit-based using primarily figs, pumpkin, apples, or pears.  Fruits are cooked in a pot or in the oven with sugar, carnation and cinnamon (without adding water).  After being chilled, they are served with walnut or pistachio and kaymak.

Starbucks Whole Bean Coffee


At breakfast and all day long Turkish people drink black tea.  Tea is made with two teapots in Turkey.  Strong bitter tea made in the upper pot is diluted by adding boiling water from the lower.  Turkish coffee is a world-known coffee which can be served sweet or bitter.  It is traditionally served with Turkish delight.  It should also be noted that although Arabs call their coffee Turkish coffee, it is different in aroma and taste from the classical Turkish coffee.

Although the majority of Turks profess the Islamic religion, alcoholic beverages are as widely available as in Europe.  However, some Turks abstain from drinking alcohol during the holy month of Ramadan.  There are a few local brands of lager such as Tekel Birasi, Marmara34 and Efes Pilsen and a large variety of international beers that are produced in Turkey such as Skol, Beck's, Miller, Foster's, Carlsberg and TuborgRakı, a traditional alcoholic beverage flavored with anise, is the usual drink with meze, fish or kebabs.

The Caucasus region, where the countries of Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkey are located today, played a pivotal role in the early history of wine and is likely have been one of the earliest wine-producing regions of the world.  Today a range of grape varieties are grown in Turkey.  There are a variety of Turkish wines produced by Turkish brands such as Kavaklıdere, Doluca, Corvus, Kayra, Pamukkale and Diren which are getting more popular with the change of climatic conditions that affect the production of wine.

Ayran (salty yoghurt drink) is the most common cold beverage, which may accompany almost all dishes in Turkey.  Şalgam suyu (mild or hot turnip juice) is another important non-alcoholic beverage which is usually combined with kebabs or served together with rakı.

Boza is a traditional winter drink, which is also known as millet wine (served cold with cinnamon and sometimes with leblebi).  Sahlep is another favorite in winter (served hot with cinnamon).  Sahlep is extracted from the roots of wild orchids and may be used in Turkish ice cream as well.  This was a popular drink in western Europe before coffee was brought from Africa and came to be known.

Sherbet is a traditional Turkish sweet soft drink made of rose hips, cornelian cherries, rose, or licorice and spices.



AFRICAN:  Wherever you are in Africa, no meal is complete without a starchy porridge known as fufu.

BRAZILIAN:  An exuberant, colorful mix of Portuguese, African and native foods including some from the Amazon.

CHINESE:  Two thirds of households own a wok and use it regularly, but not everyone knows how to use it properly.

EGYPTIAN:  Beans are used extensively and creatively as a source of protein, fibre, and comfort.

ENGLISH:  "Meat & three veg" originated in the UK with dishes like roast beef, steak and kidney pie, and many more.

FRENCH: The French have elevated food into an art form. Nowhere else is so much attention paid to what people are going to eat and how.

HUNGARIAN:  A fusion of simple peasant food & the elegant, highly developed cuisine from the days of the Austro Hungarian Empire.

INDIAN:  A vibrant, intensely colorful cuisine. Each region of India has its own style of cooking and distinct flavors.

INDONESIAN:  One of the most vibrant and colorful cuisines in the world, full of intense flavor and varied textures.

ITALIAN:  An long-awaited introduction to the kitchens and restaurants of Australia’s top Italian chefs and home cooks.

JAPANESE:  Refined and elegant, its preparation and presentation honed over the centuries so its flavors are pure and delicate.

JEWISH:  While flavors of the Jewish palate are influenced by geography, the constant for Jews all over the world are the Kosher laws.

KOREAN:  Some of the healthiest food on earth, with a near obsession with the fermented vegetable kimchi.

LEBANESE:  Lebanese cuisine is generous and abundant, and this is some of the most exquisite food in the world.

MALTESE:  The rocky island of Malta is home to some beautiful rustic recipes that sing of Mediterranean flavor and freshness.

MEXICAN:  Authentic Mexican food is vibrant, spicy, delicious and fun. It varies according to which region its from.

MOROCCAN:  One of the most cleverly balanced cuisines on earth; spices are used to enhance the flavor of dishes.

PAKISTANI:  Full of marvelous and diverse dishes, it incorporates elements from its neighbors India, Afghanistan and Iran.

PERSIAN:  From simple dips to hearty stews, food preparation is taken very seriously in Iran and is often a labor of love.

SOUTH AMERICAN:  A fantastic fusion of culinary traditions from indigenous Indians, imported Africans, and the Spanish and Portuguese colonist.

SRI LANKAN:  This beautiful spice island is a rich melting pot of every nationality that has visited and traded with it over the years.

SYRIAN:  One of the highlights of Syrian food is mezza, a generous spread of small dishes and the prelude to even more food!


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