Kebab, börek, köfte…, what to eat in Turkey? Check our Top 10 local dishes!

Food Walkers are happy when they can explore new gourmet spots (for us, these are the only true G-spots) and cuisines all over the globe. This time our Ema visited Izmir in Turkey and tried original kebab, real börek, tasty baklava and many other delicious food. Now you can not say you don’t have a clue what is worth trying when you’re in Turkey!

We all know the saying: “The way through a man’s heart is through his stomach“, well, I have to disagree, it’s not just man, it’s everyone.
Can local cuisine make you fall in love with a country? Yes it can! And if you have ever visited Turkey and tried any of their specialties you know what I’m talking about. Recently I had the opportunity to visit the Turkey, during the FIJET Academy for young Journalists. I visited the city of Izmir, a beautiful and interesting city on the coast of the Aegean Sea. Many things impressed me, the cultural heritage, history, landscapes and nature but in this article I want to focus on the Turkish cuisine, and some of the dishes I have tried during my stay in Izmir the thing that truly separates Turkey from the destinations I have visited so far.

Even if the food is not the purpose of your travels it has an important role. Eating out is common among tourists and according to Journal of Travel & Tourism Marketing “food is believed to rank alongside climate, accommodation, and scenery” in importance to tourists. Anyone that has ever been to Turkey will understand that the country can keep you on your toes. The history and cultural heritage that Turkey offers can only be surpassed by the kindness and hospitality of local people. A big part of Turkey’s tourism product it’s their cuisine. If you ever meet a Turkish person your conversation must have led to their traditional dishes and explanations of what the real Kebap is. Turkish are very proud of their cuisine, and for a good reason.

Turkish cuisine was mostly formed during the Ottoman Empire; it can be described as a combination of Central Asian, Middle Eastern, Eastern European, Mediterranean and Balkan cuisine. Or in other words, a little bit of everything, with a special spicy twist. Countries surrounding Turkey have been influenced by its cuisine, so you can find similar, but different dishes all around this area, especially in Bosnia, Serbia and Croatia. Turkish cuisine varies across the country, but there are a few dishes that can be named as the faces of Turkish cuisine. From Turkish classics to amazing desserts, here are some dishes that are the must try while visiting Turkey:

Kebap means „charcoal-grilled“ and can be found all over the word, we all know of it. But to try the real Kebap you have to come to Turkey. Every larger city has their own way of preparing Kebap, it comes in different shapes and sizes, and each of them is tastier then the other. When you eat Kebap you must try Ayran. Ayran is made by adding water into the yogurt. It is one of the most common drinks, and fits perfectly with any dish.

Doner kebab
Döner kebab (photo @Pixabay)

Turkish savoury pastry comes in different varieties, most popularly is filled with minced meat or spinach and cheese. Börek can be rolled, served as puffs, or layered like lasagna, and served for any and every meal of the day, or as a snack.

Turkish börek (photo @Pixabay)

Çiğ köfte
This tasty finger food is made with very high quality, fat-free beef that is minced and kneaded together with fine bulgur, pepper, tomato paste, onion, garlic, and a mixture of Turkish spices, it can also be vegetarian. The dish is usually made by men as it requires some physical strength in the process of kneading. It has a specific shape as you can see the hand grip of the person who made it.

Köfte is a ball’s of ground beef or lamb, and can be served stewed, in sandwiches, over salads, or plain with yogurt. What’s not to like? Any way you serve them they are always tasty.

Köfte (photo @Pixabay)

Simit is a snack that can be found on every corner of every city. It is sesame-encrusted bred rings, it is popular street food. And trying street food is the best way to eat like a local.

Yaprak Sarma
Yaprak Sarma is a vegetarian dish with wheat or rice and other ingredients which depend on the region. They are placed in grape leaves, this is what makes Turkish Sarma different that the rest of Europe.

Turkish breakfast
Not a dish, but worth a mention. No one eats breakfast like the Turkish do. If you go out for breakfast, or eat it as a guest in someone’s home you will get an enormous amounts of food including cheese of various types, olives, tomato’s, salami, eggs, boyoz, breads, jams, butter and Turkish coffee and or tea. Turkish do obey that saying „eat breakfast like a king“.

Turkish breakfast
Turkish breakfast (photo by EP)

Or better known as Turkish delight. Lokum is a dessert served with a variety of flavour’s and fillings and often topped with powdered sugar. You will get Lokum whenever you order coffee or tea, served in the cutest way.

Lokum (photo @Pixabay)

Better known as Noah’s ark pudding, this dessert is made from healthy ingredients like dried fruits, legumes and whole grain wheat that are sweetened with sugar and fruit juices and cooked all together in one pot. According to the legend, Noah made it on the Ark by combining whatever ingredients were left.

Turkish cousine 102
Baklava and Asure (photo by EP)

How can we talk of Turkish food and not mention Baklava. Nutty, syrupy, pastry dessert is never better than when served in Turkey. Often topped in ground pistachios, Baklava is super sweet and unique. Turkish deserts are generally very sweet, but none of them can compare to Baklava.

You can’t put the whole cuisine of a country large as Turkey in just 10 dishes. But these are the top 10 that are famous all around the word. I could easily add 10 more and it still would not be enough to mention all the most iconic and tasty dishes.

For the end I have to mention, Turkish tea and Turkish coffee. Turkish tea is an important custom, maybe even the way of life, Turkish drink their tea all day long. And even though the whole Balkan and parts of Europe prepare Turkish coffee at home, the Turkish would usually choose tea over coffee. Confused? So was I.

Turkish cousine 103
Turkish Tea (photo by EP)

There is nothing better than sitting and having a sip of good coffee or tea from the traditional cutlery that dates back to Ottoman Empire, with a stunning view in front of you. These little experiences make you connect to the place you are visiting, and they make you fall in love with it. Enjoying unique and memorable dishes as a part of your traveling experience will only make it better, not just when visiting Turkey but anywhere you travel.

If you want to feel like a local and have the unique experiences, you have to start by eating like a local. This means choosing your restaurants carefully, based on the quality of food, not how shiny and new they are. The importance food has on the overall experience, is the reason food tourism is becoming a new trend.

And Turkey is the perfect destination to try it out.

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