As a melting pot of cultures and traditions, there is no other country like Turkey in the world. It’s been ruled by the Ottomans as well as the Romans, but it’s been inhabited since Neolithic times. As such, the things to see and do in Turkey are immense.
In Istanbul, visitors can discover a treasure trove of stunning architectural wonders, like the Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia, and the Blue Mosque, to name a few. Along the Aegean Coast, nearly a quarter of the country’s wine is produced with both red and white varietals.
Out East, experience a very different land. Cappadocia, for one, has a unique landscape with homes and churches carved into rock.
But what makes Turkey a wonderful destination for a cooking vacation? Turkey prides itself on fresh food, and that’s not just referring to their fruits and vegetables. Here are five reasons to consider Turkey for your next gastronomic-inspired trip.
Practice your bargaining skills in a spice market that has been operating for over 300 years. While this bazaar is known for its spices, merchants also sell a variety of trinkets, medicinal herbs, oils, teas, dried fruits, and incenses. Many of the spices available are produced locally, so don’t buy the prepackaged spices. Rather, find the vendors with the piles of brightly colored spices and bring home some of your favorite traditional flavors.
Ever since World War I, tea has been an important part of daily life in Turkey; its served nearly anywhere you go, including when you visit someone’s home. While much of it is produced on the coast of the Black Sea, merchants blend it in different ways for a variety of flavors, and it’s traditionally made using a stacked teakettle. While most tea is strong in flavor, milder versions are available as well.
Then there’s Turkey’s wines. Surprisingly, Turkey is ranked fourth in the world for its production of grapes. With the various climates and soils throughout the country too, there are so many different vintages to try. “The best news was the quality of the Turkish wines, excellent whether red or white,” a recent Cuisine of the Sultans cooking vacation client recently blogged. “We would learn more about them later, but I don’t believe we drank any foreign wine all while we were in Turkey. The red wines rival any we drank in Argentina and the whites are quite good as well. Our servers were excellent, gave us good descriptions of the food and seemed to be having a good time, so we did too.”
4. The Bread
While simple, Turkish bread is very much a staple part of the diet. Every region has their own version, although many are made in clay ovens, and it is always, always fresh. That also means the bread is usually served warm and crisp. Many families eat bread with every meal of the day.
Whether enjoyed at the market (pazar) or in a restaurant, mezze, or meze, are essentially appetizers or small dishes similar to tapas. In fact the word translates to “taste” or “snack.” As such, there’s so many to choose from. Savor the flavors of baba ganoush, which is an eggplant blended with seasonings and olive oil. Hummus too is a popular starter, as is fried eggplant. Cigars aren’t something you smoke in Turkey; rather, they’re dough often filled with cheese. Another pastry is gozleme, which is like a crepe, as the dough is rolled around savory ingredients. Stuffed grape leaves are also quite popular, and it’s amazing the different kinds of flavors chefs can achieve with this simple, but tasty, dish.
Of course, all of this is just a small sample of the gastronomical wonders and flavors of Turkey. Experience this one-of-a-kind cuisine through our cooking vacations, The Cuisine of Sultans, which takes guests on a tour throughout Turkey, Exploring Istanbul, and Cooking on Turkey’s Aegean Coast, which is based in Ortakent and Bodrum along the southwest coast.
By Liz Hall
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