Turkish food is disproportionately represented by doner and other kebab varieties in the minds of many. Although it’s not immediately evident eating out around Istanbul’s bright Istiklal Caddesi, most dishes served in Turkish homes are vegetable-based. You might not remember the name of that spicy pepper paste or know how to work magic with lentils but my live chat guest has the answers to your kitchen questions.
Hulya Polat is an award-winning international broadcaster who managed to feed me growing up while working the demanding schedule of a journalist. A lot of Turkish dishes that seem complex (stuffed grape leaves; zeytinyağlı dolma) or excessively time consuming (lentil balls; mercimek köftesi) have tricks she’ll teach you so they’re easier to prepare.
The chat is open today, August 28th from 7:30pm-9:30pm US EST (11:30pm-1:30am GMT). Thanks everyone for participating!
You can eat around the world but often nothing we find on the road replaces our favorite meals we ate as children. My mom will be here for two hours today to help you with recipes, options for vegan-vegetarians, plus what dishes to look for to eat healthy in Turkey (yes, it’s possible!) I’ll also be joining – mostly to make sure there aren’t any embarrassing stories about me. Everything takes place in the comments below so don’t be shy, we look forward to hearing from you.
From Facebook M.F. Durmaz asks: Can you tell us 10 dishes that use olive oil and are served cold?
Let’s see. The first ones that come to mind are:
1) Fried eggplant with tomato sauce with garlic, mint and parsley
2) The Swooning Priest
4) Green beans
5) Fresh fava beans
7) Artichoke with peas and carrots
8) Stuffed grape leaves
10) Stuffed peppers and tomatoes
From Facebook Danni O’Laoire asks: Please share the easiest pide bread recipe for making at home
From Facebook Christine M. Hayes asks: Do traditional Turkish dishes vary much from region to region?
yes, regional foods vary in taste and the way they are cooked. In the Aegean, cold-eaten, olive oil dishes without meat are abundant in addition to a wide variety of salads while in the southeast heavy kebabs, very spicy dolmas and a lot of meat dishes are popular.
To add to this I think #5 here will be of interest:
From Facebook Christine M. Hayes asks: What spices are most used in Turkish cooking?
Hi Christine, my favorites are ground black pepper, cumin, crushed red pepper, cinnamon, dried mint, oregano…
From Facebook Barry Dawber asks: What is the maximum number of Turkish street food classics that you should eat on a walk home at 2am?
I believe you should know the answer to that one sir!
Hi Barry, felt like adding to Anil’s response. Kokorec and midye of course, I second! However my favorite is tribe soup (iskembe corbasi) with garlic and vinegar on it. I know it sounds yacky but after a long night of drinking it is a call to reality!
Cheers to that.
Thanks Anıl’s mum. At 2am with Anıl, we had çiğköfte then midye then kokoreç. I love Işkembe Çorbası too!
I’ve been craving ezme since I returned from Istanbul. I just can’t get the recipe right!
Hi Amanda! Sometimes the recipes don’t turn out as good as we want them to do just because of the type of ingredients and vegetables we use. So don’t feel bad. It also takes a lot of practice. Keep on trying. Use this easy recipe next time. It is simple and you may get it right this time. Good luck!
2 large tomatoes, a bunch of spring onions, a bunch of parsley, a table spoon of pepper paste (hot pepper paste tastes better if you like spicy food), 4 cloves of garlic, 2 green peppers (long ones), 1 spoon of dried mint, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of dried red pepper and juice of one lemon (or pomegranate juice) and olive oil. Chop tomatoes, green peppers,spring onions and parsley in very small pieces. Please don’t use a food processor. Mix paste, salt, mint, crushed pepper. Add chopped ingredients (tomatoes, spring onions, parsley, green peppers and garlic. Mix well. Add lemon juice and taste. If you feel like it is not spicy or sour enough add more lemon and crushed pepper. To decorate your salad put dried mint or parsley on top. I sometimes add black olives to add more color!
Thanks for the recipe, and the pep talk! I’ll try again!
What are some seemingly difficult, but actually really easy Turkish dishes I can prepare to impress guests? 🙂
To me stuffed grape leaves would be the most time consuming if not difficult.
I’d go with fried eggplant with tomato sauce (domates soslu kizarmis patlican). It tastes and looks great!
Don’t forget to add garlic and mint to the sauce. Make sure to soak the sliced eggplant in salty water for half an hour to get rid of its bitter taste before you fry them and start frying after the olive oil is hot enough.
I love to make gozleme & borek, but I buy ready-rolled yufka sheets from the local Turkish grocery store – whereas every lokanta in Turkey seems to roll their own. What’s the knack to rolling them so thin?
I want to try to make baklava (my FAVORITE), any tips or secrets I should know before I try??
Hi Michelle! Butter every layer of the fillo dough. It takes time and wears out your patience but there is no easy way! Prepare the nuts beforehand to save time. My sister-in-law who is Italian American gets very good results so don’t be intimidated, give it a try!
From Facebook Jay Andromeda asks: I have no idea what they’re called, but the cheese rolls. I’m going to Turkey next month, and I plan to eat a lot of them along with all the other amazing food. Hopefully, between all my eating, I’ll also learn to make a few dishes.
Hi everyone, we’ll be getting started momentarily…
Via email: “what are the total must-have herbs for certain specific dishes. For example – sumak for choban salad, what is the herb for lentil, for chicken tava(?)?”
You are right, sumac goes very well with choban salad, dried or fresh mint is a must for lentil and black pepper for chicken tavs, parsley for most of the salads, dill for fava beans and squash, parsley and cumin with meatballs, etc…
Via email: can sumak replace vinegar – it is sour?
Sumak is easier on the stomach but of course it does not have the same distinct taste as vinegar. I wouldn’t. Some cooks use pomegranate juice. It tastes great in salads, too.
Via email: What is the ONE Turkish dish Turks would consider most outside of touristic foods?
Via email: What are some common ingredients that can be substituted for certain famous sweets so that they become suitable for diabetic people, the same for vegan?
Try some dried fruit and nuts.
Applesauce works with some sweets.
Via email: I know it’s not Turkish but what’s the best way to make hummus? Do you prefer the chickpeas finely chopped or not?
I don’t like them finely chopped.
Are you soaking the chick peas overnight? If not you should.
Add a little bit more lemon juice and tahini for more taste.
Merhaba! Hello everyone…I am online and I’ll be with you for the next two hours.
What are some of your personal favorite foods?
I love manti, a type of Turkish ravioli made with ground beef and would eat them even if I am totally full! However the best part of this dish is not the meat but the garlic yogurt on top of it!
I’m going to Istanbul next month and am a little intimidated by the spicy food. How difficult will it be for me to find things I can eat?
Jaime, no worries. Not all Turkish food is spicy. Just make sure you tell the waiter you don’t want it spicy. Actually most of the dishes are made both spicy and otherwise in restaurants. Istanbul is a must-see city. Enjoy your trip and of course the food! 🙂
Via email: What’s a good substitute for meat in icli kofte? Is there any way to make it vegan with some ingredient substitutes?
I can not roll stuffed grape leaves what am I doing wrong??!!
You just need more practice!
Via email: What are some tricks we can use to make recipes easier?
Depends on what you’re making. Unfortunately some don’t have shortcuts. But it takes a lot of practice to get any recipe right. My mom who was a wonderful cook never ever used any measuring cups, and her recipes turned out great! She always told me and my siblings that the secret is practice, practice, practice! You may try adding your own touch, a speck of black pepper or a branch of parsley, etc..
Via email: What is a dish you personally cook for special occasions?
Depends on the occasion! For birthdays I cook the dishes the birthday person likes. For New Year’s Eve the family gets together and my sister and I make my mom’s favorite foods from our childhood! Potato balls with cheese is everyone’s favorite!
I’ve never had this and would love to try it! Can you give instructions?
What are some of the herbs and other ingredients I should keep in stock so I can make a few simple Turkish dishes without much preparation?
what is the hardest thing for you to make? in order words things we can never make!!
Stuffed grape leaves because it is so time-consuming!
Via email: What if I cannot find some of the common herbs, are there good substitutes, things I can look for almost anywhere to make up for them?
Any Turkish sweets that are not so sweet?
How can I make them please?
Anil mentioned healthy foods above — what’s possible!
how does turkish home food differ from what tourists eat? where can we find it in turkey without going to somebody’s hoouse?
I see someone asked about finding foods that aren’t spicy. I actually love spicy foods. What are some of the best spicy dishes?
Kebabs…like spicy Adana (long meatballs with pita bread and ezme (please see the recipe I gave to Amanda), cig kofte and kisir (both with fine bulgur-cig kofte with meat, kisir without).
What is Anil’s most favourite dish of yours 🙂
Anil is such a nice son, whenever I invite him to a restaurant he says, “Mom your food is better, let’s not go out!” Feel extremely lucky to have him!! Since he was a little kid (who said he wanted to be like Peter Pan, who never wanted to grow up) he loved all soups but mostly the lentil soup. Lentil balls, stuffed grape leaves. I’d love to see what his response would be…
It is hard to pick just one, though I like the simple dishes, nohut, and many things cold, olive-oil based 🙂
Hi Mama Po!!!
I am really craving some Lahmacun and would love your recipe!!
Can you give your ideas on what a common Turkish dinner table would look like?
Via email: What are the main ingredients, or way of preparation that distinguish Turkish dishes from other countries?
Thank you very much for your questions. I’m running out of time but I’ll come back and respond to all the other questions during the weekend. It has been a blast to spend time with you and I appreciate your patience!
Thank you very much everyone and of course to my special guest 🙂 for a very lively chat. I’ll be back next month with photojournalist Romain Carre. You can ask him about his recent time in Ukraine, Syria, and other conflict zones. Keep an eye here:
for the dates and times. Thank you again everyone and to my mom for joining us all today. Good night!
Thank you so much, Mrs. Polat and Anil, for answering my questions. I haven’t been to Turkey yet, but it is at the top of my (very long) list of desired destinations. Have a wonderful weekend!
I need to correct one of your posts. Cig kofte yes translates as raw meat and reason is because it uses minced meat and ground together with moistened bulgur wheat herb and Spices.
If you see either etsiz or yalanci then it’s meat free
Please give the correct information for those who are true veg or vegans I am neither in case you wonder.
It’s often written cig kofte whether it’s meat-free or not, depending on where it’s sold you need to check 🙂