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More Than the Next New Thing in World Cuisine

The Evolution of Turkish Cuisine - Part 12 Dishes From Turkey :

Turkish dishes are not just some interesting detour on the culinary world’s insatiable curiosity tour.  I’m here to tell you out of Turkish kitchens are coming to the diversity and exciting new flavors that the world is waiting for.  Consider for example where it came from, and how diverse the history of Turkish dishes is.

It comes from Ottoman cuisine, which is a refinement and fusion of Balkan, Eastern European, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and Central Asian cuisines. In the absorption of these cultures, Turkish cuisine has influenced both those cuisines and the neighboring cuisines, including Southeast Europe, Central, and Western Europe.  Western Europe may have led the culinary world for over a century, but they are going to be heavily influenced by Turkish dishes in the future.

One of the reasons why Turkish dishes and Turkish cuisine is not going to be a passing fad is how deep its roots are. The Ottomans took the culinary traditions of the traditions of the many cultures it encompassed and combined them with Levantine, Egyptian, Greek, Balkan, and unique aspects of Turkic cuisines.  The result has been an amazingly vast variety of foods.  Most people don’t even know how even some of the world’s most known cuisines, like Chinese, are incorporated into Turkish cuisine.  The famous sticky buns that have become so popular have always been part of Turkish cuisine. In Chinese, they are called mantau, and in Turkish they are called mantı.

Turkish Dishes – a Vegetarian’s Delight

What little is known of Turkish cuisine abroad is meat-based, while within Turkey most meals are actually based on rice, vegetables, and bread. Just take a look at the many main courses that are vegetable-based, and you will see a healthy pattern.  Another healthy pattern is how globally we have learned to rely less upon saturated fats and salt for flavor, and to use various spices to more than makeup for the flavor.  Let’s look at some of the Turkish spices that are frequently used in Turkish cuisine.

To give delicious flavors to the frequently used eggplants, fish, rice, lentils, beans, zucchini, beef, and lamb, we find an abundance of green peppers, onions, garlic, and tomato.  Nuts, which are only recently being touted in the West, feature prominently in Turkish dishes.  Seeds and nuts, especially pistachios, chestnuts, hazelnuts, and walnuts have a special place in Turkish dishes.  Nuts and spices are used in many desserts or are often snacked upon.

Dishes From Turkey –  Exotic Spices and Flavors

A quick look at the wide variety of spices commonly used spices in Turkish specialties reveals a much wider range than often used in western diets.

Allspice, called yenibahar, is used in the famous dolma, vegetables, pilafs, fish, and köfte.  Anise, called either anason or peksimet, is used in nut and dried fruit mixtures, as well as both sweet and savory foods.  Cardamom is used in coffee, and in some of the Persian and Indian desserts.  Cinnamon is used in too many things in Turkish foods to mention, from fish and lamb and vegetables to sauces, desserts, and puddings. Clove is used in compotes, teas, meat casseroles, pastries, sweets, and bread. Coriander, called Kişniş, is occasionally used in some meat and fish dishes in Southern and Eastern Turkey.

Fenugreek, known as Çemen otu, is used in vegetables, fish, bread, and the popular pastirma. There are herbs without Western counterparts, that we should be seeing appear more and more as people discover them.  There is an herb called Mahlep which is used in baked goods. Mastic Sakız is used in ice cream, milk-based desserts, and the famous Turkish delight.  In savory pastries and homemade cheeses, they are often Nigella seeds, called Çörek otu, which is sometimes is mixed with coriander, cumin, and haspir for fish seasoning.  Turkish dishes use rose water, poppy seeds saffron, sesame seeds, sumac, and an almost endless variety of other herbs, spices, and seasonings that every kitchen in the world will be greatly improved when they discover them. Welcome to the new frontier of delicious, exotic food, Turkish dishes.

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