Saturday, May 20, 2006

Turkey Sandwiches


Anatolian meals were comfortably similar to those of my youth in format in timing, but different enough in content so as to present an adventure. Sit-down breakfasts were uniformly a pile of bread (flat, or otherwise) with jam, butter, sliced tomato and cucumber, tea, and maybe some honey. A morning meal on the go was usually a piece of savory pastry filled with spinach or cheese. Lunch hit the table around noon and was comprised most frequently of grilled meat served with bread and a selection of salads. The evening meal arrived between six and eight and was similar to lunch, but with more incidences of starchy staples like fried potatoes or rice and more booze. I preferred beer or raki (an anise flavoured liquor) to the domestic wines. We made at least one stop into a Turkish patisserie to sample local sweets and were well rewarded for the effort. The large number of exotic desserts on offer made choosing a bit difficult.

Some items of particular note:
  • Mezze - As a snack or an alternative to a conventional meal it was widely possible to order a plate of meat, cheese, and salads eaten with bread and served on a communal platter. There was some variation here, but we almost always got olives, a yogurt and cucumber combo, and spicy aubergines (eggplants). More exotic offerings involved offal (marinated liver in one instance) and sometimes sausage.
  • Kepabs - Certainly the most widely known Turkish culinary export is the rotating cylinder of lamb or chicken. Chunks of cooked bit were cut off the outside to order and served either on a plate with salad or wrapped in a piece of flatbread for a snack on the move. I found the quality of the entire product (especially the meat) to be much higher in the domestic market than I have come to expect from any post-pub outings in the UK.
  • Pide - It was like pizza, but with less cheese and tomato sauce and a crispier crust. Plate-sized portions were made to order with toppings like egg, sausage, and smoked meat and sliced up on your behalf. My only argument with this dish is that it sometimes left an unpleasant oily aftertaste and could be a bit dry.
  • Turkish Delight - Lokum in Turkish, this jellied desert had the consistency of jujubees (sp?) and came in a variety of flavors. I liked the kind that was covered in coconut and tasted a bit of hazelnut. I did not like the kind that is super minty with a filling unpleasantly like toothpaste. There is a reason nobody chows down on Colgate, even the tartar control kind.
  • Bachelor's Delight - In our efforts to find a place to watch an Istanbul derby football match, we ran across a very nice cafe overlooking the Sea of Marmara. For dinner, they prepared me a big pile of egg topped off with melted cheese and chunks of sausage. It reminded me of the kind of things I used to cook just out of college during that hazy year in the LA hills. Yum.
  • All Meatball, All The Time - Some restaurants specialized in what is translated as "meatballs" (kofte), but is probably more usefully described as "spiced mince grilled around skewers". The shape is far to oblong to be accurately likened to a ball. The one we went in was a rough and ready affair where our order hit the table almost immediately after being placed and you chewed your last mouthful on the way out the door. The food might be fast, but this weren't no Taco Bell. The meat was done to perfection and had a nice onion flavor to boot.
  • Tea - Once again, tea deserves special note. It was available anywhere at anytime and was much more popular than beers as the mainstay beverage of male gatherings. For reasons that are not clear, it was always served in glass thimbles, so you get to scorch your fingers while enjoying three drops of hot liquid. I could make a fortune by importing the technology of ceramic mugs into this otherwise thoroughly modern land.
  • Coffee - Turkish coffee was something of an affront to whatever god has in his portfolio the caffeinated beans. It was made so thick and strong so as to literally remind of mud. The last ten percent of an espresso cup contained an undrinkably horrid sludge more akin to Bovril (the extra beefy kind) than a decent cup of joe.


Blogger jason said...

Bleefy Bovril!?
That real sick thing.

5/20/2006 2:08 PM gmt


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