The food and traditional cuisine of Turkey has as much to offer visitors as its history, music, culture and popular beach resorts.
As any visitor to Turkey will tell you there’s far more to Turkish cuisine than kebabs and hommous, for if you are willing to explore and open up your taste buds then you can enjoy some of the most varied food in the world.
And with the emphasis on grilled meats, fresh vegetables and olive oil, it must also rank amongst the world’s healthiest cuisines.
Here are 15 of the must-try dishes available in Turkey.
1 Menemen: This is a traditional Turkish breakfast dish, consisting of scrambled eggs, cooked in sautéed vegetables and served hot with bread.
2 Kofte: These are essentially meat balls made from ground beef or lamb, and feature on most Turkish restaurant menus. They can be served stewed, in sandwiches, over salad or plain with the ubiquitous yoghurt.
3 Manti: Manti might look like ravioli, but this dish is quite unique in taste and texture. Small beef or lamb dumplings are boiled, fried and served with yoghurt or butter, and often accompanied with a range of spices.
4 Kuzur Tandir: The meat for this popular lamb dish is traditionally hung and slow roasted whole, and is often served with potatoes, rice and yogurt.
5 Lahmacun: This flat and crispy bread is traditionally topped with minced meat, salad and lemon juice, and can be wrapped, folded in half or pulled apart to eat. Cheap and available on any street corner, it’s the ideal light lunch or snack to keep you going while on the move.
6 Baklava: Baklava is a pastry dessert, drenched in honey and topped in ground pistachios, and often served with ice cream.
7 Dolma: Also known as stuffed vine leaves these are very popular in Turkey. Dolma also refers to any stuffed vegetable such as peppers, courgettes and aubergines.
8 Lokum, or Turkish Delight: This famous sweet comes in a variety of flavours and fillings and is often topped off with icing sugar. It’s always best served fresh as packaged versions can dry out quickly.
9 Şiş Kebap: No discussion of Turkish food would be complete without mention of the Şiş Kebap. This meat on skewers is typically lamb, chicken or fish and served on a wooden stick, often with bread. Dip it in yogurt or eat on its own.
10 Su Böreği: This variation of börek is an unusual cross between lasagne and pastry. Su Böreği (or water börek) is made from dough softened and cooked in milk and eggs. Stuffed with cheese and spinach, it’s a moist and filling snack.
11 Mercimek Köftesi: These vegetarian meat balls made from lentils, bulgur, and chopped vegetables are a common Turkish appetiser.
12 Döner This is a typical slow cooked meat sandwich, made with chicken, lamb, or beef and served with vegetables, spices, and garlic yogurt. Döner is usually available from takeaways, but don’t be fooled, it’s far more delicious – and healthy – than McDonalds.
13 İmam Bayıldı This stuffed aubergine entree is delicious, hearty, and versatile. Aubergines can be filled with rice, bulgur, mince, and/or other veg and smothered in oil and butter before being baked or cooked on the stovetop.
14 Pide Pide is often referred to as “Turkish Pizza”. But forget mozzarella, tomato sauce and basil, this is all about the seductively bright flavours of Middle Eastern Food. Think fragrant lamb, pungent black pepper, tender spinach and Turkey’s famed peynic chese made from sheep’s milk. Medpide is a boat-shaped flatbread served with a variety of toppings, often spinach and cheese or minced meat.
15 Meze The Turkish equivalent of Spanish tapas, meze is often eaten in place of a full meal, or as a starter. These vegetable-rich dishes are varied, copious and packed with interesting flavours and textures.