Monday, January 11, 2010

Travelogue Turkey: Turkish Cuisine

I am not much of a foodie when it comes to traveling. Some travelers indulge in the local cuisines, which is a totally legit way to experience the culture. But back when I was a poor student backpacker, my lunches and dinners are bars of chocolate, fruits, bread and Nutella, and breakfast was whatever is served by the hostel (which usually turned out as the best meal I would have for the day, with hot coffee, cheese, toasts, pastries and maybe if I’m lucky, eggs).

It was a combination of wanting to spend the money on something more worthwhile, like entrance fee to a museum, and another part is due to the fact that I do not understand the foreign-language menu. In addition, I tend to go quite a length to be very frugal when I travel solo. Every single cent that I save gives a sense of accomplishment – the cheaper I can make the trip, the better, thus food (and accommodation) is the obvious section that I could skimp. I went to Italy and left the country without eating a single strand of pasta or a slice of pizza. I tried tapas in Spain just because one of my college friend was there; we met up for dinner and she ordered the food for me. In UK I ate better food, because I stayed with friends studying there, and while I could care less with food when I am alone, one should not be stingy when eating out in a company of some one else’s.

So, since this Turkey trip is my first big adventure since I started working, I am determined to splurge on the local dishes. Halal food is much easier to find here and I am financially more capable now, so why not indulge gastronomically?

And indulge I did… tak hengat dunia punya. Here are some of the mouthwatering food I ate there.

Main Meals

Main dish throughout the journey - Kebab. Meatballs. Meatballs. Kebab. Kebab. Kebab lagi. The last day in Turkey I got so sick of kebab we decided to eat dinner at McDonalds instead. They even have kebab burger there... hohoho, tidakkkkkkk.


Kebab lagik.

Kebab. Eh. Tak. Selingan kejap. Mamat Korea singlet putih tu memang jamuan mata. He's quite a dish. So comel :) Gambar ini dicuri ambil semasa lunchtime after our hike.

This is what I actually eat while visually 'feasting' on the hot Korean guy - beef meatballs (more like elongated balls, huhu) on a bed of some sort of grains. Huhu, looks like rice, but most probably wheat or corn. Telan aje la...

My favorite dish ever is Imam Bayildi, or The Imam Fainted... haha. There are some stories why the dish is called for, such as told in here. One popular story is that this stuffed-aubergine (or eggplant) dish is so good the imam fainted after tasting it. They should've change the name to Fatma Fainted instead. Huhuh, serious sedap. Baked aubergine stuffed with minced meats, vegetables and herbs and topped with cheesy goodness... slurpp. The recipe doesn't look to hard to follow either, so I am quite determine to cook this someday. Yeap, someday...

Simple bean soup.

Another simple soupy goodness - with chunks of chicken and vegetables. Kalau tmbah cili padi bagi pedas sikit, sure lagi sedap.

Acılı Ezme Salatası or 'crushed salad/salsa" - well, this is probably it. The restaurant send us a small plate on-the-house, and I forgot to ask its name. I googled "Turkish appetizer" and this recipe roughly matches the ingredients that I thought I tasted in this dish. The dish is served chilled, with yogurt. It is an acquired taste certainly, not my cup of tea...

Pizza.. yummy. The turkish pizza is on elongated bread that looks like a sampan.

One of the meal-you-supposedly-have-to-try in Istanbul is the famous fish sandwich. We tried the grilled fish meal instead. Hmm, ikan bakar kat Malaysia lagi sedap kot :)


The dessert shops ~ hmmm, I died and went to heaven ~ such a delight! Not only because of the various sweets, cakes and puddings beckoning you, but the colors and presentation are a feast for the eyes too. The candied almond and nuts, the colorful sweets and cakes are nicely displayed at the window, tantalizing passer-by. What I love most are the pudding, pie and mousse, which are rarely found in delicatessen or cakeshop in KL because they primarily sells, err, cakes only, unless you go to a nice sit-down meal at a fancier restaurant with an extensive dessert menu.

Sigh, these nutty balls are almost too pretty too eat (somehow the words 'nutty balls' macam pelik lak bunyinya... huhu. Sorry, I do not know how else to describe it).

Mountains of colorful turkish delight.

Oh, this rich chocolate pudding is wicked. Sedap giler makan sampai juling mata.

The puddingssssssssss....!! Oh gosh, where to start. I love the rice pudding. I love the chocolate pudding. There is also the ashure pudding, or Noah's pudding (teorinya macam bubur asyura kita - segala macam jenis bijian dalam tu, but ours is more savory, this one is fruity, syrupy sweet).

Ahh, another favorite (yeah, I am certainly over-using this word). I am not sure what is the name of this string-ey dessert. In appearance it looks like crunchy 'bihun keras yang digoreng'. It tasted like kuih cakar ayam soaked in syrup.

Chocolate cake ni pun sedap. Ada la tiga hari berturut-turut aku pegi kedai nih. Tauke tu pun dah kenal aku kot.

Street Food

The uncle is selling candy. There are several flavors on the tray such as cherry, strawberry, caramel etc. You can choose one, or a combination of several flavors. He twirled the viscous candy around a stick, and finished it off with a lemon squeeze. It was good on the first taste, but then it got too sweet and slightly bitter for me. I couldn't finish it off.

You'll see lots of these stalls, selling corn, around Istanbul.

Turkish tea - I have plenty of this fella. The teas is served in cute glass, but they are quite thick and bitter that you'll sip bit by bit even a small glass is hard to finish (at least to this Lipton girl). The apple tea is also famous.