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30.04.2020

Explore Different Regions of Turkey Through Food

Turkish cuisine is well known for dishes such as kebab, doner, pide (or Turkish pizza), and abundant breakfast feasts, but you only see so much of its richness on Instagram stories. 

Given Turkey’s history and the diverse cultures it contains, it’s no surprise that there is more to the food than what you see on mainstream media. Hence, we prepared you a list to explore different regions of Turkey through food. 

Turkey’s Black Sea coast: Hamsi, Laz Böreği and Çay 

One thing you need to know about Turkey is that it experiences the four seasons, therefore every region has its own climate and soil. This changes the vegetable and fruit grown, as well as the animals that survive best in different regions. 

Turkey’s Black Sea region is popular for its tea plantations, humble village lifestyle and cinematic green landscapes. Photography enthusiasts can have themselves a creative and peaceful holiday in Rize, Amasya, Trabzon or Sinop, whilst discovering the many delicious dishes made by the locals. 

Travel Guide to Turkey's Black Sea Coast 

Once you are there, we recommend having Hamsi Tava, a dish made by frying Black Sea anchovy with corn flour that is mainly paired with crunchy rocket salad, onion and lots of lemon. It goes nicely with some cornbread next to it; making anything with corn flour is very characteristic of this region. 

For dessert; try Laz Böreği, similar to the French mille-feuille but made with baklava pastry. As you can understand from its name, this dessert was originally made by the indigenous Laz people who largely live in the Black Sea region. 

It’s expected to have it with a glass of dark red (or rabbit’s blood) Turkish tea. Turkish people drink more tea than any other nation in the world and more than a million tonnes of tea is produced in the Black Sea region every year. Possibly because they like to have it during and after every meal. 

A domestic flight from Istanbul to Trabzon takes just under two hours. 

The Aegean and Mediterranean Coasts: Fish, Mezes and Olive Oil 

The Aegean coastline boasts a fertile land thanks to the temperate climates, therefore it grows olive trees throughout the region. Called “liquid gold”, olive oils of this region are treasured nationwide and used abundantly in many vegetable dishes, mezes and salads. 

There is a wide variety of seafood dishes in both regions; calamari, octopus, mussels, sea bream, sea bass, mackerel, sole, and more. Bon vivant locals’ favourite activity to do is to have long dinners with friends and family where they eat different seafood along with mezes and salads. 

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First, your waiter brings mezes to choose from to your table. These largely include seafood made with olive oil, regional weeds such as steamed seaweed with olive oil and garlic or cold vegetable dishes like artichoke hearts or stuffed vine leaves. Feta cheese (or just white cheese for Turks) is almost mandatory at any table, and it’s best paired with a glass of Rakı (a strong alcoholic drink made of aniseed) and honeydew. 

After you almost stuff yourself with mezes and fresh bread, you are served either fried or grilled fish of your choice and more salad. At the end of the meal, you’ll have a glass of complimentary Turkish tea to help you digest all the incredible food you just had. 

There are frequent direct flights to İzmir, Bodrum and Antalya from the UK. 

Gaziantep: Home of Baklava 

Having been recognised by UNESCO, Gaziantep is the most popular gastronomy destination in Turkey. Once located on the route of the Silk Road, Gaziantep is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and its historic buildings take travellers back in time. 

This is the home of the famous baklava, a delicious filo pastry dessert made with pistachios. Just like Sicily, Gaziantep is obsessed with pistachios and most food (including meat dishes) include crushed pistachios. Actually, pistachios are called ‘Antep nut’ in Turkish. 

Unsurprisingly, baklava is a must-have in Gaziantep. This city is also celebrated for many different kebab dishes, but one dish that stands out is İçli Köfte (largely known as Kibbeh in the Middle East). It’s made of bulgur, minced onions, chilli paste, garlic, crushed walnuts and finely ground lean beef meat. This dish was originally made by Levant people and spread to the different regions of the Ottoman Empire. 

Domestic flights from Istanbul to Gaziantep take about 2 hours. 

Kayseri: Mantı and Pastırma 

About an hour drive away from Cappadocia, Kayseri is known for impressive Seljuk Turkish architecture and famous for the fifth tallest mountain in Turkey: Mount Argaeus (Erciyes). The city is full of beautiful mosques, Armenian churches and a few Orthodox Greek churches. 

It’s a good stop for foodies who are headed to the city of fairy chimneys, Cappadocia. When in Kayseri, we recommend trying mantı: small, soft dumplings containing beef meat and topped with melted butter, chopped walnuts and thick, creamy garlic yoghurt. This dish is popular throughout Turkey, but originates from Kayseri. 

Kayseri is also popular for several cold cured meats such as sucuk and pastırma (Turkish pastrami). Pastırma is made by air drying large pieces of beef covered with a mix of garlic, salt, sweet and hot red pepper. It’s eaten especially in breakfast, and sometimes it’s fried with eggs. 

Kayseri is best reached by trains departing from Ankara. 

For a foodie, Istanbul is a great start, but travellers should consider heading to the regions we listed to have a completely different experience of Turkey. If you’d like to learn more about Turkish cuisine, read our article on Best Travel Programmes You Can Watch Online Today to find out which travel and food programmes can help you explore Turkish cuisine more in-depth. 

Read more: 

A local's travel guide to Istanbul 

Top 10 Winter Destinations in Turkey 

Best Honeymoon Destinations in Turkey