Great Food at Great Places (Part II)
Baklava: An Untold Story
There are a variety of sweets associated with the cuisine, notably Turkish Delight and baklava. One might think that these would be common desserts eaten after meals. It's obvious that this is not true. There are many more kinds of desserts than these two.
First of all, desserts are much richer than these. In addition, this dessert doesn't look like the kind usually served with a main meal. For instance, baklava is traditionally served with coffee, as a snack, or after a main course of kebabs. We now turn our attention to the main categories of sweet items in Turkish cuisine.
Most people prefer a fresh seasonal fruit as a dessert after their meals because of the abundance of heat and the traditional way in which it was grown and transported. Strawberry season begins in early spring, followed by cherries and apricots. The summer season is characterized by peaches, watermelons, and melons. Then come grapes, figs, plums, apples, pears, and quinces in the later part.
The winter's fruits include oranges, bananas, and mandarin oranges. Spring and summer are the seasons when fresh fruit is consumed. Later, it can be dried or used fresh, in compotes, or as a jam or preserve. A few of the unusual preserves to taste are quince marmalade, sour cherry jam, and rose jam (made with rose petals, but isn't technically a fruit).
Turkish desserts have been a wonderful contribution to Turkish Food, that casual visitors might easily miss, such as the muhallebi family, which is made of milk. These puddings are not only rare, but originally made without any eggs or butter and are made with starch and rice flour.
The milk can also be omitted for even lighter desserts; instead, citrus fruits, like lemon and orange, can be incorporated into the pudding. Milk desserts are available in a variety of flavors, from light mousses with rosewater to creamy puddings with chicken breast strands.
Yeast dough pieces are fried in oil and then dipped in syrup to form the lokma family. Lady's lips, lady's navel, and vizier's finger are good examples.
Grains are commonly used in baking pastries, frying yeast dough pastries, and pan-sautéed desserts. These baked pastries fall into the baklava family. It consists of very thin sheets of puff pastry that are brushed with butter and folded or layered or rolled and filled with ground pistachios, walnuts or heavy cream, then baked. After the pastries are baked, the syrup is poured over them.
In addition to the quantity and placement of nuts or the size and shape of the individual pieces, the driediness of the end product differs between different types, such as the Sultan, the nightingale's nest, and the twisted turban.
A traditional version of halva is made by first sautéing flour and pine nuts in butter, then adding sugar, milk, and water. Halva preparation is ideal for communal cooking. During the winter months, the winter nights are filled with conversations over halva.
Tahini halva, also fairly common, is sold in blocks at corner grocery stores. An additional dessert to mention is a syrup-coated bread topped with lots of walnuts and heavy cream. This is perhaps the queen of all desserts.
You can purchase baklava, borek, and muhallebi exclusively or in combination at some shops. The places are ideal for takeout or for a quick bite in a corner. A water borek is one of the more difficult boreks to make and is usually found in baklava stores. Boreks are often served with milk pudding. This is a great place to have breakfast or lunch, especially since regular restaurants usually close by two in the afternoon.
There are a lot of shops that serve chicken soup as well as pudding. Regardless, if you're watching your budget, you can enjoy borek and milk pudding over the course of the whole holiday. Among the most famous shops of this type are Saray on Istiklal Street in Beyoglu-Istanbul, as well as Sariyer Village near the Bosphorus.
Despite the wide variety of Turkish Delights, there is a less-known dessert that is available in a sweet box for you to take home with you. It contains almonds and pistachios in nut paste form. Throughout Turkey, the best marzipan is offered at a tiny little shop in Bebek. Usually, a few boxes of these will last for a month or two and make dinners more enjoyable. Last but not least, candied chestnuts, one of Bursa's most famous desserts, are a delicious treat.
Beverages Besides Turkish Coffee
The history of Turkish coffee, its place in society and the atmosphere of its ubiquitous coffee houses have been extensively documented. With little background knowledge, it is easy to be disappointed by the small cup of brew and the irritating grounds, which an uninitiated traveler (like Mark Twain) might accidentally end up chowing down on.
A few words of caution will have to suffice for this brief primer. In the first place, make sure not to swallow coffee grounds; so, sip your coffee gingerly. Second, do not expect a caffeine rush from one Turkish Coffee shot. It is not strong, but rather thick. Finally, remember it isn't just about the coffee, it's also about the setting and the company.
For Turks, however, tea is the favored source of caffeine. In order to show off the deep red color and to keep the drink warm, it is brewed over boiling water and served in delicate, clear glasses. There is so much productivity related to drinking tea that any interruption in the flow of it is a sure way to undermine production.
Once upon a time, a lion escaped from the Ankara Zoo and took up residency in the basement of an office building. It started devouring government employees and executives. Nobody noticed that it had eaten up some ministers of state. The lion is said to have immediately formed a posse after it caught and ate the teaman who supplied fresh tea!
The Turkish park would not be complete without tea or coffee. So, every view-point has a teahouse or tea garden. There are many places to find them: the center of a village square, on top of a steep hill with spectacular views of a valley or the sea, by the harbor, by the market, next to a waterfall, or in the woods. Istanbul has a variety of traditional tea gardens.
The European side of the Bosphorus has the Emirgan tea-garden, the Anatolian side has Camlica tea-garden, Pierre Loti café, and Uskudar tea-garden. Nevertheless, tea-houses are gradually disappearing from tourist areas, replacing them with pubs and Biergartens.
Excellent canned fruit juices are also worthy of mention. A Boza is a traditional sweet drink sold by mobile vendors on a cold winter night in neighborhood streets. This drink is thick and fermented made from wheat berries, and is best served with a dash of cinnamon and roasted chickpeas.
Boza is also available at certain cafes or dessert shops throughout the year. And finally, salep is a milky beverage made of salep powder and milk. This is a fabulous cure for colds and sore throats and it is delicious, too.
So, this is it, we hope you enjoy reading it and find this blog very informative and interesting and developing the knowledge about Turkish Cuisine and culture. We will write again something new something interesting about Turkish Culture in our next blog.
Till then stay tuned and enjoy this blog.