Turkish cuisine is largely the heritage of Ottoman cuisine, which can be described as a fusion and refinement of Central Asian, Middle Eastern, Eastern European and Balkan cuisines. Turkish cuisine has in turn influenced those and other neighbouring cuisines, including those of Southeast Europe (Balkans), Central Europe, and Western Europe. The Ottomans fused various culinary traditions of their realm with influences from Levantine cuisines, along with traditional Turkic elements from Central Asia (such as yogurt and mantı), creating a vast array of specialities.
Turkish cuisine varies across the country. The cooking of Istanbul, Bursa, Izmir, and rest of the Asia Minor region inherits many elements of Ottoman court cuisine, with a lighter use of spices, a preference for rice over bulgur, koftes and a wider availability of vegetable stews (türlü), eggplant, stuffed dolmas and fish. The cuisine of the Black Sea Region uses fish extensively, especially the Black Sea anchovy (hamsi) and includes maize dishes. The cuisine of the southeast (e.g. Urfa, Gaziantep, and Adana) is famous for its variety of kebabs, mezes and dough-based desserts such as baklava, şöbiyet, kadayıf, and künefe.
Especially in the western parts of Turkey, where olive trees grow abundantly, olive oil is the major type of oil used for cooking. The cuisines of the Aegean, Marmara and Mediterranean regions are rich in vegetables, herbs, and fish. Central Anatolia has many famous specialties, such as keşkek, mantı (especially from Kayseri) and gözleme. Food names directly cognate with mantı are found also in Chinese (mantou or steamed bun) and Korean cuisine (mandu).
A specialty’s name sometimes includes that of a city or region, either in or outside of Turkey, and may refer to the specific technique or ingredients used in that area. For example, the difference between Urfa kebap and Adana kebap is the thickness of the skewer and the amount of hot pepper that the kebab contains. Urfa kebap is less spicy and thicker than Adana kebap. Although meat-based foods such as kebabs are the mainstay in Turkish cuisine as presented in foreign countries, native Turkish meals largely center around rice, vegetables, and bread.
Turkish National Dishes
Doner kebab (also döner kebab) (Turkish: döner or döner kebap) is a type of kebab, made of meat cooked on a vertical rotisserie. Seasoned meat stacked in the shape of an inverted cone is turned slowly on the rotisserie, next to a vertical cooking element. The outer layer is sliced into thin shavings as it cooks. The vertical rotisserie was invented in the 19th-century Ottoman Empire, and doner kebab inspired similar dishes such as the Arab shawarma, Greek gyros, and Mexican al pastor.
The sliced meat of a doner kebab may be served on a plate with various accompaniments, stuffed into a pita or other type of bread as a sandwich, or wrapped in a thin flatbread such as lavash or yufka, known as a dürüm (literally meaning roll or wrap in Turkish). Since the early 1970s, the sandwich or wrap form has become popular around the world as a fast food dish sold by kebab shops, and is often called simply a “kebab”. The sandwich generally contains salad or vegetables, which may include tomato, lettuce, cabbage, onion with sumac, fresh or pickled cucumber, or chili, and various types of sauces.
Kuru fasulye is a stewed bean dish in Turkish cuisine. It is made primarily with white beans and olive oil, and onion and tomato paste or tomato sauce are almost invariably used. Sometimes other vegetables or meat may also be added, especially pastirma. Kuru fasulye is often served along with rice or bulgur. It is often considered the national dish of Turkey.
Its counterpart in Greek cuisine is called fasolada.
Pilaf (US spelling), or pilau (UK spelling) is a rice dish, or in some regions, a wheat dish, whose recipe usually involves cooking in stock or broth, adding spices, and other ingredients such as vegetables or meat, and employing some technique for achieving cooked grains that do not adhere.
At the time of the Abbasid Caliphate, such methods of cooking rice at first spread through a vast territory from India to Spain, and eventually to a wider world. The Spanish paella, and the South Asian pilau or pulao, and biryani, evolved from such dishes.
Pilaf and similar dishes are common to Balkan, Caribbean, South Caucasian, Central Asian, East African, Eastern European, Latin American, Middle Eastern, and South Asian cuisines. It is a staple food and a popular dish in Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, China (notably in Xinjiang), Greece (notably in Crete), India, Iraq (notably in Kurdistan), Iran, Israel, Kazakhstan, Kenya , Kyrgyzstan, Nepal, Pakistan, Romania, Russia, Tanzania (notably in Zanzibar), Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, and Uzbekistan.