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Turkey’s culinary tradition bursts with complexity as well as sheer deliciousness, as any visitor to this diverse and fascinating country will soon discover.
One of Turkey’s most popular culinary exports is the kebab. Marinated meat – lamb, beef or chicken – is skewered and grilled over a smoky charcoal fire until ready to serve, either in a flatbread wrap or with rice and vegetables. To try one for yourself, head to Hamdi in Istanbul (11 Tahmis Caddesi Kalçın Sokak), said to be one of the best kebab restaurants in Turkey.
Meat features prominently in the Turkish diet, but vegetarians can still eat fairly well in Turkey, especially if they stick to meze – small appetizers that are designed to be shared and are usually eaten at the start of a meal. Popular dishes include dips such as baba ghanoush and hummus, salads and flatbreads.
It’s impossible to leave Turkey without trying some baklava, a wafer-thin pastry dessert drizzled in syrup or sugar water, then stuffed and topped with ground pistachios, cashews and walnuts.
One of the best places in Turkey to go for baklava is Karakoy Gulluoglu (3-4 Rıhtım Cad. Katlı Otopark) in Istanbul, but if you want to be a real connoisseur about it, Gaziantep is the place to visit. The city claims be the baklava capital of Turkey, although due to its proximity to the Syrian border it’s currently off limits to tourists.
Deciding where to eat in Turkey is rarely a simple affair, with everything from street food to upmarket restaurants in Turkey’s tourist hot spots available to try out. Outside of Turkey’s hugely popular resorts and cities, there may be less of a choice, but you’ll still have a job deciding what to go for on the undoubtedly extensive menu.
If there’s one rule of thumb to go by when deciding where to eat in Turkey, it’s not to limit yourself to Turkey’s restaurants – even the most humble-looking street food cart can produce a memorable meal.