Contrary to what your uncle might believe, saying "I'm Hungary for Turkey!" is not a clever geographical joke. However, you should actually be hungry for Turkish food, because it's some of the best and most historically intriguing stuff out there. With meze lapping at our nation's shores and into our European snack markets, we enlisted the help of Burak Karacam -- the owner/operator of Pera and Pera Soho in NYC -- to give us a beginner's guide to the important Turkish foods. Oman... this is gonna be good!
Translation: "Rotating roast"
Ingredients: Vertically roasted meat (usually lamb, but also beef or chicken), sometimes wrapped in a pita or lavash bread with other fillings
What's the deal: Döner, as it's commonly known, is a street-food staple not just in Turkey, but also all over Europe, owing to Turkish immigrants who spread across the continent and introduced what is possibly the most popular post-bar food in Eurasia. German-Turkish immigrants are credited with introducing the concept of döner as a sandwich, placing the melt-in-your-mouth meat between slices of pita with pickles, chilies, tomatoes, and onions. Kinda like shawarma, this is what they would eat at the end of the Turkish Avengers movie.
Ingredients: Yufka or filo dough, cheese (feta, kasar), often minced meat or vegetables
What's the deal: A savory Turkish pastry, the börek is one of the oldest historically Turkic foods, since it even predates the migration of the Turkic peoples from central Asia to the subcontinent. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes (pictured above are sigara, or pen-shaped böregi), so pretty much anyone can find a börek to suit their tastes. Fried ones tend to be more commonplace due to their easy preparation, and pan-baked ones are typically more labor-intensive and served for special guests.
Translation: "Sea bass"
Ingredients: Whole sea bass, wrapped in chard leaves
What's the deal: Sea bass is a huuuugely popular fish in Turkey, and it's cooked every which way -- grilled, poached, filleted, or marinated in citrus like ceviche. Another popular preparation is a whole grilled fish (meaning that the head is still on), which is called firinlanmis levrek. The mild and delicate flavor of the Mediterranean fish have made it a hit in other European countries, too, where it's called branzino, lubino, or loup de mer.
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