7 Strange Turkish dishes you just have to try
How Many Of These Strange Turkish Foods Have You Tried?
Turkey has a worldwide reputation as the home of the simple kebab. Anyone who has not ventured into the country generally believes the typical stereotype that Turkey is a nation of hard-core meat eaters. Yet, dig into the culture and history of Turkish cuisine and it becomes obvious that the kebab myth is so far from the humble truth.
In households around Turkey, salads, soups and vegetable dishes are served for meals. This can maybe be credited to generations of farming the land and belief in fresh produce for a healthy diet. Fast food and microwave meals are starting to appear on supermarkets shelves, but high prices deter most people from even trying them.
Historically, Turkey has been influenced by Greek, Armenian, Kurdish and Georgian cultures. Also the kitchens of the Ottoman Empire were always staffed with professional and highly trained chefs that would dream up dishes to satisfy the demanding sultans.
All these factors can be credited with some aspects of Turkish cuisine that surprise foreigners because of their complicated recipes or mixture of ingredients that our nations wouldn’t dream of putting together on the same plate. At Property Turkey though, we always say to try something once so how many of these strange Turkish food dishes have you eaten?
7 Strange Turkish Foods
Koc Yumurtasi (Rams testicles)
I have vivid memories of the first time I joined a family in the annual Kurban Bayram religious festival. We scarified an animal, and then cut it up to distribute meat for the poor, friends, and family. Not wanting to offend or ignore traditional values, I was unsure of what meat could be saved and what was considered waste.
I asked the mother of the family what I was holding in my hands and she delightful informed me they were the testicles and were to rename intact because they are extremely delicious. They would be seasoned and grilled to perfection, but can also be boiled. The surprised look on my face prompted an outbreak of laughter. I have yet to taste this dish though because I have never seen it on a restaurant menu and wouldn’t even consider cooking it myself.
Kokorec (Stuffed intestines)
So I learned that Turks do not like waste and offal dishes are plentiful in Turkey. One version sold everywhere as street food is Kokorec, a combination of offal stuffed into intestines with spices and then grilled on a spit. Once ready, it is chopped into small pieces and served in a donor wrap or between two slices of crusty beard with lettuce, salad and tomato. Out of all, street food dishes in Turkey, this is my favourite but make sure you find a locally recommended and well-known vendor.
Tavuk Gogsu (Chicken Dessert)
Tavuk Gogsu is definitely hard to wrap your head around. The concept of chicken, served in a dessert dish is strange yet it is possibly one of the most famous recipes to stem from the Ottoman era. The chicken is boiled down to its bare fibres, and any good Turkish cook will say that it is impossible to taste its flavour. Most foreigners that I have spoken to, say despite its strange combination of ingredients it is a delicious dish. You can also make it at home, although the recipe is complicated.
Islak Burger (Wet Burger)
The wet burger is famous in the Taksim area of Istanbul, after a night out partying. Said to be the perfect food for soaking up alcohol, soggy bread does not appeal to me, yet many people swear it has to be tried at least once. Burger buns are doused with oily tomato and garlic sauce and then placed in a glass steamed cabinet. Served with the burger, the cost has been described by some on Trip Advisors reviews as the best 2 lira (40p) that they have ever spent!
Cilbir (Eggs, Yogurt and Paprika)
Originating from the kitchens of the Ottoman Empire, many Turks say Cilbir is the ideal comfort food. Personally the idea of eggs and yogurt together, reminds me of a sloppy mess but if cooked right, the egg yolk is runny but still firm and once fused with the yogurt and paprika, the flavours blend well together. Other versions also include garlic sauce or melted butter poured on top.
Often compared to steak tartar or the Armenian dish Chee Kufta, Cig kofte is a combination of ground, raw lamb or beef mixed with herbs and spices into a small shaped firm ball. Drizzled with lemon juice and wrapped with a leaf of lettuce, chopped bulgur, onions and tomato paste can also be added. Recently, this dish has attracted concern over the safety of the raw meat but in the Southeast of Turkey, especially Sanliurfa, it is a regional speciality and still eaten as a delicious snack or appetiser.
Iskembe Corbasi (Tripe soup)
Iskembe Corbasi may not seem so weird to earlier generations of the UK population who remember tripe as a staple part of the working man’s diet. Yet for many other nationalities and the younger UK population, eating tripe is unheard of.
In Turkey tripe soup is another well-known hangover food, often consumed after the nightclubs have closed. This is probably reminiscent of the days, when soup was the common breakfast before the eggs, tomatoes and cucumber that we see today. With the added ingredients of lemon and garlic, it really is not as bad as it sounds and the hangover theory really does work!
Something Else to Try
Although it is not food, Salgam is a drink to make your taste buds work on full fuel. Popular in the Southeast cities of Turkey, the weird combination of pickled carrot juice, mixed with the ferment of bulgur rice flour and turnips does not appeal to most foreigners but if you do want to try it, it is commonly sold at the famous floating fish boats of Galata Bridge in Istanbul.