Top 7 foodie destinations in Turkey
Straddling two continents, Turkey’s cuisine is influenced by thousands of years of trade with its neighbours: Greece, Bulgaria, Syria, Iraq and Iran. This heritage has resulted in each region’s dishes developing their own distinctive flavour and unique dishes. Join us on a culinary tour of Turkey, and let us guide you to some of the most delicious dishes in some truly remarkable spots.
Spreading down the hillside in a tumble of whitewashed villas to curve around the pretty harbour, Kalkan has grown in size and reputation in the last couple of decades. Still, it might surprise you to learn that this picturesque resort town is home to more than 200 restaurants. Sandwiched between hills and sea, Kalkan’s geography hasn’t left room for new buildings. Restaurateurs have adapted by opening restaurants on the town’s rooftops, allowing diners gorgeous bay views and starry-skied vistas. And the views are just the opening act: the meals on offer in these seaside eateries are nothing short of superb: caught-today seafood and slow-cooked lamb bursting with fresh flavours are specialities.
The region of Gaziantep is fairly untouristed, which is a shame because its cuisine is some of the most historically rich and varied on the planet. With influences from the Turkish, Arab, Hittite and Assyrian world of food, Gaziantep’s dishes are simply incredible. Try Yuvarlama: chickpeas, tiny koftes and lamb cooked up in a yogurt sauce; a huge range of appetisers, flatbreads that are simply to die for and mouthwatering baklava. Gazianteps’s abundance of herbs, spices and nuts means dishes are flavoursome and rich - making the region something of a mecca for genuine foodies.
With its olive groves, fresh vegetables, abundance of seafood and fragrant herbs, Alacati is a Mediterranean spot offering mouthwatering array of dishes. Sample Keskek, a barley stew; manti, the Turkish dumpling, and gozleme, a crisp Turkish flatbread, all washed down with wine from one of the many local wineries. Although it’s long been a favourite of windsurfers attracted by the coastline’s favourable winds, sleepy Alacati has recently been “discovered” by mainstream tourists, attracted to its charming cafes, boutique shops and cosy restaurants. Alacati is now hosting two food festivals celebrating its newfound foodie status: the Alacati Herb Festival in April, and the Lost Tastes Festival in June and October.
Turkey’s original tourist destination has become an upmarket holiday spot with luxury marinas, boutique shops and a large number of renowned restaurants. The beauty of Bodrum is that you can choose to eat sumptuous dishes in a fine dining establishment, or you can simply wander along the promenade and sample cheap, delicious street food. Local dishes to look for include stuffed pumpkin flowers, keskek, okra with olive oil, mustard herb salad, octopus stew and cokertme kebabs.
Turkey’s largest city could also be considered its culinary capital. The city where east meets west is home to an eclectic range of flavours, served up at restaurants ranging from hole-in-the-wall cheap eats to some of the finest eateries in the country. Eat your way through street food hailing from all corners of the country, or wander the markets in search of produce from far and wide. Istanbul’s also the best place to go if you’d like to learn how to cook popular Turkish dishes yourself on a culinary course.
This tiny town, population just 2500, on Turkey’s Aegean coast gained international attention in 2011 when it gained “slow town” status, the second Turkish town to join the Cittaslow movement. Now, 100,000 people visit Akyaka each year to sample a slower pace of life - and its slow food. While you’re in Akyaka, make sure you sample the incredible meze: stuffed pumpkin flowers, pickled sea beans, flavoursome kofte and much more, all accompanied with copious drizzles of rich olive oil and organic lemons. There are soups and strews galore served up in the homestyle cafes. Seafood is fresh and beautifully prepared, and dessert is baklava, gooey halva or sticky candied figs. The town itself is gorgeous, with beautifully restored ornate Ottoman/Aegean homes and quaint cobbled streets.
This hidden gem is rarely visited by tourists, although sailors might know it as it’s a popular sailing route. The beautiful green peninsula is dotted with quaint, picturesque towns and covered with olive, citrus and nut groves. It’s one of those places where time seems to stand still on a soporific summer day and you can almost hear the sap rising and smell the fruit ripening on the trees. Spend your days idling around the small villages, sampling seafood, local dishes like purslane in yogurt, samphire braised in olive oil, and buying up honey, olives, nuts and citrus fruit.