Piyaz: The traditional version of this Turkish salad or meze includes a soft-boiled egg that’s chopped up and mixed through before the dish is served.
Turkey may be famous for its kebabs, but the popular dish is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Turkish cuisine.
Covering over 300,000 square miles, the European destination’s rich and diverse food is largely thanks to its landscape.
Plateaus and plains of fertile soil formed by now extinct volcanoes, snow-covered mountains and fast-flowing rivers lend themselves to a rich and varied table.
This includes olive oil based dishes from the Mediterranean Coast, hearty pastries from central Anatolia, subtle spicy flavors from the east and southeast, and that’s just for starters.
Traditional Turkish foods rely less on seasonings and more on tasty fresh ingredients rolled, kneaded, shaped and cooked to perfection with care, dedication and passion.
In fact, the Turks love their food so much they even write songs about it — “Domates, biber, patlican” by Anatolian rock star Baris Manco translates to “Tomatoes, pepper, eggplant.”
Here are 23 of the top Turkish foods beyond the basic kebab:
Antalya’s piyaz salad is one of the Turkish city’s most famous dishes — and its secret ingredient is its beans.
They’re not just any old butter bean, but a small version known as candir, named after the inland province where they’re grown.
Delicate and flavorful, candir are mixed, together with tahini thinned with a little water, lemon juice, vinegar, salt, garlic, flat-leaf parsley and olive oil.
In the very traditional version, a soft boiled egg is roughly chopped up and mixed through just before serving.
Ezogelin soup was supposedly conjured up by a woman who wanted to impress her husband’s mother.
According to legend, this dish was dreamed up by an unhappily married woman named Ezo who was trying to win over her mother-in-law via her stomach.
She concocted a zesty soup consisting of red lentils, domato salca (tomato paste — sweet or hot), grated fresh tomatoes and onions, served with dried mint and pul biber (chili flakes) sprinkled on top.
There’s no proof it actually worked, but just in case, ezogelin (which literally translates to bride Ezo), originating from a small village near Gaziantep, is still the food of choice for brides-to-be.
A traditional Turkish side dish, saksuka consists of eggplant, zucchinis, garlic, tomatoes and chili.
Turkish cuisine incorporates a huge range of vegetable dishes known as zeytinyagli yemegi foods cooked in olive oil. The majority are vegetable-based and include green beans, artichokes and of course, eggplants.
One of the tastiest eggplant offerings is sasuka. Here silky purple skinned cubes of green flesh are cooked with zucchinis, garlic, tomatoes and chilli — how much of the latter depending on where in Turkey it’s made.
This simple salad dish is made of fine bulgur wheat, tomatoes, garlic, parsley and mint.
Kisir is a salad made from fine bulgur wheat, tomatoes, garlic, parsley and mint.
There are numerous versions from all over Turkey, but the Antakya one includes nar eksisi (sour pomegranate molasses) and pul biber (hot red chili flakes). They like it hot down south.
Mercimek kofte is a hugely popular Turkish appetizer or side dish.
Known to Diyarbakir locals as belluh, mercimek kofte is a vegetarian delight.
Made from red lentils, fine bulgur, salt, finely chopped onion, scallions, tomato and aci biber salca (hot red pepper paste) and crushed cilantro, they come in handy bite-sized servings.
Just pop one of these nuggets of flavor onto a lettuce leaf, add a squeeze of lemon juice, roll it up and munch away.
This traditional dish is essentially vine leaves rolled and filled with either well-seasoned rice or mincemeat.
In the Isparta version of yaprak dolma, rice is cooked with tomatoes, a bunch of parsley, onion, garlic, tomato paste, olive oil, black pepper, salt and water.
A spoonful of this mixture is placed on a vine leaf, folded in and carefully rolled by hand into neat little cylinders.
While leaves are sold at most street markets, the best ones come from a neighbor’s tree, usually picked at midnight.
Yaprak dolma are part of Turkish Aegean cuisine and sometimes include a pinch of cinnamon in the mix, a nod to the Rum people, Greeks born in Turkey.