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eG Foodblog: sazji - Istanbul Glutfests


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It's really interesting how similar, and yet how different lebanese food is from Turkish. We don't use anywhere near the amount of hot pepper. As a future tip, a little qawarma (kaverma?) is fantastic heated and spread over a plate of hummus. With some toasted pine nuts, if you have them. Love the gloopy halava, especially with haloumi cheese.

You've really gone native there, BTW -- you look exactly like one of my cousins. :smile:

Edited by Behemoth (log)
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Seeing the minaret in the first tease photo, I was hoping.... So glad to see this blog unfold!

The glistening white yogurt sauce in a picture you post looks wonderful. Is it drained yogurt, thinned, then mixed with the olive oil? More information, please.

I also love the glimpses of shops and look forward to as many market shots* as you can bear taking and even more fish if thus inspired. Good friends in high school were twins whose Turkish parents came to the U.S. when their father accepted an academic positon. One of the two eventually moved back to Istanbul to practice law. They would describe family visits where they'd go out in a boat to scoop shrimp out of the sea for dinner.

Any excuses for slipping in shots of mosques or Hagia Sophia...

*I'm especially intrigued by produce that may seem exotic to most of us.

Edited by Pontormo (log)

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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I can certainly see the resemblance between this lokum and the Applets and Cotlets with which I grew up.  Aside from the names, do you know whether there are significant differences?  Someone upthread suggested there are.

Thanks for giving information about the sauce.  I wouldn't have thought of pomegranate molasses in that mix, but I'll have to try it.

This is a perfect example of a fine meal that's light on meat, probably fairly low-calorie, and not likely to dirty up a bunch of dishes.  I'll bet it's tasty.  Are the kofta pre-cooked, or do they cook in the liquid?  Are there any tricks to getting the timing right so the meat and potatoes are ready at the same time?

The way I understand it, Aplets/Cotlets were inspired by lokum. They are very different though, Aplets and Cotlets are made from fruit juice and are not nearly as chewy. Lokum is made with sugar, water, cornstarch and flavorings like rose essence, mastic etc. There is also a "double boiled" one that is darker (more caremelized) and chewier, that generally has pistachios in it.

The "sauce" is essentially a finely chopped salad. Add some parsley and a bit of mint too if you want.

The tepsi köfte - I don't think there is any trick, the köfte are raw, and it gets cooked till the potatoes are done by which time the meat is certainly done. I don't know the actualy mixture for the meat though. Onion and parsley are in there for sure, I don't think it has bread crumbs.

"Los Angeles is the only city in the world where there are two separate lines at holy communion. One line is for the regular body of Christ. One line is for the fat-free body of Christ. Our Lady of Malibu Beach serves a great free-range body of Christ over angel-hair pasta."

-Lea de Laria

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[Reminds me of kibbeh ades.  Kibbeh made with red lentils instead of meat.

Yes, I would bet it's pretty much the same thing with a different name. In the southeast they use fine bulgur/meat combinations a lot. Now I find myself thinking about making analı kızlı - small bulgur shells stuffed with a meat mixture and served in a lemon-tomato sauce. Lessee...when do I have all afternoon free....!

Edited by sazji (log)

"Los Angeles is the only city in the world where there are two separate lines at holy communion. One line is for the regular body of Christ. One line is for the fat-free body of Christ. Our Lady of Malibu Beach serves a great free-range body of Christ over angel-hair pasta."

-Lea de Laria

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for making them, I bought a big jar of red pepper paste. I think in your first post of this blog you mentioned this and said something like "it's all about the pepper paste". The big jar is still sitting in my fridge, I occasionally add some to tomatosauces and stews, but would love to hear some other uses for it!

Pepper paste really is used a lot, especially in the east, and nothing really substitutes for it. Unfortunately the commercially prepared stuff (like Tamek brand) is almost flavorless...I remember finding a jar of it in Seattle several years ago and going "Oh Boy..." and then being really disappointed at its lack of flavor. The really good stuff is boiled, then sun-dried.

I use it when I make stuffed vegetables Mardin style - the filling is made from rice (short grain like calrose), finely cubed meat (never ground), isot (a very dark, roasted and oiled pepper from Urfa), sumac, tomato and pepper paste, chopped tomato, parley and dried mint. My favorite is to do it with dried peppers and eggplants but fresh vegetables are great too, as are vine leaves.

What else - it's used in the bulgur shells for içli köfte (stuffed köfte), in kisir (sort of a Mediterranean Turkish take on tabboule with many more ingredients), in batirik (another köfte type dish similar to mercimek köftesi but with the addition of chopped mint, parsley, cucumber, tomato, toasted sesame, fried tahini, and pounded peanuts, which can also be "watered down" into a cold soup with the addition of lots of lemon).

It's also indispensable for Turkish style lahmacun (the Turkish equivalent of lahma bi ajeen...the Levantine version is very different though).

I sometimes use it in omelette type dishes too, like menemen.

Really you can use it almost anywhere you want a good pepper taste! If you have friends from E Turkey with someone in the village, chances are they have someone making their own...ingratiate yourself...;)

Edited by sazji (log)

"Los Angeles is the only city in the world where there are two separate lines at holy communion. One line is for the regular body of Christ. One line is for the fat-free body of Christ. Our Lady of Malibu Beach serves a great free-range body of Christ over angel-hair pasta."

-Lea de Laria

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Bob bought me some wonderful baklava during his recent visit to Seattle. Thought I'd share the picture.

Wonderful blog. I love halva! I wonder long it takes to finish off one of those giant blocks... :wink:

Oh great, I'm so glad they didn't get mashed! I was really careful but found when we opened the box I brought for my mom that I'd been meticulously carrying them upside down the whole time...

How long would it take to eat an entire block of Helva...well, for a normal person... :raz: Uff, my stomach hurts just thinking about it! It reminds me of a joke actually...an American walks into a pub in Ireland and announces "I've got 500 dollars here for anyone who can drink pints of Guinness in a row! The room went silent, nobody came forth. One guy even got up and walked out. About 10 minutes later, the one who left came back, and said "If your offer's still good sir, I'd like to take you up on it." The American said "sure, line 'em up!" The barmen set 10 pints up, the Irishman lit into them and in no time flat, had drunk all of them. The American, amazed, said "Well, you did it fair and square, but let me ask you, why did you leave 10 minutes ago?" The Irishman answered, "I went down to another pub to make sure I could do it!"

"Los Angeles is the only city in the world where there are two separate lines at holy communion. One line is for the regular body of Christ. One line is for the fat-free body of Christ. Our Lady of Malibu Beach serves a great free-range body of Christ over angel-hair pasta."

-Lea de Laria

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It's really interesting how similar, and yet how different lebanese food is from Turkish. We don't use anywhere near the amount of hot pepper. As a future tip, a little qawarma (kaverma?) is fantastic heated and spread over a plate of hummus. With some toasted pine nuts, if you have them. Love the gloopy halava, especially with haloumi cheese.

You've really gone native there, BTW -- you look exactly like one of my cousins.  :smile:

Qawarma = Turkish kavurma. (From the verb kavurmak, to fry in a pot/pan. I have a recipe from Adana for hummus with sauteed pastirma laid over the top, that was very nice. Some of the "tost" (grilled sandwich) places here also make a sandwich with kavurma and young kashar cheese.... :rolleyes:

I'm going to try the gloopy helva! With haloumi...we can get that here, it's called hellim in Turkish and mostly comes from Cyprus. What do you do with the cheese? Here it's usually fried before eating, it doesn't normally melt as I remember.

I don't know if living in a place you take on local genetic material :) but perhaps having a Greek grandfather helps!

"Los Angeles is the only city in the world where there are two separate lines at holy communion. One line is for the regular body of Christ. One line is for the fat-free body of Christ. Our Lady of Malibu Beach serves a great free-range body of Christ over angel-hair pasta."

-Lea de Laria

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The glistening white yogurt sauce in a picture you post looks wonderful.  Is it drained yogurt, thinned, then mixed with the olive oil?  More information, please.

I also love the glimpses of shops and look forward to as many market shots* as you can bear taking and even more fish if thus inspired.

Any excuses for slipping in shots of mosques or Hagia Sophia...

*I'm especially intrigued by produce that may seem exotic to most of us.

It's just straight yogurt beaten a bit, nothing else. Yogurt here is much richer than in the states. God, I could do a whole day on just yogurt! I read a really interesting article about seminomads in SW Turkey that renew their yogurt culture each year with dew taken from the grass on the morning of Hıdırrellez (a spring festival). I.e. the dew is added to the warm milk as the only culture. I will have to try it. They say it only works on Hıdırellez, but I might try it anyway.

I'm going to one of our neighborhood markets this afternoon (albeit not the best one, that's Saturday). I'm big into unusual fruits and vegetables too. It's not like SE Asia where nearly everything is new, but there should still be some surprises!

Mosques...actually I was going to snap a shot of Sarayburnu yesterday afternoon but we had such a fog that I could hardly see it from where I was! I'll keep trying.

"Los Angeles is the only city in the world where there are two separate lines at holy communion. One line is for the regular body of Christ. One line is for the fat-free body of Christ. Our Lady of Malibu Beach serves a great free-range body of Christ over angel-hair pasta."

-Lea de Laria

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Sazji,

Could you please post the recipe for the bread kataif if it's not too long?  I have such wonderful taste memories of it that it would be great to be able to make it at home.

Thanks

Here's one from a Turkish foodblog, "Hanifenintarifleri" (Hanife's recipes).

The 1 1/2 egg yolk makes me think this is a halved recipe. Typically (as in my photo) the kaymak is layered in between two of these, so double the recipe if you want to do that. Unfortunately the poster does not say exactly how big a pan, but when you roll it out you should have a pretty good idea. I suppose it should hold 6 cups of water at least! (see below). My comments in brackets.

Ingredients:

- 25 gr butter cut into cubes

- 100 gr milk

- 10 gr dry yeast

- 25 gr powdered sugar

- 250 gr flour

- 1 1/2 egg yolks (!!?)

- pinch salt

Preparation

- Warm milk, to half the milk add the yeast and 1T powdered sugar, wait till it gets bubbly. Then add half the flour and knead, cover with a damp towel and allow to rise for 15 minutes.

- Combine remaining milk, sugar, flour and salt, add to the already-prepared dough and knead. (As my dough was very stiff, I added a bit more milk.)

- Add egg yoks and butter, knead again.

- Grease a large round cake pan and roll out the dough to the size of the pan. Place in the pan and let rise for at least one hour.

- When it has risen, bake in a preheated 200C oven till brown, test with a toothpick.

- Soguduktan sonra kalipdan cikarin ve kullanmak icin 24 saat bekletin.

- After its cool, remove from pan and let stand 24 hours before using.

Syrup:

[evidently this was a reply to another post]

I have two suggestions concerning the syrup. The idea to caramelize one ladle of the syrup seems to be a good one, you can use the syrup below in the same way.

[Place kadayif in pan], pour 6 cups of lukewarm water over the kadayıf, let it sit a half hour and absorb as much as it can. Then using either thick paper towlels or kitchen towels, press lightly with open fingers to remove the extra water in an even way. Do this a few times.

Combine:

4.5 c water and

4 c sugar

2 1/2 t lemon juice

(if you like it very sweet you can add half a cup more sugar, but this seems sweet enough to me).

Boil in a saucepan until you have a thick syrup. This takes about half an hour on a medium flame.

[Comment - I don't know why you couldn't just start with less water...]

Then pour the syrup over the kadayıf.

Turn a burner on to medium, and turning the pan over it constantly, let it simmer lightly until the syrup has been absorbed well. This takes around half an hour. When you see it making bubbles on top of the kadayıf take it off the fire and let it cool.

Serve with kaymak [if you can find it!], or cream, mascarpone or ice cream.

"Los Angeles is the only city in the world where there are two separate lines at holy communion. One line is for the regular body of Christ. One line is for the fat-free body of Christ. Our Lady of Malibu Beach serves a great free-range body of Christ over angel-hair pasta."

-Lea de Laria

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Muhallebi with Chocolate Sauce

At first glance this doesn't sound that special, and one could certainly dress it up (I substituted some butter for part of the margarine for example). But it's quite good as is. It falls sqarely into the category of "ladies' magazine recipes." :) The original recipe (which came from the mother of an employee) was poured into a flat pan and served in sections; but they have played with it and arrived at its present incarnation.

Pudding

1 lt milk

5 T flour

1 c sugar

half packet vanilla sugar

100 gr margarine

Combine flour, sugar and vanilla sugar, add milk, heat stirring with a whisk, add margarine. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes or so, stirring constantly. [if you beat it afterwards with an electric beater, it's even better.] Pour into bowls, leaving room for sauce.

Sauce

6 T sugar

6 T cocoa

2 eggs

100 gr margarine

Combine margarine, sugar and cocoa, heat but don't boil. Remove from heat and add eggs, beat well with electric beater, pour over pudding, cool, refrigerate.

Edited by sazji (log)

"Los Angeles is the only city in the world where there are two separate lines at holy communion. One line is for the regular body of Christ. One line is for the fat-free body of Christ. Our Lady of Malibu Beach serves a great free-range body of Christ over angel-hair pasta."

-Lea de Laria

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All the blogs have been real adventures, thanks to all eGulleteers! The photos have created quite a "drool blotch" on my desk. :laugh:

sazji: Your blog from Turkey is especially appreciated at this time as I have three students from Turkey in my university ESL class. They try to explain their food and country to their classmates and me, and now, we can look at your blog for visuals to go with their explanations. Last week, they brought Turkish Delights to share in conversation class.

A previous poster mentioned similarity to Apletes and Cotlets from Seattle. That's what I thought of when I saw the Turkish Delight.

Thanks for all the delightful pictures. :smile:

Dejah

www.hillmanweb.com

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I am enjoying this blog very much! Thank you!

Liberty Orchards (Aplets & Cotlets) also sell this:

Old-Fashioned Locoum® Gift Boxes

Our fresh-tasting version of a Near-East delicacy with flavors right out of the Arabian Nights! Includes Cinnamon & Walnut, Orange Blossom & Almond, Rose & Pistachio, and Lemon.

The texture is much the same as their better known product; the flavors are very mild but distinct.

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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Okay, another installment...it was not a great day for Istanbul photography but while I waited for my minibus to the instrument shop I help out at occasionally, I got a shot or two across the Golden Horn. For those of you who doubt that winter in Istanbul is like Seattle's, here is your proof!

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For lunch we ordered gözleme. It is a plain flour dough rolled very thin, folded over a filling of what-have-you (mine was potato and cheese with red pepper) and cooked on a convex grill. The last time I ate gözleme from this place I ended up with intestinal fun. But anything for a photo op. You see what I suffer for you people?! (9:02 p.m., everything is still just fine...) :laugh:

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By the way, when I was taking pictures at the restaurant yesterday, Ferda the co-owner said "Bob, I hope this business of taking pictures of everything you eat won't last very long. It doesn't become you. You are going to end up like Tijen!" (T. Inaltong, a Turkish food writer who is a good friend of hers.) :) I could do worse I suppose!

On the way home, as promised, I went by one of our "semt pazar"s, or "neighborhood markets." These happen once a week in various neighborhoods; there are four in the area around where I live. They cover several city blocks and you can buy just about anything there from produce, dairy and dry goods to kitchen supplies and clothes. Here's one of the entrances:

gallery_28660_3996_921.jpg

Once inside you realize how big it is.

gallery_28660_3996_93803.jpg

Some things are similar to what we have in the west - here are leeks, chard and kale - but the varieties are different. Here also, they hill the leeks when they grow them to get them very long. The chard is flat-leaved, good for making sarma/dolma.

gallery_28660_3996_3231.jpg

One thing that struck me in the markets here is the care with which things are arranged to make a good display. This woman (who didn't want her picture taken) has decorated her grape leaves to make them more attractive.

gallery_28660_3996_54593.jpg

Fruits in season include pomegranates and quince, which are proclaimed to be "like cake." :) Meaning that these are a variety you can eat raw. You can, for a bit. Then you start choking. Probably the origin of the Turkish expression "Ayvayı yedik!" - "We've eaten the quince" but more figuratively, "Now we're really screwed." By the way, notice the very nice tomatoes in the background...it's December!

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If you get too loaded to carry your haul, there are men very happy to carry it for you, for a fee.

gallery_28660_3996_21035.jpg

These olives caught my eye...

gallery_28660_3996_11327.jpg

...as did these pickles! (Note the buckets of pepper paste at the far end...) The long white things are "acur," or armenian cucumber, picked while still small. The fat green-striped things in the front corner (and lower left hand of the next picture) are "kelek," or unripe melons. They are picked at the end of the melon season when they have no chance of ripening. The taste is similar to cucumber but slightly sweeter, very nice.

gallery_28660_3996_79762.jpg

gallery_28660_3996_60512.jpg

I did say I was going to cook something tonight. I was thinking of dolma but was really tired (I'm still pretty loopy from jetlag) so settled for rice and spinach. Got my spinach and onions, came home, found no rice in the house. I did have bulgur and lentils and some leftover dried stuffing peppers. So I fried the onion, boiled the bulgur and lentils with the pepper, added chopped carrot, pepper paste (of course!), powdered dry tomato, and a bunch of spinach at the end. Topped with lemon it was very good. :) (And about all I could manage tonight!)

Then I opened another cupboard and found a full bag of rice. It all worked out.

gallery_28660_3996_10216.jpg

Tomorrow...haven't quite decided yet!

Edited by sazji (log)

"Los Angeles is the only city in the world where there are two separate lines at holy communion. One line is for the regular body of Christ. One line is for the fat-free body of Christ. Our Lady of Malibu Beach serves a great free-range body of Christ over angel-hair pasta."

-Lea de Laria

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Some things are similar to what we have in the west - here are leeks, chard and kale - but the varieties are different. Here also, they hill the leeks when they grow them to get them very long.  Fruits in season include pomegranates and quince, which are proclaimed to be "like cake."  :)  Meaning that these are a variety you can eat raw. You can, for a bit. Then you start choking. Probably the origin of the Turkish expression "Ayvay? yedik!" - "We've eaten the quince" but more figuratively, "Now we're really screwed." 

gallery_28660_3996_76201.jpg

Bob, great sense of humor! This is fascinating. Thank you. I wish our leeks were more like that--since we pay by weight, a lot of money gets forked over for greens that get thrown out or frozen to flavor stock. At Thanksgiving, I brought some poached quinces to garnish pies. No one else had ever tried them. I gave them the spiel about the golden apples of the Hesperides, the fruit Paris awarded Aphrodite, the possibility that they were the apple in the Garden of Eden...

The host interrupted, "But you say you have to boil them a long time until they become soft enough to eat."

Now the fact that you can eat them uncooked and if you do, you're screwed... Well, that explains a lot!

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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The host interrupted, "But you say you have to boil them a long time until they become soft enough to eat."

Now the fact that you can eat them uncooked and if you do, you're screwed... Well, that explains a lot!

:biggrin: Well, to be fair, the expression probably originated when all available quinces were like the one in my garden - very astringent and sour raw. The favorite variety in the markets is "Ekmek," or "bread," which is quite sweet and you can eat it raw to a point. But what happens is eventually you get to the point where it starts catching in your throat. The temporary solution to this is to suck on a seed or two; the pectin coating the seed makes your mouth slippery again. But it's really a temporary fix. I don't know the chemistry of it but you mouth will feel raw for a half hour or so. Still the taste is very nice; they are so fragrant. Here they often poach quinces in a syrup made with loğusa şekeri or "sugar for women who have newly given birth." It's colored brilliant red (anatto perhaps?) and has a bit of clove in it too. The quinces come out beautifully. Haciabdullah restaurant, which unfortunately has gotten extremely expensive, makes a beautiful poached quince. The quince is billiant red, with a pure white daub of buffalo milk kaymak, sprinkled with ground brilliant green pistachio, truly beautiful to look at.

Edited by sazji (log)

"Los Angeles is the only city in the world where there are two separate lines at holy communion. One line is for the regular body of Christ. One line is for the fat-free body of Christ. Our Lady of Malibu Beach serves a great free-range body of Christ over angel-hair pasta."

-Lea de Laria

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I am enjoying this blog very much! Thank you!

Liberty Orchards (Aplets & Cotlets) also sell this:

Old-Fashioned Locoum® Gift Boxes

Our fresh-tasting version of a Near-East delicacy with flavors right out of the Arabian Nights! Includes Cinnamon & Walnut, Orange Blossom & Almond, Rose & Pistachio, and Lemon.

The texture is much the same as their better known product; the flavors are very mild but distinct.

Hmm, I'd be interested in trying these! Mom used to get Aplets, but I'd never associated them with lokum till much later. Then, the only lokum I'd had was "loukoumi" from Greece, which is variable but generally a bit softer, not so much chewy as gooey, a very different product.

It occurs to me that another candy I like a lot (bought 4 bags when I was back in Seattle) is also a lot like lokum: Ting Ting Jahe, the Indonesian ginger candy. Much chewier than the chewiest lokum but I wonder if it was inspired by it? The ingredients are about the same.

gallery_28660_3996_15755.jpg

Edited by sazji (log)

"Los Angeles is the only city in the world where there are two separate lines at holy communion. One line is for the regular body of Christ. One line is for the fat-free body of Christ. Our Lady of Malibu Beach serves a great free-range body of Christ over angel-hair pasta."

-Lea de Laria

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Behemoth - I was a Russian major actually!  My father was a professor of music at the U.I., my mother was a professional cellist (and is still a fine musician) but left the profession to be a mom.

Pan - thanks for the good word!

Ahhh Sazji!!! I am a UofI grad! class of 2004 (a youngan, I know - 25 years old :raz: )

Loving your blog!

"One Hundred Years From Now It Will Not Matter What My Bank Account Was, What Kind of House I lived in, or What Kind of Car I Drove, But the World May Be A Better Place Because I Was Important in the Life of A Child."

LIFES PHILOSOPHY: Love, Live, Laugh

hmmm - as it appears if you are eating good food with the ones you love you will be living life to its fullest, surely laughing and smiling throughout!!!

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I'm going to try the gloopy helva! With haloumi...we can get that here, it's called hellim in Turkish and mostly comes from Cyprus. What do you do with the cheese? Here it's usually fried before eating, it doesn't normally melt as I remember.

Mainly it is the mix of salt and sweet sesame that is the point, so you could probably try it with any "white cheese". We just eat them wrapped up together in pita.

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I just discovered your blog and I am so excited. I'm in the U.S. for two months but I normally make my home to your south in Damascus, Syria for work. Obviously, there are many similarities in cuisine but differences also.

Ditto, on your list of things unavailable, sweet potatoes, pecans, foreign cheeses- although you should be able to get Nestle tins of condensed milk (they are often mis-labeled in English).

And we have sobia heaters too, though they run on mazot, a sort of gasoline byproduct. Thankfully my house doesn't have one as they are nasty.

We have a couple good Turkish restaurants in Damascus and I like the boreks that are rolled and baked in a big tin. And the lovely yogurt sauces and yogurt soup.

I often see little kids going to school with their rolled up pita-helva snack.

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After the soil was obtained, I remembered my promise to get lokum pictures, and Hacı Bekir'swas right down the street. Haci Bekir is commonly credited with being the inventor of Lokum as it's known today, and are widely considered to make the best. I have to agree. Here's their display window, sorry about the glare.

gallery_28660_3996_13892.jpg

Great blog.

Voldemort. Heh heh.

I noticed that the packaging in the window looked a lot like some mastic lokum that I brought back from a trip to Thessaloniki a couple of years ago, and sure enough, it's Haci Bekir brand. It's a very small world.

Can you pee in the ocean?

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I just discovered your blog and I am so excited. I'm in the U.S. for two months but I normally make my home to your south in Damascus, Syria for work. Obviously, there are many similarities in cuisine but differences also.

Ditto, on your list of things unavailable, sweet potatoes, pecans, foreign cheeses- although you should be able to get Nestle tins of condensed milk (they are often mis-labeled in English).

And we have sobia heaters too, though they run on mazot, a sort of gasoline byproduct. Thankfully my house doesn't have one as they are nasty.

We have a couple good Turkish restaurants in Damascus and I like the boreks that are rolled and baked in a big tin. And the lovely yogurt sauces and yogurt soup.

I often see little kids going to school with their rolled up pita-helva snack.

Ah, Syria is a place I really want to go to. I have friends here with family there and they and all the friends they've taken never stop praising it and the food. And Syrian baklava... :rolleyes:

I've looked all over for sweetened condensed milk, or even evaporated, and it doesn't even seem to be a concept here. That seems to be an item that follows in the tracks of European colonialism, and Turkey was never colonized. As for sweet potatoes, I have some of them coming with a friend in a couple weeks, and plan to grow them in the garden next spring. I tried it this year but had a variety that wasn't very good, and was battling Ailanthus trees which sucked the water out of the soil as soon as I could water. They are getting murdered as we speak...so this year should be better!

Yes, we have mazot heaters here too. It's fuel-oil, and it's stinky. Well, coal is stinky too, but if you are good with your soba you get pretty good at avoiding getting any coal smell in the house. Using high-quality coal instead of the brown government-subsidized stuff helps too, that stuff burns really dirty. You still have to be very careful with it as many people die each year from coal-related monoxide poisoning — usually when they don't clean their chimneys, and throw a bunch of coal on before going to bed. I like using a soba even if dealing with the ash is a pain; somehow it's pleasant to have the heat coming from an identifiable source. But my computer is set up in the next room so I need to get a fan to distribute heat a bit. (Is there something just a bit odd about having high-speed internet and heating with a coal stove?)

"Los Angeles is the only city in the world where there are two separate lines at holy communion. One line is for the regular body of Christ. One line is for the fat-free body of Christ. Our Lady of Malibu Beach serves a great free-range body of Christ over angel-hair pasta."

-Lea de Laria

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Mainly it is the mix of salt and sweet sesame that is the point, so you could probably try it with any "white cheese". We just eat them wrapped up together in pita.

I'll have to try this. Overall the concept of sweet and salty together doesn't exist here, but in the E Mediterranean area there is of course künefe (konafa), the kadayıf baked with cheese and then doused in syrup - it's something you get almost exclusively at kebap places run by people from Antep or Urfa, but has become a standard all over the country.

"Los Angeles is the only city in the world where there are two separate lines at holy communion. One line is for the regular body of Christ. One line is for the fat-free body of Christ. Our Lady of Malibu Beach serves a great free-range body of Christ over angel-hair pasta."

-Lea de Laria

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Sorry, I did miss your questions!

So tell me a little about simit.  In the first picture, the loaves looked a bit like oversized soft pretzels, but in this picture, it's clear that they are traditional bread -- they look a little like hollowed-out baguettes, only larger.

Yes, it's basically the same dough but in a different form. The traditional one is about an inch wide, and these are the only ones sold on the street. The stuffed ones are an entirely new thing; they appeared for the first time about 3-4 years ago. The first kaşar cheese-filled simit were wonderful, with a really great bunch of gloppy cheese inside. As with so many things here, once they had made them popular, they decreased quality so often the cheese inside is hard to find. If you get a cheese poğaça almost anywhere, you will be lucky to even find the cheese, they put so little in. There seems to be a (very) slow reversal of this trend now as the economy improves, but it's mostly in the form of slightly more upscale places catering to a wealthier crowd, while the older more established places stay the course in order not to lose their customers.

There are also bakery simit (meaning the ones you get at the regular bread bakery or pastry shop), which tend to be lighter. I'm not sure they always used to be; bread in general has, in Istanbul, turned from a chewy satisfying thing into a light fluffy item. This happened during the extreme inflation of the 90s - there is a government regulation that says a loaf of bread of a particular size must have a particular amount of flour by weight. But to make more money, bakers started adding more...additives, and rising smaller pieces of dough to the same size. If a baker followed the government regulation (and thus started getting more business) he would very soon get a call from the bread mafia (I'm not kidding) and a cordial request to knock it off or see his bakery burned down. Mafias are a big deal here, there is one for many different professions. They control who opens, who gets ahead, who can work and who cannot.

Are they doughy (chewy) or crusty?

Yes. :) They are crusty outside and very chewy inside.

The Kurds seem to spend a lot of time asserting their distinctiveness (or autonomy) from the other ethnic groups surrounding them, so this photo comes to me as a bit of a surprise.  Are there significant differences between Kurdish and Turkish food and cuisine?

Well, I'd say that now that language cultural rights have been recognized, most Kurds are not for a separate country. Also these are Alevis, who may be speakers of Turkish, Kurdish or Zaza. Some Kurds consider Zaza just another kind of Kurdish, though it's quite different; Zazaki speakers tend not to agree (but some identified with Kurds because they both were in the same boat during the period of repression of minority languages/cultures), this was, I think, more true of the Sunni Zaza speakers, also known as Dimili. Alevis tend to see their unity in religion and culture, with their language being a detail.

Confused yet?

As far as cooking, it's mainly a regional thing. In areas where there are both Turkish and Kurdish populations (for example Sivas and Malatya), they make pretty much the same foods, which are dictated mostly by the local environment and influences. I'm not aware of any significant differences between the food in Zaza speaking and Kurdish speaking villages in Tunceli for example. In rural E Anatolia, the diet is pretty simple, centering around cheese, yogurt, bulgur, bread and mutton. As you move south towards Iraq and especially towards Antep and Urfa, Adana, things get more interesting with much more variety and use of spices; these areas are nearer to ports and centers such as Aleppo and Damascus. As far as I know there is no significant difference between say, Kurdish, Arab and Assyrian foods in Mardin (where most people didn't speak Turkish till the early 80s). But I haven't spent enough time there to be really sure. There were Armenians in much of this area too; there are certain dishes associated with Armenians but Armenians in Istanbul come from all over Anatolia and have also become experts at Istanbul cuisine as well, so I'm not sure about differences in their regional cooking between places like Sivas, Diyarbakır, Ağrı etc. There's so much to know!

I take it that Turkey is introducing a new, revalued lira?  Is (was) inflation a problem there?

Yes, we have had the YTL (Yeni Türk Lirası, or New Turkish Lira) for 2 years now. When I first came to Turkey in 1982, the TL was 160 to the dollar. A lahmacun on the street cost 10 lira. The next year it was 50, the next year it had reached 110. I wasn't back for 11 years and missed the runaway inflation of the early 90s. When I got back in 1996, a lahmacun was 350,000 TL. So imagine something that had cost 10 cents in 1982 costing $35,000 dollars in 1996! In 2000 the price was around 500,000, and there was a price jump in 2001 with an economic crisis, so that 2 years ago the price was around a million or a million and a half.

Of course tourists had a fun time dealing with all the zeros..."did I just give him 500,000 or 5,000,000?" And some unscrupulous folks, notably taxi drivers, didn't fail to take advantage of the confusion. I always advised people to learn the colors of the bills! There were also two different versions of coins floating around to make things more confusing, as 50,000 was once a lot of money, then it was less money (but still significant) when it went from bill to coin, and finally almost negligible when it became the equivalent of about 3 cents US. (This was going on with all the denominations of course, the last to go from bill to coin with the old lira was 250,000 TL.) There had been plans to remove the extra zeros; they had even gone as far as to color the last 3 zeros on the bills a different color in preparation for the change. However inflation continued and it would have hardly been worth it if the bills were going to just grow another line of zeros!

But inflation has finally leveled off, and 2 years ago they finally implemented the long-talked-about removal of the extra zeros. 1 million lira became 1 YTL, 500,000 old Lira became 50 kuruş. For about a year it was very confusing, especially for tourists, because there were both sets of bills and coins in circulation (try counting change!) and to make things harder, most people still talk in terms of millions and hundred thousands. It's just as easy to say 500,000 (beşyüz bin) or 50kr (elli kuruş) after all!

An extra added bonus of the YTL - the coins look just like Euro coins.

gallery_28660_3996_43458.jpg

Except that 50kr is the same size/color as a 1 Euro coin, and a 1YTL coin is the same size/color scheme of a 2 Euro coin! This has led to many headaches just over the border in Greece obviously — because each EU country already had its own coins and people were going mostly by size and color to differentiate. Now along comes a coin that looks like 2 Euros but is worth far less than 1 Euro...gotta check that number!

Edited by sazji (log)

"Los Angeles is the only city in the world where there are two separate lines at holy communion. One line is for the regular body of Christ. One line is for the fat-free body of Christ. Our Lady of Malibu Beach serves a great free-range body of Christ over angel-hair pasta."

-Lea de Laria

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