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Traditional food in istanbul in turkey

Turkish cuisine has a very long history and is influenced by the nomadic cooking traditions of the Turkic peoples as well as by Persian, Kurdish, Arabic and Armenian cuisine and the cuisines of the Mediterranean and the Caucasus.

For a long time, Turkish cuisine in Germany was known only through the famous Döner, although it is not limited to kebabs, but is characterized by its almost infinite variety. Although regionally very different, there are several dishes that people everywhere in Turkey like to eat and know. So also in Istanbul.

We have arranged a small assortment for you.

„Afiyet olsun“ as they say in Turkey.


Kebab means „grilled or roasted meat“. There are many different types of kebab. In restaurants, kebab is usually served with side dishes such as rice or bulgur as well as with grilled tomatoes and peppers.

  • Döner Kebab is probably the most popular version. Slices of meat aromatized with marinade are placed in layers on a rotating spit and grilled on from the side, whereby the spit rotates slowly but constantly. Gradually, the outer, browned layers are cut off thinly. Döner Kebab can be eaten both in bread and as a plate dish.
  • Iskender Kebab is a kebab served on flat bread, with yoghurt, grilled peppers and tomatoes, and doused with melted butter. Iskender kebab was originally created in Bursa, therefore it is sometimes also named Bursa kebab.
  • Beyti Kebab is grilled minced meat wrapped in very thin, soft flat bread and served with tomato sauce and yoghurt.
  • Adana Kebab minced meat, which is grilled on a long spit and which is very spicy.
  • Urfa Kebab is the milder version without spiciness.


Köfte are meatballs, which are in the German speaking regions also known as “Fleischpflanzerln”, “Frikadellen”, “Bulette” or “Klopse”.

Regarding the form and size Köfte are smaller than meatballs. Minced meat is mixed with finely chopped onions, egg, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper and cumin, formed and then fried in oil.

It is served with grilled tomatoes, peppers and, if desired, pommes frites and salad.

  • Inegöl Köfte are prepared without spices only with onions and minced meat and formed square.
  • Izmir Köfte are cooked together with potatoes and tomatoes in the oven.
  • Sulu Köfte are round meatballs that are cooked with potatoes and carrots in a brew that is then refined with lemon and egg yolk.
  • Çiğ Köfte – „raw Köfte“ are intensely flavored raw meatballs made from minced, low-fat beef. For consumption, they are wrapped in a lettuce leaf and sprinkled with lemon.
  • Çiğ Köfte without meat: Çiğ Köfte can also be prepared with fine bulgur instead of minced meat. In recent years, this variant has become very popular, since by law Çiğ köfte prepared with raw minced meat, for hygienic reasons may only be offered for consumption in selected restaurants and must be consumed promptly.


Dolma means „stuffed“ in English and describes vegetables or vine leaves filled with rice and/or minced meat. Dolma filled with rice are prepared with olive oil, spiced with onions, pine nuts, cinnamon, coriander and small dried raisins, seasoned with lemon and traditionally eaten cold. Dolma filled with minced meat are eaten warm. Yogurt is served with warm dolma.

  • Stuffed vine leaves: the stalk of fresh vine leaves is removed, the vine leaves are briefly blanched in salted water, then some stuffing is portioned on each vine leaf, the leaves are rolled up, doused with tomato sauce and then cooked.
  • Stuffed white cabbage leaves are prepared just like the stuffed vine leaves
  • Stuffed peppers, eggplants, tomatoes, zucchini: minced meat mixed with finely chopped onions and rice is seasoned with salt, pepper and tomato paste, filled into the previously hollowed out vegetables and then cooked

All dishes can also be prepared with olive oil and served cold.


Karnıyarık translates to English as „torn belly “. Eggplants are peeled in strips, fried in oil, hollowed out and filled with a mixture of minced meat, tomatoes, parsley, onions and garlic, seasoned with salt and pepper, doused with tomato sauce and then cooked in the oven.

The dish is eaten warm, served with rice.

Imam Bayıldı

Imam Bayıldı is the vegetarian form of Karnıyarık, prepared with olive oil. It contains no minced meat and is seasoned with salt, thyme, pepper, nutmeg and some cinnamon.

Imam Bayıldı translates to „The Imam fainted“ in English. The legend tells, that a prayer leader (Imam) fainted from excitement when he tried the dish for the first time.

Imam Bayıldı can be eaten warm with rice or cold as an appetizer.

Hünkar Beğendi

Hünkar Beğendi is made from smoked, grilled eggplants that are pureed and then stirred with milk, melted butter, grated cheese and flour. Finally, the mixture is topped with small cubes of sautéed lamb. It is seasoned with garlic, pepper, salt and nutmeg.

The dish is served warm.

Hünkar Beğendi translates to „The Sultan enjoyed it“ in English. The Legend tells, that the wife of Napoleon III, Princess Eugénie, fell in love during a visit to Istanbul with the eggplant puree, which has since then borne this name.

İşkembe Çorbası

İşkembe Çorbası or tripe soup belongs to the national dishes of Turkey. Often it is consumed as conclusion after plentiful consumption of Rakı and is considered as „hangover cure“.

After a few hours of salting, the tripe is washed and cooked in lemon water for several hours. Afterwards, tripes are cut into fine strips and cooked in the brew until they are done. It is seasoned with a mixture of plenty of crushed garlic, vinegar, a spoonful of melted butter and rose peppers.


Börek are filled bakery products made from a thin dough, mostly yufka. It is filled with minced meat, cheese, spinach and many other things. Böreks are baked in the oven or fried in oil in a pan, the top is coated with egg yolk or sprinkled with sesame seed/black cumin.

There are many different variations of Böreks.

  • Su Böreği is prepared from cooked dough plates, which are topped with cheese or minced meat and cooked in the oven.
  • Sigara Böreği has the shape of a cigar and is filled with cheese or minced meat and fried in oil in a pan.
  • Pançanga Böreği is filled with cheese and Pastırma and fried in oil in a pan.
  • Kol Böreği is prepared from long rolls of dough filled with cheese or minced meat, which are placed in a round baking tray and baked in the oven.

Böreks are very popular in the Turkish kitchen and are often served with afternoon tea.


Meze actually refers to the way the starters are served. The small plates of hors d’oeuvres are served in the middle of the table, and everyone helps themselves.

In Turkey, the term meze refers to the starters themselves, of which there are over 300 different types.

Typical ingredients used to prepare meze are chickpeas, tahini, yoghurt, egg-plants, tomatoes, beans, peppers, courgette, olives and olive oil. Seasonings include cumin and coriander.

Often the waiters come with a huge tray full of small meze plates, from which the guests can choose at their pleasure. Humus, haydari, egg-plant salad and chicken salad with walnuts are just a few of the traditional meze types.

Meze play an important role in Turkish cuisine. Traditionally, Rakı is drunk with meze.


Pide is a flat bread baked in a stone oven with topping. The shape is oval and the topping is reminiscent of an eye.

  • Kaşarlı Pide is prepared with melted cheese
  • Kıymalı Pide with minced meat
  • Yumurtalı Pide with a fried egg
  • Kuşbaşılı Pide with spiced pieces of meat cut into very small cubes


Lahmacun is often called the Turkish pizza. A spicy mixture of minced meat, onions and tomatoes is spread on a wafer-thin, round rolled out yeast dough, afterwards the flat bread is baked in a stone oven.

It is eaten by sprinkling the oven-fresh Lahmacun with lemon, covering it with finely chopped lettuce, tomatoes and onions and then rolling it up.


Gözleme are thin, mostly spicy filled flat breads. The dough is rolled out to a very thin flat bread, which has at least the size of a plate. One half is covered with the filling, then the flat bread is closed by folding it and the edges are pressed firmly together. Gözleme is baked on a large, domed heating plate, the so-called Saç. Before serving, Gözleme is coated with melted butter.

Cheese, spinach, potatoes and minced meat are very popular as fillings.

You can often watch women dressed in traditional folk costumes in restaurants that serve gözleme.


Kokoreç is a Turkish specialty prepared from small cut grilled lamb intestines. The intestines are wound in a coil on large skewers that rotate horizontally on a special charcoal grill. Seasoned with salt, pepper, thyme, caraway and hot paprika powder.

To serve, the Kocoreç is chopped into small pieces, mixed with onions and tomatoes and served either in bread or on a plate. Common side dishes are hot peppers pickled in vinegar.

In Istanbul you can see numerous sellers who cook their Kokoreç over charcoal on a small wheeled grill cart and sell it directly to walk-in customers.

Balık Ekmek

Balık Ekmek means „fish bread“ in English. It is a fried or grilled fish fillet, usually a mackerel or similar, served with salad, tomatoes and onions in Turkish white bread. Seasoned with salt and lemon.

Famous are the sellers at the shipping piers, especially in Eminönü, where the dish is prepared on the boats docked at the piers and sold directly from there.


Simit is a ring-shaped yeast pastry with sesame seeds on the crust. The sesame curl is mainly offered by street sellers, sometimes in small mobile handcarts, sometimes the sellers carry mountains of simits artfully arranged on a tray on their heads through the streets.

Ayran, a drink made from yoghurt and salt, which reminds of buttermilk, is drunk with it.

Simits are also sold in bakeries, but those from street sellers are crispier.

Simit can be eaten at any time of the day for the small hunger in between, at breakfast-time they are served with olives and cheese.


Aşure is a very popular dessert. Among other ingredients it is made from white beans, chickpeas, wheat, rice, sultanas and chopped walnuts, all cooked separately and then mixed with sugar. It is decorated with pomegranate seeds. The dessert is considered to be relatively sweet for the European palate.

Legend tells, that once after the great flood, Noah prepared this dessert with the last rests of his supplies and ate it with the survivors of the ark as a festive meal.


Baklava is a pastry made of puff pastry filled with walnuts and pistachios and preserved in honey or sugar syrup. Many layers of a wafer-thin yeast dough are placed on top of each other on a tray, with a thin layer of the filling between each layer. After baking in the oven, baklava is poured over with a syrup of boiled sugar water.

Very sweet.

Maraş Dondurması

Traditionally dressed, the street traders sell the ice cream in their mobile carts. Unlike the ice cream varieties known in Europe, Maraş-Dondurma has a tough, sticky consistency, which is mainly due to the addition of salep. Salep is obtained from the tubers of some species of terrestrial orchids. Another advantage of adding salep is that the ice melts more slowly.

The sellers constantly stir the ice cream, which helps it maintain its elastic consistency.

When the ice cream is handed over to the customer, the salespeople often kid around and make jokes, pull the ice cream away again, show the customer how elastic the ice cream is and how far it can be stretched. Ice cream including entertainment.


Among alcoholic beverages, Rakı is the Turkish national drink by itself. It is made from grapes harvested when ripe, fermented and distilled. Afterwards Anise is added and distilled again. The drink has a flavor similar to licorice.

The clear spirit has an alcohol content of 40-50%. The best known kinds are Yeni Rakı and Tekirdağ Rakı. Among others, there are also Izmir, Altınbaş, Burgaz, Efe and Beylerbeyi Rakı.

Rakı is served in Rakı glasses: slender, tall, thin glasses, which remind of long drink glasses. Usually two to three finger widths of Rakı are filled into the glasses and then the same quantity of water. Dilution with water causes rakı to turn a milky-white colour. After each sip of Rakı a sip of water is taken.

At a traditional Rakı sofrası, a Rakı table, there are numerous hot and cold meze on the table, people eat and drink for hours, often accompanied by Turkish folk music.

In Turkey, it’s not common to drink rakı alone, it’s considered a sign of loneliness.


Turkish tea is prepared using two pots stacked on top of each other, called Çaydanlık. Water is boiled in the lower pot and then poured onto the tea leaves in the upper pot. After the tea has been brewed, the strong tea brew is first poured from the upper pot into the glasses for serving. Then pour water from the lower pot. This method allows each guest to decide for himself whether he wants to have a strong or weak tea. Tea is drunk in small tulip-shaped glasses that are narrowed in the middle so that the tea stays hot longer.

Turkish tea is drunk everywhere and always. Don’t be surprised if you are offered tea while shopping in a shoe shop. This is a standard feature for Turkish hospitality.

Türk Kahvesi

A characteristic feature of Turkish coffee is that the coffee grounds are poured into the cup. The method of preparation has been part of the immaterial UNESCO world cultural heritage since 2013.

Finely ground coffee powder is mixed with water in a small copper or brass pot and boiled over a low flame until it almost overflows. The resulting foam is equally distributed on the coffee cups. The coffee is then boiled up again and finally poured into the cups.

It is drunk from small cups, which are similar in size to espresso cups.

Due to the special way it is prepared, Turkish coffee contains the small floating particles of coffee grounds, which give it a viscous consistency.

When ordering, the guest must choose whether they want their coffee without sugar – şekersiz – with little sugar – orta şekerli – or sweet – şekerli

In some places you can turn your coffee cup over with the coffee grounds on the saucer and then have the future predicted.