Turkish cuisine is the cuisine of the Turkish people who controlled the eastern Mediterranean Sea region and the Middle East during the reign of the Ottoman Empire from the 14th century to the end of the World War I. Turkic cuisine elements brought from Central Asia were mixed with the cuisines of the previously dominant cultures of Greece, Georgia, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria. As a result, the countries of the eastern Mediterranean Sea region share more or less the same elements of cuisine. This wide circle of influence extends even to the Arabian peninsula, North Africa, present Russia and countries receiving Turkish immigrants like Germany and the United Kingdom.
Foods in the Turkish cuisine usually involve eggplant, pepper, onion, lentil, bean, tomato, and cucumber. Grape, apricot, cherry, melon, fig, lemon, pistachio, pine nut, almond, hazelnut, and walnut are among the most abundantly used fruits and nuts. Preferred spices and herbs are coriander, cumin, paprika, mint, and flavoring herbs.
Meats (especially shish kebabs) are usually marinated and grilled over an open fire. Although every kind of meat other than that of pork is consumed, lamb and sheep meat is especially favored. Iskender kebap is a relatively recently invented type of döner kebap which is usually consumed in the northwestern parts of Turkey. Döner kebap has established itself as an alternative fast food in Germany and Britain. Best flavored white cheese and yogurt is also prepared from the sheep milk. Although rice, which is named as pilav, is the essential part of many foods, bulgur (prepared from wheat) can also used for the same purpose. Especially in the western parts of Turkey, where olive trees are grown abundantly, olive oil is the major type of oil used for cooking. The bread is prepared from wheat, barley or corn. Pide (broad, round and flat kind of bread made of wheat) and tandir (baked on the inner walls of a round oven) are some examples for authentic types of bread in Turkish cuisine. Mezze (meze) is the type of food served as the appetizer course with or without drinks or sometimes as the main course and is consist of olives, old kashar cheese (similar to strong cheddar cheese in flavor) or white cheese, pickles, meatballs, pilaki (made of bean, garlic and olive oil), dolma (grape leaves, green pepper or eggplant stuffed with rice or meat), borek (very thin phyllo dough stuffed with cheese, meat or vegetables), hummus (prepared from sesame, chickpea, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice) and several other varieties.
One of the best-known deserts in Turkish cuisine is baklava. Rice and starch puddings (muhallebi, sutlac), helva (halvah), kadayif (kataifi), revani (made of semolina and starch) are among other varieties. Kaymak (clotted cream) is often served with sweet desserts to cut through the sweetness. Tea or thick Turkish coffee (with or without sugar) is usually served after dinner or more rarely together with desserts.
See also: loukoumia (Turkish Delight)