Food & Cuisine in Cappadocia
Turkish cuisine offers great variety and every region has its local speciality. Cappadocia is known for its fruits, and particularly for its grapes. So it is not unusual that the region is also known for its local brand of wine. Cappadocia is also famous for its potatoes.
What adds to the delight of a Turkish meal is the quality of the ingredients that go into making it. The aromatic spices, the fresh vegetables and fruits and the succulent meat, all contribute to the variety of items that are simple yet exotic.
Cappadoca is a great place for eating out. Below, we have attempted to give you a brief guide on the Cappadocia cuisine and food available – and some suggestions on where to try them for yourself, especially after enjoying a long day of shopping. We also have some further interesting information about Turkish cuisine.
Cappadocia, like the rest of Turkey, is famous for its ‘kebabs‘, which are marinated meat served either stewed or grilled over wood ovens. Meat in Turkey usually means lamb. You will get various varieties of ‘kebabs’ in the different parts of Anatolia. Lamb or chicken pieces, marinated with spices, are grilled on an open charcoal fire on skewers. These are the ‘sis kebab’, now a very popular dish throughout the world.
Apart from meat, fish can also be grilled in a similar fashion. You must also try out the ‘doner kebab‘, so named as the roll of meat (usually lamb) is turned on a vertical skewer placed parallel (or in front) of a hot grill. You can have the ‘doner’ meat in a sandwich or also with rice. ‘Alanazik‘, a ground meat and eggplant dish, is worth a try. Other meat dishes that are popular and typical of this region are ‘Sac kavurma‘, made of fried lamb and stewed with onions, green peppers and tomatoes, ‘Tandir‘ and ‘Kofte‘.
There are a number of speciality dishes based on eggplant or aubergine. Prominent among them is ‘Karnıyarık‘, a dish of eggplant stuffed with tomatoes, onion, garlic and minced meat. The same dish when prepared without the meat and served cold is called ‘imam bayildi’. If you are an eggplant connoisseur, then try out the ‘hünkarbegendi’, the ‘patlican salatasi’ or eggplant salad and the ‘patlican dolmasi’.
Turkish cuisine boasts of a variety of ‘pilav‘, which are all rice-based dishes, garnished and seasoned in different ways. You will get ‘pilav’ that can include eggplant, different types of meat, herbs, nuts, chick peas, etc. It is cooked in butter or olive oil, which gives the dish a heavenly aroma and flavour. A very special rice and fish ‘pilav’ called ‘Hamsili pilav’ is typical of the Black Sea region of Turkey. You can also go for the ‘Miroloto’, which is a vegetable bread from the same region.
Salty pastries are very popular in Turkey and ‘Börek‘ is the name commonly used for pastries filled with cheese, potatoes and meat. Try out the natural yoghurt and also the appetizer called ‘Cacik’ that is made with yoghurt. Do not leave Cappadocia without trying out the ‘manti‘, a special main dish that is actually Turkish pasta. The balls are filled with minced meat and it is served with yoghurt, mint, pepper, oregano and butter or olive oil.
If you think that Turkish food is all about meat then you should try a vegetable main dish. Vegetables such as artichoke, eggplant, celery, cabbage, cauliflower etc are used in plenty. Stuffed vegetables or ‘Dolma‘ is a unique Turkish dish. Grape leaves, cabbage leaves and green pepper are some of the vegetables that go to make a ‘Dolma’. Green peppers with a rice filling or ‘Biber Dolma’ is a good one to begin with. Try to savour the ‘zeytinyaglilar’, the ‘Baklali Enginar’ (made with artichoke) and the ‘Tekmil Lahana’ (with cabbage).
If you have a sweet tooth, then Cappadocia will enthral you with its variety. Milk is widely used in making desserts. Try the gelatinous milk pudding called ‘tavuk gögsü’, the different types of ‘helva’ (flour, semolina, etc.), the rice pudding or ‘sütlac’ and the sweet soup ‘asure’ with beans and dried fruits. Last but not least do not leave Cappadocia without tasting the authentic varieties of ‘baklava’, the world famous Turkish dessert made with walnuts and pistachios. Also worth a try is the ‘kadayif’, a dessert that has shredded dough in it.
Turkish coffee is thick and dark and tastes excellent with or without sugar. In Turkey, you can start having black tea thoughout the day, like the locals. Other popular non-alcoholic beverages that are typical of this region are ‘salgam’ (turnip juice), ‘ayran’ (a salty yoghurt based cold drink), ‘sahlep’ (extraction of wild orchids that goes to make a hot winter drink with cinnamon), ‘shira’ and ‘boza’.
Turkey has a wide variety of wine. You will get home-made wine in Cappadocia. The alcoholic drink ‘Raki’, made from anise, is also called a ‘lion’s drink’, implying that one needs a strong constitution to be able to drink it!
Turkish meals start with a soup, which usually have lentils, yoghurt or wheat as their main ingredient. You can have a lentil and noodle soup with chicken or lamb that will suffice as a whole meal. Some of the popular soups are ‘asiran’, ‘guli’, ‘yayla’ and ‘tarhana’.
To accompany your beverage try out the ‘mezes’ or appetizers. Some of the ‘mezes’ can also double up as dishes for the main course. In many eateries your drink will be followed by a display of ‘mezes’ to help you choose what you want. And what a variety you can choose from! ‘Gozleme’, fried aubergines with yogurt, ‘lakerda’ (bonito pre-served in brine), pastirma (pressed beef), kisir, hummus (sesame, chick pea, garlic, olive, and lemon juice), fish croquettes, and lambs’ brains, to name just a few.