Turkish food and dining etiquette

Turkish food and dining etiquette
TASO Turkish Coffee Night
February 28, 2015

The Turkish American Society of Ohio-Cleveland (TASO) hosts a monthly Turkish Coffee Night in Cleveland to meet and share cultures. The topic of the February 28 event was Turkish food.

After a welcome from two young TASO members, Seyma Gurer explained that Turkish cuisine is largely the heritage of Ottoman cuisine which can be described as a fusion of Central Asian, Middle Eastern and Balkan cuisines.

Welomce to the TASO Turkish Coffee Night

Welcome to the TASO Turkish Coffee Night

While there are national dishes, many region have specific specialties too. In fact the cities name may be incorporated in the name such as Urfa Kebab because it comes from Urfa.

Seyma said that traditional Turkish dinners usually start with soup and it is also very popular during Ramadan. Soup is called Chorba in Turkish and is served as the first course for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Seyma Gurer speaking

Seyma Gurer

Mercimek soup is a blend of red lentils and vegetables - a very common soup throughout Turkey. Yala Soup is made with yogurt, mint and rice and is associated with the northern part of Turkey.

Iskender is one of the most popular meat foods of northwestern Turkey. It was named for its creator and is basically grilled lamb with hot tomato sauce served over pieces of bread.

Karniyarik (split belly) is another popular dish featuring eggplant and ground beef. Doner is a Turkish dish made of lamb (could also be veal or beef) similar to the Greek gyro or Arabic shawarma. It is a popular Turkish fast food.

Sarma (a wrapped thing) are filled grape leaves. Dolma is a family of stuffed vegetable dishes like tomatoes, peppers, onions, eggplants, etc.

Seyma said that Turkish Baklava is made with light syrup made from sugar, water and lemon juice so it has a different flavor from the Greek or Middle Eastern.

Kunefe is a crispy cheese filled dessert that is served hot. It is native to southeast Turkey. Kadayif is made with shredded wheat and cut in sheets.

Maras ice cream is a creamy smooth Turkish ice cream that has an elastic texture so you have to chew it. The main ingredient is goat milk.

Turkish Tea (cay) is a black tea consumed without milk. It is made with 2 stacked kettles which you will see in Turkish homes. Turkey has the highest per capita tea consumption in the world. The UK is second.

Turkish coffee is roasted and finely ground and then boiled in a small pot. It has a very strong taste, almost like espresso.

Seyma said that a Turkish dinner may not start till 7 or 8 PM. The family gathers and they sit at the table and begin after the elders sit down and start. The meal starts with soup and then maybe an appetizer like dolma then the entrée, dessert and tea.

Breakfast includes tea, feta cheese, olives, tomatoes, honey, jam, butter, fresh bread, eggs, and a variety of savory pastries.

Seyma was asked about seafood in Turkey. Since Turkey is a peninsula there is a lot of seafood.

If you visit Turkey, or a Turkish friend, you should know some basic dining etiquette. Seyma Gurer said that when dining in Turkey a small prayer (Bismillahirrahmanirrahim) is said before starting to eat and elder members start first.

You should not leave any food on your plate and should use your right hand to eat.

At the end of the meal people say Elhamdulillah, a short prayer of thanks.

When one serves the food they say Afiyet Olsun which is like bon appetite or enjoy your meal.

Learn more about the Turkish American Society of Ohio-Cleveland (TASO) Turkish Coffee Night.

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