On your journey through Turkey, you’ll find many delicious and nutritious meals. Mezes (appetizers) are some of the most commonly available dishes, found in meyhanes (traditional Turkish taverns), restaurants and cafes. Mezes are typically a mixture of small hot and cold dishes, intended to be shared between your table. Here are 10 top picks for the next time you’re looking at a menu.
1. Fava - Mashed Broad Beans
Turkish Cuisine is all about taking simple ingredients and making the most of them. In this meze, broad beans are cooked, mashed and then formed into squares. Served with fresh diced onion, lemon, dill and a dash of olive oil, this dish is a classic, hearty meze.
2. Mercimek Koftesi - Lentil Balls
Lentil balls are traditionally made out of lentils, mashed and shaped into balls with a red tomato sauce, freshly chopped parsley and spring onion providing a fresh crunch with each bite. Lentil balls are not only vegetarian but also vegan and are widely available throughout the country.
3. Deniz Börülcesi - Samphire
Samphire is a sea vegetable, Turkey’s abundant coastline means samphire is available almost year-round. This is an excellent dish at any time of year but is particularly popular in the summer when the heat pushes most to the coast. The samphire is lightly cooked in garlic and then preserved in lemon juice and olive oil, allowing the natural flavours to come through.
4. Ezme - Spicy Tomato Salad
Tomatoes and Turkey go hand in hand and nowhere is that more apparent than in the humble Ezme. Made by dicing tomatoes, peppers, chillies, onions, garlic and herbs then drizzling with lemon juice, pomegranate molasses and olive oil. This dish is often offered as a gift while you’re waiting for your food to be prepared, but the humble ezme shouldn’t be overlooked, it sure packs a punch when it comes to taste!
5. Cerkes Tavuk - Circassian Chicken
This is a hearty meze. Made of shredded chicken and diced walnuts, this dish is creamy, meaty and has just the right amount of crunch. Traditionally dressed with fresh herbs, Circassian Chicken is an interesting textural change from most of the other meze.
1. Pacanga Borek - Beef and Cheese Pastry
Of the many types of borek found throughout Turkey, Pacanga is the star. Thin pastry, wrapped around tasty cheese and pastirma (seasoned dried beef) and lightly fried. The outside is crunchy and flaky, while the inside is a happy melding of the flavourful beef and creamy melted cheese.
2. Icli Kofte - Stuffed, Fried Meatballs
Icli Kofte is a handy snack on the go or a more substantial meze option. Ground meat is seared with onions, walnut and sometimes currants and then shaped into balls before being encased in a mixture of bulgur, potato and spices. The ball is then fried a golden brown. Icli koftes are deeply satisfying, with a crisp outer shell and juicy, flavourful meat filling.
3. Pastirmali Humus - Hot Hummus with Pastrami
For most, hummus is a meal served cold. In Turkey, hummus with pastrami is a common hot meze. The hummus is served in a pot hot out of the oven, with a thin layer of pastrami laying atop. The pastrami gives an extra meaty kick to the garlicky hummus. Dive in with some crusty bread, you won’t be disappointed!
4. Karides Guvec - Shrimp Casserole
Karides guvec is a deeply satisfying and delectable dish. Fresh shrimp is cooked in a simple sauce of butter and garlic. The dish is presented to the table still bubbling, will you wait to dive in or go for it? The seafood, while the star of the show, does have stiff competition from the garlic butter sauce left - more bread for dipping anyone?
5. Balik Kokorec - Diced Spiced Fish
Not to be confused with traditional kokorec, fish kokorec is finely diced fish that has been liberally seasoned with spices, tomatoes, onions and peppers. This is a fresh, flavourful dish that will have you coming back for more.