Soups may not be the star of the Turkish kitchen, but they are always the starter course of a typical Turkish meal and sometimes the favourite choice for breakfast. Turkish people developed a very rich variety of soups. Each made in various ways, in different regions, and with ingredients such as meat, chicken, legumes, flour, yoghurt, noodles, fish, black cabbage and fruits.
In Turkey, soups are usually named after their main ingredient. For instance, if it is made by mercimek (lentil), it is called Mercimek Çorbası, if the yoghurt is the main ingredient; the name of the soup is Yoghurt Çorbası. The two mentioned are also the most well known soups in Turkey together with Tarhana Çorbası (Dried Curds Soup) and Ezogelin Çorbası (Turkish Red Lentil Soup).
Listed below are soups that hold a significant place in Turkish Cuisine. They are easily found all over Istanbul, except in some areas where there are special soups for the day.
Mercimek Çorbası (Lentil Soup)
This is the oldest Turkish soup made of red lentils, carrots, potatoes and onions. It is usually eaten with bread and a squeeze of lemon juice on the top for added flavour. Locals also put a spoonful of red pepper and/or chicken stock for extra flavour as well. This scrumptious soup is a breakfast speciality and the most popular soup all over the country. It is healthy and filling and includes a good protein substitute for vegetarians and an amazing source of iron for those who are suffering from anaemia.
Tarhana Çorbası (Tarhana Soup)
Tarhana is probably the first instant soup that was invented by the Turks. The main ingredient in this soup is a certain kind of powder, a sourdough, which requires time and effort to make. However, the soup is very easy to prepare. When the dough dries it turns into a soup by simply adding water, stock, tomato paste, and red pepper, it is usually garnished with crumbled cheese on top. Turkish women in the rural parts of the country still prefer to make Tarhana by themselves, but it takes a long time to prepare, as the dough needs to be sun-dried. The dough is made by mixture of garlic, onion, meat stock, tomato, fresh parsley, dill (an aromatic herb); dry mint added with aygut, a special cream obtained from skim yoghurt, fresh yoghurt, fresh yeast and flour.
İşkembe Çorbası (Tribe Soup)
After a long night of drinking, any Turkish friend would suggest eating İskembe Soup to guarantee no hangovers in the following morning. That is the logic behind Turkey’s hangover cure. Many people believe this soup is an excellent hangover remedy, and so it is always possible to find restaurants serving İşkembe soup even after midnight. The soup is made by cow’s stomach and eaten with vinegar-garlic. It is also a common dish in the Balkan Cuisine and Mexican Cuisine. It is known as Menudo in the Mexican cuisine and it is usually eaten with tortillas, onions, and cilantro with a twist of limejuice instead of vinegar-garlic like in the Turkish Cuisine.
Isırgan Çorbası (Nettle Soup)
Wild Nettle soup is a favourite recipe for Turks because it is easy to cook and the best part is that it is free! Nettle grows everywhere even in the concrete jungle known as Istanbul. The best time to pick this plant is before they start developing seeds, but do not forget to use gloves or else the sting and rash from this highly nutritious plant will be painful. However, the pain does not last long and will be gone before you know it. In Turkey, potatoes are added when the nettle soup is cooked. Turkish people think that potatoes are the “body” of this soup as they give it the right texture. I would not disagree, whenever I eat this soup in Turkey, it is always fantastically tasty.
Badem Çorbası (Almond Soup)
This soup comes from the kitchens of the Ottoman palaces, especially the one in Edirne; the city that is famous for its almonds. It is known that this soup was served to the guests during the circumcision feasts of Prince Cihangir and Prince Bayezid, the sons of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. Since then the Turks have continued to cook this delicious soup. In this soup, the main ingredients are almonds and they are mixed with flour, milk, a pinch of nutmeg, beef broth and usually garnished with pomegranates. It results in a very savoury and sweet soup. It is also really healthy and rich of vitamin E, magnesium and potassium. Furthermore, many researchers have shown that almonds can reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Ezo Gelin Çorbası (Turkish Red Lentil Soup)
Once upon a time in the early 20th century there was a bride named Ezo, who lived in South Eastern Turkey, near the Syrian border. This soup was her gift and soon the locals named the soup after her so the soup became known as Ezo Gelin soup, which is now extended all over Turkey. Ezo Gelin soup is made by red lentils, bulgur, rice, hot red pepper paste and dried mint. Thus, this hearty soup is a good source of fibre and protein. By the way this soup is also a breakfast speciality, but not as much of a favourite as Mercimek Soup.
Sultan Çorbası (Sultan Soup)
Do not let the name of soup mislead you! It is not the favourite soup of all the Ottoman sultans. Frankly, if you search this soup on Google, you can see a wide variety of sultan soup recipes. In other words, sultan soup does not have any certain recipe, but still there is one popular way to cook it. You would most likely receive the popular version of this soup if you ordered it in a restaurant in Istanbul. This nourishing soup consists of chicken peas, blanched almond, flour, egg yolk and heavy cream. As expected, it has a high amount of calories as well.
Hamsi Çorbası (Anchovy Soup)
The hamsi, Black Sea anchovies, are the most popular seasonal favourites that during the winter, these little fish become the main meal in many restaurants and homes in the Black Sea region. It is served in many creative ways, such as with pilaf, soup, dolma, desert, sütlaç and even jam. Yes, a fish jam! It is not very easy to find all types of hamsi dishes in Istanbul however, but hamsi buğulama and hamsi soup are easy to find in the city. There are many ways to serve hamsi soup, but all the recipes agree on butter and garlic for sure.
Ayran Çorbası (Ayran Soup)
Ayran is a traditional Turkish yoghurt drink that probably has been consumed by the Turks for thousands of years. It is wonderfully refreshing, healthy, and easy to make. The soup is not so different either! It is a wholesome yoghurt soup cooked with chickpeas and barley. It is an amazing vegetarian soup and it contains a great amount of protein. By the way, many researches claim that “ayran” has some anti-cancer properties and helps to increase body muscle mass.
Paça Çorbası (Trotter Soup)
It is not really a Turkish soup specifically but it is a common soup amongst the Middle East. However, Turkish people consume this soup uncontrollably. It is made with lamb legs or head, and cooked with garlic and Turkish chilli pepper. Lamb head’s in the windows of the local soup kitchens are the sight to find if you are searching Paça Çorbası in Turkey. Same as İşkembe Çorbası, this soup is said to have a very pungent taste that is very useful for a hangover cure.
Yayla Soup (Yayla Soup)
In the Turkish kitchen, as it is expected, there are too many different yoghurt soups that feature a wide variety of grains and herbs. This smooth soup features yoghurt, flour, egg yolks, mint and rice. While it is flavoured with mint, the flour and egg yolks stabilize the yoghurt. It results in a creamy, filling, tasty and above all healthy soup that you can even see in the hospital menus of Turkey.
Lahana Çorbası (Cabbage Soup)
The people of the Black Sea use cabbage for a variety of meals including soup and dolma. This vegetable soup is made by black cabbage, hailing from the Eastern Black Sea region, and long dark green leaves instead of having a normal head form characterize this variety of cabbage. There are also onions, white beans, rice or bulgur, cornflour, red pepper and chicken stock in this soup.
Mantar Çorbası (Mushroom Soup)
The main ingredient of this soup are mushrooms, however, this should not mislead vegetarians because this soup is usually made with chicken broth, flour and cream. It is usually consumed in the winter and it is said that this soup goes with pilaf with almonds well. By the way, if you are a picky eater, give yourself time to find your favourite mushroom soup because there are thousands of different ways to cook this soup.
Lebeniye Çorbası (Lebeniye Soup)
Yoghurt is an essential part of the Turkish cuisine. Gaziantep, a city in south-central Turkey and an important trade centre since the ancient times, is famous for pistachio and various kinds of soups with yoghurt being the main ingredient. Among them Lebeniye soup stands out because it is the holiday speciality. Ayran and hulled wheat are combined together in the same dish along with beans and chickpeas. It is very refreshing and satisfying. You can easily find it in Istanbul as well. It is very easy to cook too. Just find a chance to learn it from someone from the Gaziantep province. You will not be disappointed!
Clinical psychologist, vocational trainer in psychology and traveller. I’m using my free time thinking, reading, painting, watching and hearing the sound of this world, always learning from different people. Florence is my city, Italy is my country, food is one of my biggest passions. Full of meaning, big pleasure for everybody and one of the main showcase of different culture and traditions.
Photo Credits: Melissa