Turkish people love eating. Therefore the breakfast is the most important meal of the day and people know very well to extend and vary it with different elements and specialities. That’s why the Turkish breakfast is never exactly the same. It depends where you go in Istanbul or Turkey, you will receive different breakfast compilations. But in general I can say, that there are some basic elements which you can find everywhere as well as some typical specialities which vary from place to place. The word -kahvaltı- can be translated as kahve-alt, meaning the food you eat before drinking coffee.
Basic elements of a Turkish breakfast
The following elements are basic and very important:
- White bread (most common type)
- White cheese (beyaz peynir): It is a salty, white cheese made from unpasteurized milk. It is very similar to Feta.
- Old cheese (kaşar peynir): It is a very tasty yellow and medium hard cheese made from unpasteurized sheep milk.
- Black and green olives (zeytin)
- Butter, honey, jam
- Omelette or boiled eggs (yumurta)
- Sliced tomatoes and cucumbers
- Turkish tea (çay) during breakfast
- Turkish coffee after breakfast
Typical Turkish breakfast specialities
Beside the basic elements of the Turkish breakfast, there exists a large number of particular specialities which can be added to extend the breakfast.
Kaymak is very delicious and addictive and I soften jokingly referred to as the „Turkish crack“. It is basically clotted cream, mostly served with honey. On fresh soft bread it tastes heavenly delicious.
Börek is made out of very thin sheets of dough (also known as yufka) filled with minced meat, cheese and different vegetables. Then it is wrapped, baked and cut into portions. Sometimes it gets covered with sesame seeds.
Generally menemen is Turkish scrambled egg. It gets cooked in a pan with tomatoes, green pepper, onion, olive oils and eggs. Especially with a little note of garlic it tastes delicious.
Gözleme is a savoury pastry which is cooked over a griddle and filled with vegetables like potatoes and spinach, meat or cheese. It looks almost like a crepe. You can nearly find it everywhere, because it is also sold on the streets. Mostly old Turkish women are preparing and selling it.
Pastırma is an air-dried cured beef with its origin in Anatolia. You prepare it by salting the meat, washing it and letting it dry for 10-15 days. The blood and salt is then squeezed out before it gets covered with a paste prepared with crushed cumin, fenugreek, garlic and hot paprika.
Poğaça is a special type of Turkish bread, traditionally baked in the ashes of the fireplace and later in the oven. It can be leavened or unleavened and can be filled with potatoes or cheese.
One of the most famous Turkish specialities is the simit. It is a circular bread covered with sesame seeds. You can find it everywhere in Turkey and it is very cheap. Generally simit is served plain or with tea. In Istanbul the simit tradition goes back to the year 1525, when it first got produced by local bakeries.
To cut a long story short, the Turkish breakfast is one of the most important elements of the Turkish cuisine. There are so many delicious things and after getting used to it, there is no chance to live without. My favourite element is Kaymak with honey. I think there is no better stuff in the world to put on your bred in the morning.
If you want to try a proper Turkish breakfast in Istanbul, I would recommend the „Breakfast Street“ in Besiktas. It is a very cheap place with lots of restaurants, which are always very busy. The price varies between 10 and 20 liras, depending on the elements and specialities you choose. Tea is always included.
Afiyet olsun friends!
Photo Credits: Luna