Be­yond ke­babs

Turk­ish cui­sine seeks a place at the ta­ble.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Taste -

IN a bid to ban­ish stereo­types of late-night greasy fast food, Turk­ish chefs are try­ing to bur­nish their im­age by show­cas­ing the culi­nary riches the coun­try has to of­fer.

A new breed of cooks has shaken up the Is­tan­bul food scene with an in­no­va­tive ap­proach to Turk­ish cook­ing, while oth­ers are on a mis­sion to show there is more to the na­tion's cui­sine than the per­haps no­to­ri­ous doner ke­bab.

For many outside the coun­try, Turk­ish food brings to mind images of pitta bread stuffed with shav­ings of meat roasted on a ver­ti­cal spit, usu­ally con­sumed af­ter a heavy night of drink­ing.

The doner was brought to western Europe by the Turk­ish di­as­pora, es­pe­cially those in Ger­many where ad­di­tions like salad and may­on­naise have made it a heav­ier meal than in Turkey.

But did you ever try karni­yarik, a dish of split aubergines with a meat fill­ing, or cil­bir – poached eggs in gar­lic yo­ghurt? Ever heard of tu­lum, a tra­di­tional cheese ripened in a goat's skin, or a dessert called cez­erye – caramelised car­rot with co­conut.

“Turk­ish cui­sine is largely known abroad through doner and ke­bab," says Defne Er­tan Tuy­su­zoglu, Turkey di­rec­tor of Le Cor­don Bleu, an in­ter­na­tional culi­nary acad­emy, which started in Paris and now has cam­puses all over the world.

“Turk­ish cui­sine is not well known,” agrees Aylin Yazi­cioglu, ex­ec­u­tive chef at Is­tan­bul's Ni­cole Restau­rant. “The food that comes to mind when peo­ple talk about Turkey is, un­for­tu­nately, all bad ex­am­ples.

“We see this chang­ing slowly. We'll do our best to change it.”

Rus­tic and dif­fer­ent

At Ni­cole, din­ers are of­fered a mul­ti­course tast­ing menu of lo­cal prod­ucts aimed at show­ing off the best that Turk­ish cui­sine has to of­fer.

“I be­lieve that in a world geared to­wards the 'lo­cal', we've started to un­der­stand the value of our cui­sine. We've started to re­alise the value of our prod­ucts,” says Yazi­cioglu.

“In our coun­try, ev­ery­thing is avail­able through­out the four sea­sons.”

Turk­ish food, she says, has much to of­fer and needs to pro­mote its great­est as­sets, such as olive oil. But to truly change per­cep­tions, more work is re­quired.

“I can say there's been a move­ment but it would be too strong to talk about a rev­o­lu­tion. The con­di­tions are not yet ripe for a rev­o­lu­tion,” she says.

Ar­naud De Clercq, who has taught at the Is­tan­bul branch of Le Cor­don Bleu for the past two years and has worked in Miche­lin star restau­rants in France, de­scribed Turk­ish cui­sine as “very rus­tic” with its fo­cus on sauces, ragouts and stews.

“It is close to the tra­di­tional French cui­sine – beef bour­guignon, veal blan­quette, lamb navarin – all this you can find here, but a bit dif­fer­ent.”

Ot­toman ap­pe­tis­ers

He sin­gled out Turk­ish meze, the se­lec­tion of small dishes served as an ap­pe­tiser at the start of a meal.

“When the Ot­toman Em­pire ex­panded, it also spread its kitchen,” he said.

“You can find Turk­ish meze in all re­gions, in all coun­tries and each coun­try adapted it to its own taste, like in Le­banon, in Syria or in Jor­dan.”

Turk­ish chef Serkan Bozkurt from the Chef's Ta­ble Culi­nary Acad­emy, an Is­tan­bul­based cook­ing school, said per­cep­tions about Turk­ish cui­sine were chang­ing.

To­day, he said, Turk­ish restau­rants and cafes were blos­som­ing in Europe, with chains like the bak­ery Simit Sarayi and the Kahve Dun­yasi cof­fee shop open­ing up in London and other places.

Cheese lovers par­adise

De­spite the some­what lim­ited per­cep­tion of Turk­ish food over­seas, the cui­sine has a wide va­ri­ety of re­gional dif­fer­ences, with spe­cial­i­ties from the western Aegean dif­fer­ing sharply from those in the eastern Black Sea re­gion.

An­takya in the south­east has a rich culi­nary her­itage inspired by Aleppo in Syria, while spe­cial­i­ties on the Black Sea in­clude dishes such as muh­lama, an un­usual fon­due made with corn­flour, but­ter and cheese.

In a huge coun­try, which spans 784,000sq km (300,000sq m) – an area big­ger than Ger­many, Poland and Aus­tria to­gether – the cook­ing styles are very var­ied, from the herbs and veg­eta­bles used in the Aegean, to the meat-dom­i­nated spe­cial­i­ties of the east, Bozkurt said.

Its cheeses alone are likely to im­press – Turkey has dozens of va­ri­eties, which dif­fer sharply from re­gion to re­gion, he said.

“I al­ways say if a week-long cheese tour was or­gan­ised in Turkey with trips to its seven re­gions, peo­ple would get dizzy!”

“Turk­ish cui­sine is not con­fined to meat and ke­bab,” he said. – AFP Re­laxnews

ishes by a new breed of chefs like azi­cioglu of icole restau­rant in stan­bul are slowly chang­ing the per­cep­tion of Turk­ish food. Pho­tos AFP

n a world geared to­wards the lo­cal , we’ve started to un­der­stand the value of our cui­sine and prod­ucts,’ says azi­cioglu, chef owner of icole restau­rant.

e Clercq, a cook­ing in­struc­tor at Le Cor­don Bleu in de­scribes Turk­ish cui­sine as be­ing very rus­tic. stan­bul,

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