It’s been awhile since I’ve posted on this blog, and it’s mainly because I haven’t lived in Turkey since June 2010. I’ve been back in the United States working on a Master’s degree in Broadcast and Digital Journalism at Syracuse University. However, being back at the university has allowed me to make some new Turkish friends who are studying at SU. Along with Backgammon, tea, and really great conversation, several of them are teaching me how to “cook” my favorite Turkish foods.
I’ve decided to post the experiences and recipes here in a new segment I’m calling “Turkish Delights.” I hope you enjoy, and maybe even cook some of these great meals yourself.
Menemen (a classic Turkish breakfast dish)
INGREDIENTS (this recipe serves 2-4):
- 1 onion (soğan)
- 2-3 peppers (biber), we used Hungarian peppers. I’ve also tried Italian peppers.
- 2 tomatoes (domates)
- 2-4 eggs (yumurta)
- Vegetable or Olive oil
- 1 small-medium frying pan
1) Dice the peppers, onions, and peppers and put them on the side.
2) Heat up about 1/8 cup of oil in the pan at medium high
3) Stir in diced peppers and sauté for about 1-2 minutes
4) Add diced onion, continue to sauté for another 5-6 minutes until well cooked, add oil as needed
5) Add diced tomatoes, cook until like a sauce.
6) Add a dash of salt
6) Drop in eggs directly over the pan, stir them in if you prefer them scrambled. We scrambled them.
7) Once well cooked or blended, remove from heat and let cool.
8) Serve directly from pan with plenty of fresh bread!
Afiyet Olsun! (Turkish phrase for “Enjoy your meal.”)
Turkey has hosted many kings and empires during it’s 5,000 plus years as a cradle for human civilization. Included in its history is one of the world’s most famous conquerors, Alexander the Great. Alexander would rule an empire that spread from what is now Italy, Greece, Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Egypt, and beyond. Many ancient cities in Turkey have at least one monument to King Alexander, and Alexander founded dozens of “Alexandria’s” including a coastal city in Turkey now known as “Iskenderun” (City of Alexander).
Why am I telling you all this? Well, because this week I was lucky enough to
host an sharp, young journalist whose eight month mission will be to WALK King Alexander’s journey to Babylon (Iraq). My friend, Theodore May, will start in Iskenderun where Alexander began his war with the Persian King. Babylon represents Alexanders final victory over Persia.
May’s trip, as planned, will take him through Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt, and Iraq. He hopes to shoot video, photos, and report not only on Alexander’s history, but also on current political and economic issues facing the areas he visits. You’ll even be able to track May in real time through a GPS he carries, May has some great experience, spending two years in Egypt working as a journalist for foreign and local newspapers.
I was able to teach May a little about Anatolian culture, and give him a briefing about Turkey. We dined over Manti (Kayseri Ravioli) and Pastirma, two famous Kayseri foods. The next day, we were able to visit Kayseri’s old citadel and the last surviving church in Kayseri. Ofcourse, I made sure to introduce May to Turkey’s delicious Iskender Kebap (Alexander’s Kebab).
I really think May is going to do an excellent job, and whether or not you are a history buff, May’s journey will offer a unique look at the Middle East region. You can follow his journey at www.alexanderglobalpost.com. The link is also available under the “Other Bloggers in Turkey” tab on the right side of the page.
While living abroad, the biggest shock to my system has been getting used to not having the food I used to eat regularly while eating foods I never knew existed until arriving in Turkey. One thing I’ve done to lessen the culture shock is to find foods in Turkey that resemble some of my favorite foods back home. One of my favorites is Pastirma (Pahs-teer-ma), or what I lovingly call, Turkish Bacon.
Pastirma is a cured meat, usually beef although some sources also indicated mutton and goat have been used in its history. You’ll never find Pastirma with Pork as Turkey is 98 percent Muslim. And, even some less religiously inclined Turkish friends have admitted to me that they view the pig as an disgusting animal and wouldn’t eat it if they had the choice.
Pastirma has a rich history, and it’s origin according to the Turkish Cultural Foundation goes back hundreds of years when Turkish horseman would pack the meat in their saddlebags. The meat would be “pressed” during the ride and ready for consumption by the time the rider was ready to eat it. Pastirma comes from the Turkish word “to press.” The Pastirma from Kayseri, my home city, is the center of Pastirma production for Turkey. Someone once told me that the Greeks would visit Kayseri for their “pastirmaki.”
Today, the Greeks and Italians have developed their own style of curing the meat and call it…pastrami.
Pastirma can be prepared as sausages, fillets, or in paper thin strips resembling, you guessed it, bacon! There are between 19 and 26 varieties of Pastirma cuts depending on the animal. The meat is cured with salts and then in a smelly reddish spice called Çemen (chey-men). The Çemen has a strong smell that many warned me about long before my first taste, but unlike garlic, it’s a smell I’m easily willing to endure for the delicious product at the end. The meat takes about 30 days to prepare for eating, but once ready, it’s a deliciously spicy meat that soothes my bacon-aching stomach.
The 17th Century Ottoman (Turkish) traveler Evliya Çelebi (Chey-leb-ii) praised Kayseri’s production of the meat in his journal, saying “(Kayseri) has produced an enviable reputation around the world with its Pastirma.” The legacy continues today with two major producers of Pastirma in Kayseri, Şahin and Başyazıcı.
Pardon the pun, but in terms of Pastirma, living in Kayseri has been a treat.
I’m kicking off what I hope will be a regular Friday post, “The Friday Find!” Since arriving in Turkey, I’ve stumbled upon a number of surprises, quirks, funny signs, and other interesting segments of Turkey that do not necessarily need a full blown article.
For example, I never expected to find a Popeye’s in Turkey, never mind the fact that you’ll find them in nearly every big city mall. A lot of these finds may have absolutely nothing to do with Turkish culture or have any significant value, but hey, it’s Friday. Let the miscellany begin!
When I switched locations for my Turkish classes, I began walking by a huge McDonald’s with advertisements in Turkish for the McDonald’s Breakfast all over its windows. I’m not a big fast food person, but I am a die hard Mickey D’s breakfast supporter. So after walking by images of Pancakes, “Donut”, and the Big Breakfast, I had to give it a go.
After ordering, I was asked by the cashier to go sit down. I thought, “Why…it should only take a few minutes for my hotcakes to come out?” But a few minutes later, I actually noticed them cracking an egg and whisking in the kitchen. Suddenly, I knew I was in for more than the average McDonald’s hotcake.
So, here I was waiting at in a Turkish McDonalds for my hotcakes, hash brown, and tea to be brought to my table by the staff. Only in Turkey! And that’s today’s delicious Friday Find.