When you go on holiday, it’s all too easy to head into the nearest restaurant that looks like it serves food you’re familiar with. It’s that age old comfort zone, the one that screams ‘just like at home!’ so you walk towards it without even realizing what you’re doing. It’s a mistake really, because you’re not supposed to be acting like you’re at home when you’re travelling, you’re supposed to be exploring somewhere new!
I used to be the fussiest eater out there, but then I moved to Turkey for a summer, and I was forced to eat very differently. This changed my palate for life, and you could even argue that I’m a little spoiled now!
If you’re heading to Turkey this summer, which I guess many of you will be, here’s how you can eat out in this beautiful country in a very real and authentic way.
Ask the locals
Even if you’re staying in a tourist resort, it’s not difficult to get a little authentic. Ask your hotel staff where they recommend, and ask locals where they eat. You will always find the best food away from the tourist streets, and usually it’s cheaper too!
A lot of Turkish food is based around meat, and it won’t always be good old chicken. There are different types of kebabs you can try, such as Adana kebab or Beyti kebab, and even if you just have a little, try it! You never know, you might like it.
Head to the markets
If you’re self-catering, have a go at cooking and see for yourself just how different the flavours of fresh fruit and vegetables are in this part of the world. For instance, one of my favourite dishes is called menemen, and it’s typically a breakfast dish of scrambled eggs with tomatoes and peppers, served with fresh bread. This sounds simple enough to make, and it is essentially, but you try making it with tomatoes that have been bought in a supermarket in the UK, it just doesn’t taste the same! The fresh produce in Turkey is unbelievably fresh, and because of that the flavours are awesome.
Make a rule to avoid ‘normal’ food
When you’re on holiday it’s easy to fall into old patterns, like we mentioned earlier, and if you go to a tourist resort such as Marmaris or Kusadasi, you will find English breakfast and fish and chips advertised at every other stop you walk past. You can’t sneeze without opening your eyes and coming face to face with a restaurant serving tourist-friendly nosh. Make a pact with yourself to either avoid it, or limit it, and head to the aforementioned restaurant.
Eat with your hands
Turkish food is generally eaten with hands, and knives and forks aren’t used that much. It’s not rude, and it’s not dirty, it’s just the way it is, so get stuck in and get authentic!
Don’t be shy
Turks love their food, and you will see that if you ever sit around a table and eat with locals. Food is a huge social experience, and you will find that plates keep coming out of nowhere, making almost a banquet. Meal time is loud, messy, and you will be very full indeed. Never turn down food, it’s considered a little rude, and your chef will be offended, so at least try! An empty plate always results in a happy host, and if you leave anything you might be asked why!
Afiyet olsun! … (That’s enjoy your meal!)