Turkish cuisine is a descendant of Ottoman cuisine so it is steeped in history of Central Asian, Middle Eastern and Balkan Cuisines. It has influenced the foods of neighboring countries while maintaining its unique flavor. Although Turkish dishes as a whole have been instilled by culinary influences from the Ottomans, each region of Turkey has its own unique specialities. The Southeast region boasts the best kebabs and baklavas, the Northern Black Sea region make the most if its wealth of anchovies and other fish, while in the Southern Mediterranean the diet is based around fresh fruits, vegetables and olive oil.
To describe what Turkish cuisine is like to someone who has never experienced it, all you can say is "You just have to taste it". The Greeks, Romanians, Israelies, Iranians, Jordanians and all other surrounding countries have similarities in their menus, but certain dishes are purely Turkish.
If I were to recommend my favorite Turkish dish I would suggest starting with ezogelin soup followed by a coban salata and Iskender Kebap. End your meal with a turkish coffee and baklava.
Here is the breakdown:
ezogelin soup (ezogelin corbasi): This soup consists of red lentils, rice, bulgur, olive oil, butter, onion, garlic, tomato, pepper paste (or tomato paste) salt, pepper, paprika and mint. It is served with lemon wedges. Smooth, healthy, delicious and commonly eaten as a cure for a hangover. Many a partygoer in Istanbul can be seen eating a bowl of this soup in a kebapci (kebab restaurant) after their night has ended. It is also a must to preface the eating of a kebap. (yemek - yemek tarifleri)
coban salata (shepherd’s salad)- a perfect combination of fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, parsley, onion, flat-leaf parsley, olive oil, fresh lemon juice, salt and pepper. It is light, easy to make and is a perfect opportunity to try the insanely delicious tomatoes in a fresh way.
Iskender kebap - This dish consist of thinly slice lamb from a doner (vertically-skewered meat that turns against hot coals to cook. The layers are sliced as they cook) The meat is usually served on pide bread cut into strips or rice. The sauce is a velvety tomato/butter sauce that is poured on top and served with yogurt on top (or on the side). You will find that most entrees have yogurt in the ingredients or yogurt on the side It is a staple in the Turkish diet. The pide gets all soppy with the sauce and it is irresistible to not eat every last bite. (yemek tarifleri )
With the main course, I would suggest you try a Turkish wine. Turks are not associated with fine wines, but I am sure when you try one, you will be pleasantly surprised at the quality. Turks have been making great advances in their wine-making techniques and grape varieties. With this meal, I would suggest an Okuzgozu wine (literally "ox’s eye" due to the large blueish purple grape variety). Kayra is one of Turkey’s leading wine producers and a label I like is Kayra’s Terra Andaolu Okuzgozu red wine. You can buy it online from www.Kavist.com When in Istanbul, check out Kavist’s Shop for their Happy Hour and Istanbul Wine Bar.
Last but not least, you must end your meal with a nice strong cup of Turkish coffee and a slice of syrup and nutty baklava. Nowhere have I ever tried a baklava better than they make in Turkey. (yemek tarifi, sarap, raki)
Afiyet Olsun (Enjoy your meal!)