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“Soğuk” stories V: One night in Urfa

Thank you Nicéphore Niépce for inventing photography! When memories start to fade away in our overloaded “hard disk” pictures work like a “Refresh” button!

I sat cross-legged like a Turk and smiled to the camera as I knew that one day this picture will steal a smile and give me back my memories.

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And it did. It took me back to the summer of 2012. To my first traditional Turkish evening. In Şanlıurfa. And I decided to take you with me. I won’t hold your hand… but hopefully I’ll hold your imagination. Ready? Imagine yourself entering a 450 year old konuk evi (guest house) in Şanlıurfa. The perfect place for tarihi kokusunu arayanlar (those who are seeking the scent of history) as stated on the Harran guest house’s website. And I was one of them, proud and somehow overwhelmed to be in the place where diverse people, histories and identities meet, in Mesopotamia, the so-called cradle of civilizations… A strange, nameless feeling embraced me and made me realize that we don’t have enough words, and sometimes living our dreams simply paralyzes our thoughts. My introspection was interrupted by the tempting flavors. I must say that South-Eastern Turkey’s history smells delicious. And spoils your tastebuds with its domatesli ve patlıcanlı kebap (tomatoe and eggplant kebab), bostana (Turkish gaspacho), salata (salad), lebeni çorbası (youghurt soup).

dscn0857After dinner I found out that preparing  çiğ köfte (raw meatballs, yes the meat is actually RAW, is not cooked) requires artistic skills. It is believed that çiğ köfte was invented in Urfa in the time of Abraham. Nimrod (the king of those times) wanted to execute Abraham by setting him on fire and ordered to collect all firewood in Urfa for this purpose. As a result people didn’t have firewood to cook and ate raw food. One day somebody found a way to make meat tastier by adding bulgur, herbs, spices and kneading the mixture. I mentioned above that making çiğ köfte is not an easy task. See the aşçı (cook) in action:

dscn0863The best çiğ köfte is made by dancing on the rhythms of the davul (drum) or on the davul 🙂 .

dscn0871And here’s the result:

dscn0874Well, çiğ köfte is not my favourite, and not because is raw meat, at the time I didn’t even know what I was eating! Actually it doesn’t even taste like meat… It’s like a strange combination of herbs and spices worth to try at least once!

The hallucinating combination of flavours, the rhythm of the drum and the traditional Turkish music made the evening unforgettable.

img_2951And prepared us for the next level: Halay (Anatolian folk dance) which is quite simple:  people form a circle by holding each others little finger and the leading dancer waves a handkerchief.

img_2961Dancing requires energy, and the best ‘fuel’ to boost your energy are taltılar (sweets), elbette (of course)!

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Turkish Delight: the sweetest sweet since 1777

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Turkish delight is not just the sweetest sweet, a delightful dessert but also a trademark of Turkey. It’s one of my favourite Turkish culinary delights! These (usually) square pieces of jelly consistence are served with coffee or tea at any time of the day. Lokum can be found in a great variety of flavours: whether we talk about nuts, pistachio, different kinds of fruits or flowers and plants like rose or lavender.

According to Turkey Travel Planner  “The story of the creation of Turkish Delight (lokum) begins in the late 1700s, when Ali Muhiddin Hacı Bekir, confectioner to the imperial court in Istanbul, listens to the sultan rant: “Hard candy! I’m tired of hard candy!” the sultan growled as he cracked a tooth on yet another  sour ball. “I demand soft candy!””

Hacı Bekir combined sugar and starch to please the sultan and to create his famous lokum. According to Victoria Combe the original name of Turkish delight was rahat lokum, which comes from the Arabic rahat-ul hulkum meaning “soothe or heal the throat”. The English version, “Turkish Delight”, was attributed by an English traveller from the 18th Century, who bought lokum for his relatives, and couldn’t pronounce its name in Arabic.

Turkish delight is “impossible to be reproduced in any other country, although efforts to imitate the texture of Turkish lokums have conduced to the invention of jelly candies in the western world”, informs the official website of the Hacı Bekir company owned by the descendants of the lokum’s inventor. Therefore if you want to taste the original lokum you should buy it from the original shop in Istanbul or order from their online shop.

Ads from the company’s early years [2]:

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Text of first ad: Taste of Bayram! Worldwide fame.Second ad: There is always a place for Hacı Bekir sweets in your travelling bag.

Nowadays Turkish delight is used in many recipes and it has inspired many cosmetic companies, as you can see below:

Would you like to taste these Turkish delight cupcakes [3] or cheesecakes [4] ? I would definitely have a bite…or two! Who am I fooling? I would stop only after finishing them.

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Have you thought about having a Turkish delightful shower? Then maybe you are looking for the shower smoothie called Turkish delight [5]

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What about using a lip balm as sweet as Turkish delight [6]?

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Or perfume [7]?

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I haven’t tried these products yet, but I’m tempted to give them a try. Meanwhile I will delight myself with lokum, looking forward for my next travel to Turkey, in order to get more and more…and more Turkish delight!

Image sources:[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7]

Bibliography:

  1. Turkish Delight (Lokum), “Turkey Travel Planner”
  2. Victoria Combe, Sweet Little History, “The Telegraph”
  3. History, “Hacı Bekır”

 

 

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Türk mutfağı: Love at first taste

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There is nothing more delicious in this world than Türk mutfağı (Turkish cuisine)! It was love at first taste for me!  Heritage of a multi-cultural empire, Turkish cuisine tastes like Anatolia peppered with Middle-Eastern and Central Asian spices, sprinkled with Mediterranean olive oil and flavoured with Balcan herbs. A mouth-watering experience! An explosion of flavours and colours!

Some lezzetli (delicious) proofs from my Turkish adventures:

Turkish kahvaltı (breakfast):

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Ekmek (bread), salata (salad), ayran, peynir (cheese), zeytin (olive), ızgara et (grilled meat)

A quick solution for breakfast, with love from the Aegean coast (Izmir):

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İzmirli Kumru (sandwich made of green pepper, tomatoes and cheese)

I don’t remember the name of the following dish, it resembles tavuk şiş (grilled chicken) with sebzeler (vegetables):

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it was delicious!

A very popular food in Eastern Turkey, in Elazığ they had a whole street of köfte restaurants:

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çiğ köfte (Turkish steak tartare)

Favorilerimden bir tanesi (one of my favourite):

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lahmacun (Turkish pizza with spicy meat and vegetables)

And after a square meal the best Turkish way to quench our thirst is

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Taze ayran (fresh ayran) ve sıcak çay (and hot tea)

AFİYET OLSUN!

Relevant vocabulary:

  • Türk mutfağı=Turkish cuisine
  • Afiyet olsun!=Enjoy your meal!
  • kahvaltı=breakfast
  • öğle yemeği=lunch
  • akşam yemeği=dinner
  • yemek=food
  • su=water
  • içecek=beverage
  • çay=tea
  • süt=milk
  • peynir=cheese
  • baharat=spice
  • tuz=salt
  • biber=pepper (karabiber=black pepper; kırmızıbiber=red/chilli pepper)
  • şeker=sugar
  • çorba=soup
  • ayran=diluted salted yoghurt drink
  • lahmacun=Turkish pizza with spicy meat filling
  • kebap=kebab
  • çiğ köfte=Turkish steak tartare
  • et=meat
  • tavuk=chicken
  • kuzu=lamb
  • sığır eti=beef
  • balık=fish
  • sebze=vegetable
  • meyve=fruit
  • ekmek=bread
  • pirinç=rice
  • patates=potato

DEVAM EDECEK- TO BE CONTINUED