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  The Ottoman Cuisine  
  A Little More Than mere teaching  
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First You will read an article from the Village Voice of NY City on Turkish Cooking
  It's a rare restaurant that undergoes such a trial and passes with flying colors.
On a recent Sunday afternoon, 10 of us charged into Istanbul—a new Turkish restaurant in Rego Park—demanding to be fed in a timely fashion. Hunkering
down at a long table in the rear, we noted that the decor is pure carryout in the
front, where the blinding fluorescent light rivals the sun. The rear is more elegant, sparingly decorated with the occasional rug and beaten-copper serving platter,
but the light is still too bright, especially for those who intend to drink any
quantity of Turkish Efes beer ($3.50). As we contemplated our order, a chef
in a billowy white outfit emerged from the kitchen wagging a long, silver fish
by the tail. Of course, we had to have that fish
  It turned out to be a branzino (seasonal price, $18), which was rapidly ferried
to the gas grill in the front window. As we waited for our fish, we attacked the
meze, or small appetizing dishes. Anatolians are eggplant crazy, and the menu
lists four treatments of the purple vegetable. There's a baba ghanoush (patlican ezmesi) about average in smokiness, and another dip (patlican salatasi) that
deducts the tahini from the baba and adds enough raw garlic and olive oil to
leave your lips burning and glistening. A further pair of appetizers features
slices of fried eggplant, one gobbed with thickened yogurt, the other awash
in a thin and spicy tomato sauce. All eggplant concoctions are $4, and all
come with a warm round homemade loaf.
If you're not an eggplant fan, other starters beckon. That Sunday afternoon,
we enjoyed cumin-dusted cubes of calf's liver ($7), feta-filled pastry tubes
poetically known as fingers of Fatima ($6), and a spicy dip of pureed red
peppers and finely diced veggies called acili ezme, which sounds like an
incurable teenage skin disease. The apps arrived one or two at a time so
we could properly enjoy them. Pacing is a major problem in many restaurants,
but it's one that's been solved at Istanbul. Of course, 90 percent of the
appetizers are already prepared, requiring the chef to do no more than wield
a large spoon and a small plate.

The carnivores among you are probably perched on the edge of
your seats waiting to hear about the meaty kebabs that make up
the entrée half of Turkish menus. As usual, the adana kebab
($10.99) rocks hardest, an undulating column of chopped lamb mixed
with chiles, with enough fat to leave it succulent and smelling of the pasture.
Sadly, the lamb doner kebab (a/k/a shawarma or gyro) is often on
the dry side. This can be remedied by ordering iskender kebab, which downloads the doner onto a bed of toasted pide bread and bombs it
with butter, garlic, yogurt, and tomato sauce. This gut bomb was invented at a restaurant called Iskender in the town of Bursa. You
can induce the staff at Istanbul to treat any kebab in this fashion,
and the adana is particularly good this way.

You'll need a cup of Turkish coffee to restore your biochemical equilibrium after so much grease and yogurt. And no, you're not supposed to drink the crud that accumulates at the bottom of the tiny cup.

  The article is from
The Village Voice of New York City Thursday, january 5, 2006
(Patlıcan Dolması)
One kilo of eggplants will be put into salted water with their stemless heads cut off and innards removed. Four or five medium-sized onions are finely chopped and slightly fried in olive oil in a pan. The removed eggplant innards are cooked in a separate saucepan and stuffed back into the eggplants together with one glass of washed rice, salt, pepper and mint. The heads cut before will be put back on the eggplants and a hole will be made in their bottoms with a sharp-pointed knife. All the eggplants are laid into the saucepan, cooked in water enough to cover them all and served when cold.  
  Mixed Dolmas  
Six medium-sized onions are finely chopped and placed into a saucepan together with two tablespoonfuls of pine nuts. The mixture is fried until the nuts turn light brownish. 1,5 glasses of rice is added and turned a few times. Salt to taste is added. One tablespoonful of sugar, 2,5 glasses of water and two table spoonfuls of pine nuts are put on the mixture which will be cooked until it loses all its water. Cinnamon, pimento, black pepper and two tablespoonfuls of lemon juice is added together with finely chopped parsley and dill. The saucepan is removed from the fire and let to ripen for about the minutes. The prepared materials will then be filled into vine leaves and bell peppers. Both will be cooked separately with sufficient water to cover them up. When cooled, the dolmas will be served together with slices of lemon.  
  Meat and Eggplant Stew  
Four eggplants are skinned, cut in thin lengthwise slices and fried in liquid fat, and cooked until they soften together with Half a kilo of walnut-size chunks of meat, chopped onions, tomato paste, salt, black pepper, fat and water. Eggplant slices are placed on a tray in crosswise twins. The cooked meat is placed on the centre and eggplants are bundled. Round slices of tomato are put on top of each bundle and toothpicks are pushed into it in order to keep the bundles together, Sauced water in the saucepan is poured into the tray and cooked for about 15 to 20 minutes before serving warm.  
(Kol Böreği)
Five or six eggs broken into water with some ash together with three tablespoonfuls of cooking fat and salt are beaten thoroughly and flour is slowly added to it and a dough made of it. Apple-sized clumps are made of this dough. At another side, a stuffing is prepared with cheese, parsley, two eggs, the roast of two finely chopped medium-sized onions and 300 grammes of ground meat. Hands are oiled and fine sheets are rolled from the dough clumps. The stuffing is placed lengthwise into the sheets which are then rolled and placed into an oiled tray. Melted butter is poured on it before the tray is put into furnace. Note: Clean ash of charcoal is mixed with water and let to repose. A clear water will be obtained when the ash settles at the bottom. This water is used as baking powder; it also helps to have a soft fritter. The ash water prepared with one glass of brazier ash and four glasses of water is sufficient for a quarter kilo of flour.  
(Kağıt Kebabı)
One kilo of meat from chest or leg side will be chopped without removing their bones and thoroughly mixed with two finely-chopped medium-sized onions, salt and pepper to taste, pimento and sweet-basil and left for about half an hour to become seasoned. It will then be put on an oil paper of which for ends will be brought together, tied with a string, cooked on a low fire and served hot.  
  Lamp Liver Stew  
One piece of lamp intestinal sheet is washed thoroughly and kept in one glassful of lukewarm water. 350 grammes of lamb's liver is skinned and finely ground together with 150 grammes of lungs. Salt to taste is added and the mixture is cooked until its own juice into which it is poured evaporates. Half a water glass of rice is washed. A heaped tablespoon of pine nuts are fried in a saucepan until they become light brown and rice is added. One glass of hot water, salt and dried currant is put on the nuts and cooked until the water evaporates. Finely chopped green onions are added to the mixture and blended together. Liver, mint and black pepper is added to the rice mixture. Intestinal sheet is taken out of water, the cooked mixture is placed into it and closed to the shape of a bundle on which the beaten yolk of an egg is swiped and the bundle is cooked for 40 to 45 minutes in medium fire with the addition of water.  
  History *  
There are also certain Turkish names such as "barbunya" (red mullet) originating from Italian, which was probably first used in the Greek language.
Turning our attention to Central and Eastern Anatolia, the Armenian cuisine is found in these regions. Armenian and Iranian dishes have a lot of similarities. For example, meat dishes cooked with fruits such as plum or quince are present in both cuisines. However these dishes were not too popular in the Ottoman kitchens. It is possible to deduce that the meat dishes with vegetables, "basti" (stew, ragouts) and "musakka" (stewed eggplant) spread and improved as a result of Eastern influences ("musakka" is in-fact an Arabic word)
Stuffed Okras  
  Under the integration of a grand Empire, the interaction and exchange between these different cultures must have been a fascinating process. This could not be seen as a one-way process, whereby the Turks took from the Anatolian Greeks and Armenians or vice-versa.

According to reliable sources, by the end of the seventeenth century, the Topkapi Palace archives recorded that the main food items bought were sheep and grain. Also at the time, the "Bostanci Ocagi" (Bostanci: person in-charge of the land plot for farming fruit and vegetables. Ocak: regiment of the Ottoman army) guarded the Palace. This regiment was both a military force guarding the Palace as well as a group responsible for growing fruit and vegetables in the Palace grounds. "Lady's Fingers" (Okra) and "Cabbage Regiments" were established much earlier, during the reign of Mehmet I. Henceforth, the vegetables were grown in excessive quantities and this "excess" was traded under certain conditions to provide extra income for this regiment.

It was in the wake of the eighteenth century that food was appreciated for the pleasure of the palate, cooking techniques were refined and the variety of dishes ballooned. During the rapid expansion era of the Ottoman Empire, the sultans had intrinsically strong military ethics. Further, the Muslim principles did not avail opulence.

  It was probably during the reign of Süleyman The Magnificent, which in some ways marked the golden age of the Ottoman history, that the ostentatious feasts and flamboyant costumes and ceremonies were taking place.

The most talked about example is of Vizier Ibrahim Pasa, who offered "hosaf" (a desert made of stewed fruits) to Süleyman in bowls made of ice, specially brought from the Uludag Mountain during his son's circumcision ceremony. However, I am of the opinion that even for this period such spectacular feasts were the exception rather than the rule and, thus I believe that this occasion is remembered because of the sensation it created. After the death of Süleyman and the I. Vienna Besiegement, the path for both military development and expansion was interrupted. To summarize, the conditions for military expansion were eliminated. In the middle of the seventeenth century, let alone the expansion possibility, it was a challenge just to hold on to the lands already occupied. When a substantial amount of land was lost as a result of the peace settlement signed at the end of the century in Karlofça, the hope to regain the lost land was gone. Thus, the mood of the Ottomans was quite different at the beginning of the eighteenth century. In this period referred to as the "Tulip Period", we see the initial attempts to become westernized. However, the most challenging problem for the Empire was to make people accept its supremacy under these new conditions. The Imperial heritage was based on the strong image of the sultan as a "Conqueror", however there was little opportunity to prove such power any longer.

  Similar conditions lead to similar results. We also see among Ottomans, a parallel role as played by Louis XIV in the evolution of the French cuisine. The sultan had invited the elites, the powerful persons and families of the country to collective consumption instead of collective war. In this period, the large areas on the Bosphorus had been donated to such families and individuals. Grand feasts were organized in Sadabad on the Golden Horn and similar open-air picnic and amusement grounds. Pleasure and joy, the first things associated with the "Tulip Period" had started.  
  History, be it good or bad, is always full of contradictions. "Decadence" has negative connotations, however, "decadence" also leads to refinement in many areas. Many social thinkers, including Ibn Haldun and Dr. Hikmet Kivilcimli deliberated the close interrelation between "civilization" and "degeneration". The Tulip Period was exactly as such. For instance, most of the elites in this period were trying to grow new varieties of the tulip. In the meantime, Nedim-i Seyda, a famous Ottoman poet, was writing lyrics, called "ghazel", (a special kind of poem, that can be adapted to music).

Sharing extravagance with the upper classes appeases them and affirms the supremacy of the sultan, who represents the state. But then, one enters a vicious cycle: how does one control the "ordinary", not being part of this circle of pleasure? As a matter of fact, the Tulip Period ended with a public revolt. Since the conditions of the Ottoman culture did not allow for a social "revolution" similar to those in Western countries, the Patrona Uprising replaced the sultan and those surrounding him, however similar to the other uprisings that took place before or after, it did not alter the system.


Although much attention has been given to the Ottoman history, it is not so easy to isolate a country's cuisine from its history. As far as the rich Ottoman cuisine that we know today is concerned, the most important developmental steps were taken during these chaotic years. Dishes like "tandir" (meat roasted in a large pit), "püryan" (I could not find what kind of dish was this), "kuyu kebabi" (pit kebab) had probably existed in earlier days. However, much of the fine-tuning in techniques was applied in this period and developed later.

For instance, our dishes are substantially similar to those of Greece; most of them are identical. Nationalistic sentiments aside, our dishes are generally better, although their origin is Greek. The reason for this, I believe, is that the capital of the Ottoman Empire was in Turkey. Accordingly, the care, the meticulousness, the technique is more advanced here. Naturally, this is not my judgment alone. Besides many observers - and most convincingly - the Greek citizens who migrated from Turkey, especially from Istanbul confirm this. I remember that in the restaurants and taverns managed by these people in Greece, the guarantee that "the quality of food is not lower than in Istanbul" is communicated.

  I have visited restaurants where traditional dishes are served in Belgrade and Sofia. It is certain that these traditional dishes have an Ottoman origin and generally their names are the same: "sikembe", "kapama" etc. Offal is an important category in this region. Again the same: the one cooked in Istanbul is better. Istanbul and Paris are similar in this regard, namely, they are the capitals and centers of politics as well as culture and therefore center of the more refined gourmet cuisine. Nevertheless, this is not the case for China, which has one of the world's grandest cuisines: alongside the capital Beijing, Canton or Shanghai have always existed as important and different gastronomic centers. In the final analysis, neither Istanbul nor Paris could assimilate all the local cuisines. In diverse regions of France, there are dishes unknown to those in the capital. This is also the case for Turkey. For example, the cuisine of Gaziantep is really rich and has good qualities, however, the authentic dishes of Gaziantep have not entered the Istanbul kitchen. Similarly, most dishes from the "Laz" culture in the Black Sea region have remained local - if the Pafuli Restaurant had not opened, it would not be possible to eat "mihlama" or bean pickles in Istanbul, today. Recently however, many European dishes have been introduced in the diet that we call "Turkish", from tomato soup to roasted meat with mashed potato. As a final point, within the wide framework of what is referred to as the Ottoman cuisine, "home-made dishes" have an important place. Many dishes with intricate and complex steps, such as "dolma" (stuffed dishes), "mantı" (Turkish ravioli) and variety of layered & filled pastry (börek), "içli köfte" (meatballs coated with cracked-wheat), in short "complicated", are also cooked in the homes.  
  Naturally this phenomenon is itself the consequence of a long and complicated history, but let's not delve into this. Briefly, this fact is due to the late development of the restaurants and the almost integrated lives of the rich and the poor in the traditional Istanbul life. This is comparable to the Chinese in certain aspects, however not so much to the French. The second point is that among the Ottomans as among the Chinese, the prevalence of the middle class conditions had a strong impact of traditionalism in cooking methods (ingredients, time and style of cooking and so on). While in France, since the "restaurant" has a strong, determining position, "novelty" and creativity" factors have taken precedence. Today however, especially among the urban and upper-middle classes and for families where both men and women work, this situation has dramatically changed. The irony of having to go to a restaurant to have a home-cooked meal has almost become a daily reality.  
  We provide an extract from the book, "Cuisine Culture Throughout History", written by Murat Belge and published by İletişim Yayınları.  
  *Turkish Time. Türkiye İhracatçılar Meclisi Yayın Organından alınmıştır.
Copied from Publication of the Turkish exporters Association.
  Uzman Öğretim Elemanından
İngilizce Özel Ders
0532 252 42 81
  The Story of Turkish Food: A Prologue  
  A Nurturing Environment  
  Kitchen of the Imperial Palace  
  A Repertory of Food at the Great-Good Places  
  Grains: Bread to Borek  
  Grilled Meats  
  "Meze" Dishes to Accompany the Spirits  
  Fish and other Sea-Food  
  The Real Story of Sweets: Beyond the Baklava  
  Beverages: Coffee and "Ayran" andmore  
  The Food Protocol for The Culturally Correct  
  Food and Spirituality  
  Contemporary Concerns: Diet and Health  
  * Soup  
  * Hors D'oeuvre and Salad  
  * Pastries  
  * Fish and Seafood  
  * Vegetable Dishes in Olive Oil  
  * Vegetable Dishes with Meat  
  * Meat Dishes  
  * Desserts  
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  A Little More Than mere teaching  
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  We are Thankful to Focus Multi-media editors for the valuable info on
Turkish Cusine
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