Turkish cuisine presents an expanse of flavors; it first emerged in Central Asia, took root in Anatolia, and spread over three continents. Turkish cuisine is a tradition that harmonizes different cultures into one and to this day is still influencing other geographies.
Turkish cuisine has been influenced, among others, by a history that spread over continents, the cities that open to seas, the severe conditions with which people struggled in Central Asia, the bounty of Anatolia, the winds of Caucasia, the sun of the Mediterranean, the spices of the Silk Road, and the ancient heritage of Mesopotamia. It embraces every culture and leaves a reminder of itself in every corner it has touched.
Turkish people formed their distinguishing characteristics in the severe living conditions of Central Asia; as hunters and gatherers, they dined on meat and milk products. One of the most important nutritional sources of this era was butter. Indeed, one of the most ancient authorities on the Turkish language and culture, Dîvân-ı Lugati’t-Türk, written by Kaşgarlı Mahmud, emphasizes the importance of butter. With migration to Anatolia, the Turkish people settled; a clear transformation to the prairie culture occurred here. The definitive components of the transition to a settled order in Anatolia were agriculture and the processing and storage of produce. These developments had repercussions not only throughout Turkish cuisine, but throughout the world. With the establishment of the Anatolian Seljuq state, cooking techniques in the palace developed, and the organization of the meal gained importance. Special care was given to invitations and the etiquette of feasts. During this time, bread became the most important component of the meal, and the skills involved in making dough spread and flourished. Modest consumption of food and the training of nafs (literal meaning "selfs") were components of tasawwuf, which took shape around the person of Rumi in Anatolia.
In the famous seyahatname (travel literature) of Ibn Batuta, the 14th-century traveler, Anatolia is described as follows: “This is the most beautiful land in the world. While God distributed beauty to other countries one by one, here He brought them all at once. Here are the most beautiful people, the people with the cleanest clothes live here and the most delicious food is cooked here.”
With the introduction of even more variety, Turkish cuisine became even richer during the era of the Ottoman Empire. The foundation on which modern Turkish cuisine is based is the Ottoman imperial cuisine. The empire, which began with the conquest of Constantinople, contributed a great deal to this cuisine. The empire’s master chefs gathered in Istanbul, and a great variety of the best produce was attained from surrounding provinces and states. The produce that came to the palace included honey from Athens, black grapes from Voštica, peanuts from Lesvos, and rice from Egypt. The fact that the Silk Road, with its legendary nature, was controlled by the Ottomans meant that exotic plants and spices could be easily procured -this advantage should not be ignored. On the other hand, the fact that different ethnic groups lived in harmony in the cities, principally Istanbul, added interest and variety to the cuisine. Ottoman cuisine was home to original flavors and was affected by every geography with which it came into contact. The month of Ramadan held a special importance for the Ottoman Empire. The activities that took place within the parameters of Islam, from iftar to sahur, were planned and brought to life with great care.
The full historical journey of Turkish cuisine meant that it was able to take advantage to the greatest extent of the traditions in which it was rooted. Every manifestation of Turkish cuisine, which emerged from the East to the West, is combined with the past, presenting distinguished tastes to today’s world.
A synthesis of exchange culminating in today’s cuisine, Turkish cuisine includes the cooking of the immigrant, the taste of fish caught in season, the lightness of artichokes prepared in olive oil, the delicacy of melted butter poured over mantı (Turkish ravioli)...
Turkish cuisine is a celebration of flavor with over 100 varieties of soups: soup made with yoghurt, meat, grains, and other ingredients. It includes dishes from mantı to börek -food made with dough; meze -a great variety of greens prepared with olive oil; seafood; and desserts made with syrup or milk. Finally, the meal comes to an end with Turkish coffee, a drink that commands great respect and wins hearts.
In this tradition, which never neglects local produce or cooking skills, the importance of working with the hands is never ignored. The expression “eline sağlık” (thank you), said to the person who prepared the meal, is more than just mere politeness. Delicious meals, a large number of guests, hospitality, and great variety are an expression of the Anatolian soul -all these continue as a natural expression of the cuisine’s history over thousands of years.
This is a cuisine where evening meals and weekend breakfasts still bring together the entire family. Dining tables that celebrate special moments with high levels of spirituality -wedding meals, meals to send off soldiers, iftars, and bayram meals - are set up and presented with great sincerity to the guests.