Way more than kebab

The Turkish cuisine came up with one of the most famous and historical dishes worldwide: kebab. The people here said it was not appropriate to only talk about kebab, because the Turkish cuisine is so much more than that. What is traditional Turkish and are there any new trends?

Efe Kaan Ulu, professor at the Gastronomy department of the Bilgi university, tells that Turkey views it regional when they talk about food. According to him there are seven regions. In the North of Turkey there are a lot of mountains. It is also known as the Black Sea region. It rains a lot, and it is very humid. This region is famous for the number of fish they produce. Also, they have a lot of corn there, which makes it possible to make bread. Where the North is known for fish, the East (Eastern Anatolia) earn their stripes by producing a lot of meat. “This region is a combination of mountains and flat land. Therefore, this area takes care of many animals.”Efe Kaan says that this region is where the kebab originated.

Even though the North and East deliver the fish and the meat, it is the Southern part of Turkey that is most important to the food culture. This region is home to Gaziantep, the gastronomy capital of Turkey. “They are very innovative there. Many dishes contain meat combined with fruit and a lot of stew dishes originally come from here.”
Istanbul appears to be a city which takes a little bit from everywhere.

When Efe Kaan was asked if the upcome of organic and biological food in Europe is seen as a trend in Turkey also his answer was clear. “No, we do have certain regions where we eat a lot of vegetarian food. For example, the area where I am from, Marmara. This region is Balkan originated, which means we copy a lot of their food habits.”
He mentions that, instead of meat, they consume and produce more chicken. The region is also known for their cabbage and onions.

“Just as Marmara, the Asian side of Turkey contains less meat consumption. It has similarities with Mediterranean food.” Efe Kaan does mention another food trend. The focus nowadays is on the use of old seeds. Before, the Turks used laboratory seeds for farming. In today’s age farmers seek for old seeds coming from their land. This trend is especially upcoming in Anatolia.

A strange thing about Istanbul is that nobody exactly knows the population. Officially, Wikipedia states the population as 15,46 million, but residents from the city talk about a much higher amount. A trend that is upcoming is the increasement of expensive restaurants. This of course is destined for the wealthy people in Istanbul. “These are very good restaurants, but not traditional. On the menu, you find burgers, pizza, or pastas.”
In Istanbul there are a lot of people from outside the country who earn a lot of money, but the city consists mainly students.

Efe Kaan estimates that, out of twenty million people in Istanbul, 10 to 15% are students. “Students are not able to spend a lot of money normally. This is the reason we have so many kebab places in Istanbul. It is cheap and students choose cheap”, says Mertcan, who is a student living in Istanbul.

There are so many options to eat out, which clashes with their tradition. “Many families eat in, they cook themselves. It is traditional that a family gathers and eat with everyone.”
In the Netherlands, eating out is a whole happening. You often eat dishes that you normally do not eat at home. “In Turkey, this is different”, Mertcan tells. “Here you have restaurants where you can buy simple dishes such as rice with pide, or some soup. I would say 3 out of 7 nights people eat out.” However, with the recent rise of the inflation this number is likely going to decrease.

According to TUÏK, a Turkish statistical bureau, the prices in Turkey increased by 55,2% in February 2023. “Yes, the inflation was at 160% almost”, tells Efe Kaan, “It affects the people a lot.” Turkey tried to lower the impact of the inflation by increasing the salary. TUÏK states that the minimum wage got increased by 55%. “Most people got a salary raise, but it did not catch the exact inflation grade. People buy less of everything when they go to the supermarket. Less meat, less cheese.”

Not only the people feel the pain of the inflation, but also restaurants are heavily affected by it.
The restaurants are more and more reducing the purchase of expensive ingredients. “What you see a lot is the downscaling of the weight of meat in their dishes. For example, the meat capacity in burgers is lowered from 150 grams to 120 grams. To balance the inflation, they also make their dish a little more expensive.”

This does not mean it takes away the splendour of the Turkish cuisine. It stays a cuisine which is full of taste and ingredients and therefore the Turks will keep eating their most famous dishes.