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B - 5 : What is Turkish Cuisine?

Am very happy to confirm that our fabulous Turkish chef from last year will be with us again - as actually most of last year’s crew. To refresh your memory and whet your appetite, I hade planned to write a few lines on the Turkish Cuisine - hmmmmm.... But what actually is the Turkish Cuisine?

Is it the various charcoal grilled meats we find everywhere? Predominantly lamb and beef?

Or the stuffed vegetables with their delicious fillings of rice, minced meat and herbs?

Or the yummie sea food I remember so well?

Or the incredible variety of delicious Mezzes?

Consulting several cooking books i did not find a good answer and this blog is too short to summarise the 4 books I browsed through. But i stumled on an answer that is probably a good proxy.

The Turkic people lived originally just west of Xinjing, China’s most western province. Their neighbors to the east were the Mongols. The Turkic tribes lived a traditional nomadic life in the steps and woods that made their home region. Always on the move with their tents that looked very similar to the yurts we know from Mongolia. The Chinese respected the Turks as fearsome warrios, and were ever so often at war with them. But most of the time they bought horses from them for their own cavalry and paid in silk (and sometimes topped it up with a royal princess).

Could not find out when exactly the Turks moved west. But we know that they concluded an alliance with the Byzantine Emperor Heraclios in 610 AD who paid them for attacking Persia from the north. In later centuries, the Arab Khalifs hired them as mercenaries, they defeated the Byzantines in Manzikert in 1086 and then settled in Anatolia. A good 200 years later they established the Mameluk Dynasty in Egypt and eliminated the last stronghold of the Crusaders (Akko), created the Ottoman Empire around the Eastern and Southern rim of the Mediterranean and eventually established the mighty Mogul Empire in India, the biggest empire the subcontinent had ever seen.

These historical details do not really matter for this story except that they are good evidence for how much the Turks got around. I thus guess they picked up up the local food traditions from the various regions they occupied and dominated. The Turkish Cuisine is thus very varied. Rice and meat dominate the north. Wheat, bulgar, vegetables and lamb are predominant in Central Anatolia. Vegetables, sea food and olives can be found in the coastal regions. Am sure our chef will serve us all of the above - this year I am going to ask him where his dishes are from.

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