If you´re reading this blog, you are probably a fan of the Turkish cuisine or at least have some curiosity towards it. But where does the Turkish cuisine actually come from? What is the history of some of the delicious dishes that we enjoy today both inside Turkey and internationally?
An important part of the history of Turkish food can be found in the fact that the ancestors of the modern Turkish population were nomads. They depended on agriculture and breeding animals and it was important that food could be preserved and stored easily for their nomadic lifestyle. The meat they had from their animals was mainly goat, beef and mutton and they prepared these as kebabs over a charcoal fire or in an underground oven. Here you can already notice one of the staple dishes of modern Turkey as well, roasted meat or kebab. Even nowadays, the majority of Turkish food is prepared on top of the stove, the oven is not used very frequently.
For this nomadic lifestyle, the meat had to be preserved. Hence, it was prepared and stored in ways so it could be eaten much later, to stock up mainly for the winter months. An example is kavurma, which consists of small cubes of meat which were cooked in their own fat, then salted and stored in containers. Or, preserved meat that was salted, spiced and dried in the sun. Both of these manners of preparing meat can still be found today in the modern Turkish cuisine.
Also, dairy products of the domestic animals they were breeding, played an important role in the nomadic lifestyle. We have often talked about yoghurt and cheese as main ingredients of many Turkish dishes, and this can actually be traced back to the nomads where the diet consisted, next to meat, primarily of yoghurt. Dairy products such as milk and thick yoghurt cream would not only serve as the main elements of a typical nomad breakfast, they were also fermented to make a strong alcohol drink, kimiz, which is still widely consumed in Turkey nowadays.
Furthermore, looking at wheat products, two of the most common used dishes, can actually be traced back to the nomads. We have talked about bulgar on the blog before, which is boiled, dried and cracked wheat, and this was something that the nomads ate a lot and it can still be found as a significant cereal part of the Turkish diet. And the famous yufka bread, made of flour, salt and water, can also be traced back to these days. This bread was dried and stored and therefore very convenient in the Nomadic diet.
Finally, dried fruits were an important part of ancient Turkish food. Fruits were often preserved through drying and sweetening after soaking them in water and grape juice and could be taken on long journeys. And in the modern Turkish diet, dried fruits also play an important role.
Despite many advancements in cooking and agriculture technology, many of the methods of food production are still very similar to that of the nomads. The preserving, cooking and baking still go according to traditional methods and processes, making the Turkish cuisine a very authentic and unique one.