Turkish cuisine is a paradise for food lovers. It has a rich history and tradition behind, with recipes as old as the Ottoman Empire, carried across decades and generations until today. Turkish cuisine was mainly influenced by the multicultural variety of the empire. The list of influences includes the Asian, Mediterranean and Balkan cuisines. Some of the most symbolic dishes for the Turkish cuisine are: taze fasulye (green beans cooked with tomato sauce and spices), lahmacuin (think of it as a Turkish pizza), kebab (meet grilled on a skewer), doner, kofte ( ground meat), guvec (meat casserole), , sucuk (Turkish sausage), musaka and iskender (grilled lamb served with yogurt and tomato sauce) for main courses. For appetizers some traditional meals are humus (mashed chickpeas), ezme (crushed cillies, tomato and onion), tarama (cod roe), beyaz peynir (turkish feta cheese), cacik (cucumbers with a yogurt sauce, mint and garlic), lentil and lamb soup. For side dishes: bulgur and pilaf (rice).
An important aspect of the Turkish cuisine is that it is not the same over the whole country. Different regions have different traditional meals. For example, the Aegean region, including Istanbul, is richer in vegetables. This is why stuffed vegetables such as karniyarik (eggplant stuffed with minced meat), dolma (vegetables stuffed eggplant, stuffed pepper), sarma (vine leaves wrapped around a filling of rice, vegetables, and spices) and vegetable stews are traditional for this part of the country. Other aspects of this region are a lighter use of spices and using more rice over bulgur.
In the Black Sea region, fish represents an important aspect of the traditional cooking. Hamsi, which in English is called the Black Sea Anchovy is one of the most popular meals. In this region, other popular meals are maize dishes.
The characteristics of South East cuisine are kebabs, mezez and desserts made of pastry. For example baklava, sobiyet and kadaif. If you go to turkey, trying the rose and pistachio ice cream is a must. Also, do not forget to try sutlac (rice pudding), halva, lokum, pismaniye, kunefe, revani, pestil or zerde.
Turkey also has some traditional drinks, for example Raki. It is an anise-flavoured alcoholic drink, usually made from the leftover grapes from the wine making process. Another popular alcoholic drink is the Turkish beer Efes Pilsner. Non alcoholic drinks include: Turkish coffee (strong like an espresso), black tea, or çay (Turkish name) an important part of a traditional Turkish breakfast, but served throughout the day too. Another traditional drink is ayran made from fat yougurt, water and salt and sometimes with black pepper. Kefir is a drink prepared from milk and kefir grains and salgam suyu is a drink rich in vitamin C because it is made from kale or purple carrots. Other traditional drinks are: sahlep, made from wild orchid roots and sherbet, made from fruits and plants.
– Irina Cristache, Correspondent (Food)