“It is essential to have bread during the meal” is the first principle laid down by Turkey’s Association of Cuisine Professionals. That bread is present when eating be done is as binding as a religious commandment.
Both bread and water are considered holy in Turkey. Bread is considered a blessing from God, thus even a small piece is considered precious. A Turk who comes across a piece of bread on the street takes it to a higher spot after kissing the food first.
Living on breaded meals in Turkey would be no problem at all. You could have a sesame-studded simit (bread ring) for breakfast, crusty bread and cheese for lunch, a spicy meat lahmacun (Turkish pizza) drizzled with lemon for dinner. You could even top it off with a midnight swig of boza (fermented millet drink).
Bread in all shapes and sizes
Ekmek is the general term for bread of any sort but these days spongy white sourdough loaves are found everywhere. It can be shaped into oblongs, circles, long tubes, plaits or small rolls, glazed with egg yolk or milk, sprinkled with sesame, poppy or nigella seeds, or just left plain. It is usually made with strong white flour, to which a little wholemeal flour is sometimes added.
Pide (flatbread) is basic homemade village fare as well as a pouch for döner and a base for pizza.
Lavaş (thin crispy bread) is yeast free but ballons exuberantly when cooked.
The chewy simit is sold in every town square and on just about every street corner in Turkey.
Turks are inclined to eat their bread plain, in between mouthfuls of food or with a little salt. Butter isn’t usually offered but as most restaurants will have a pat available, you can probably get some to spread on your slice.
During Ramazan (the month of fasting), normal loaves are sold in the mornings, but pide with çörekotu (black cumin seeds) is sold in the afternoons so hungry people have something special with which to break the day’s fast. You can still find this pide for the rest of the year although it’s not as plentiful.
Lahmacun is a type of pizza, most often topped with ground meat, onion, chilli and parsley. Other possible toppings include cheese, meat pieces and sausage. The classic lahmacun is oval and about a foot long, though restaurants may make palm-sized portions.
Each region has its own way of making lahmacun. For example, in Antep they’re made with garlic but no onion and in Samsun they’re made in boat shapes with filling-hugging edges.
The best come from big woodfire ovens and are paddled in and out on wooden oars.
When you’re not doing it daintily, lahmacun is eaten as follows: slice it into strips, drizzle with lemon, daub it with chunks of tomato, roll it up and eat it with your fingers. Once it’s finished, you can eat the debris off your hands and arms.
You can eat your lahmacun with a knife and fork, but it’s not as much fun!
Is there bread on the hook?
In Turkey, there’s an ancient tradition called Askıda Ekmek, which relates to paying it forward with bread.
Click on the link below to read an interesting article by Lisa Morrow which explains Turkey’s ancient tradition.
Turkey’s ancient tradition of ‘paying it forward’
Sources: World Food Turkey/ Daily Sabah/BBC
This article was first published on 25 June 2021.