For me, there is nothing like an elaborate Turkish breakfast spread. The kind that is only reserved for weekends and where you linger for hours long after the eating has finished and you are on your fifth cup of tea.
I realized that I often talk about my obsession with this Turkish kahvalti, but have yet to do a post explaining the intricacies of one of my favorite morning meals.
Where shall we start?
First of all, let’s get something clear. Weekday Turkish breakfasts are not as lavish as their weekend counterparts and are much more mobile. They usually consist of something simple, like simit (a type of circular bread usually encrusted with sesame seeds), sometimes with a wedge of cheese.
That being said Turkish breakfasts are the social and culinary highlights of the weekend. They are served meze-style (small plates) with usually one or two main dishes. Here’s what usually makes a frequent appearance.
Olives. In Turkey, olives are a national treasure and there are endless varieties available at the local market. They vary in their saltiness and tang, and come in various shades of greens and blacks and always have pits. It is believed that if you swallow an olive pit any digestive ailments will be cured, but I have yet to confirm that personally.
Cheese. There are many varieties of cheese available in Turkey, one of the more popular ones being beyaz peynir (while cow cheese). It is salty and has a strong odor similar to goat’s cheese. Not always the best idea to stick your nose in the cheese container first thing in the morning I tell you.
There are also widely available cheeses like orgu peynir (braided cheese), that has a taste similar to mozzarella cheese and is stringy consistency and kasar peynir that also tastes like mozzarella and is often melted between bread and toasted to make a delicious breakfast sandwich.
Fresh veggies. One of the most surprising things for me with this meal was having fresh arugula, Charleston peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers at the breakfast table. It seemed like I was having a side of salad with my eggs. The arugula is often sprinkled with fresh lemon juice and the tomatoes and cucumber with olive oil and a pinch of salt. Now this healthy addition that balances out a sugary, carb-laden meal makes complete sense. So good.
Sweet spreads. There is nothing like homemade apricot jam, a drizzle of bal kaymak (clotted cream mixed with honey) or a dallop of pekmez (grape extract mixed with tahini) on freshly made bread, which brings me to the next item…
Bread. It is not a complete meal without bread, and the fresher the better. In Izmir, there was a man who delivered a fresh baguette to your apartment every morning if you asked. It was that important. You would see little children on the weekends coming back from the neighborhood market grasping several plastic bags containing gold freshly baked bread.
Tea. Tea reins over coffee for the national breakfast beverage of choice and it is not rare to drink your weight in tea by the time your meal is over. There is one carmel-colored tea that is ubiquitous all over Turkey and can be sweetened with sugar cubes. Turkish coffee is always reserved for after the meal and is strong, thick and has a fortune-telling ability if you are lucky.
Menemem. An egg dish that contains bell peppers, onions and the key ingredient: tomatoes that gives the dish a perfectly creamy texture. After this dish, it is hard to eat plain old scrambled eggs ever again.
Sucuklu yumurta. This egg and sausage dish might seem basic at first glance, but the spiced flavor of the sausage make it much more complex and naturally delicious. I ate this dish for two straight weeks when I first arrived in Turkey, no joke. Of course my arteries weren’t too thrilled.
Tost. The Turkish version of a grilled cheese that is made with the aforementioned kasar cheese, but usually eaten during breakfast. There is a restaurant called Sut Evi (Milk House) that we would often stop at on our way to the beach town of Foca from Izmir and it served the best tost sandwiches with sucuk. That sandwich is definitely part of my Turkish nostalgia cravings.