Makan

Turkish cuisine is more than just kebabs

A new breed of cooks has shaken up the Istanbul food scene with an innovative approach to Turkish cooking, while others are on a mission to show there is more to the nation's cuisine than the doner kebab.

For many outside the country, Turkish food brings to mind images of pita bread stuffed with shavings of meat roasted on a vertical spit, usually consumed after a heavy night of drinking.

The doner was brought to western Europe by the Turkish diaspora, especially those in Germany where additions like salad and mayonnaise have made it a heavier meal than in Turkey.

But have you ever tried karniyarik, a dish of eggplants stuffed with a meat filling, or cilbir - poached eggs in garlic yoghurt?

Ever heard of tulum cheese, a traditional cheese ripened in a goat's skin, or a dessert called cezerye - caramelised carrot with coconut?

"Turkish cuisine is largely known abroad through doner and kebab," said Ms Defne Ertan Tuysuzoglu, Turkey director of Le Cordon Bleu, an international culinary academy, which started in Paris and now has campuses all over the world.

"Turkish cuisine is not well known," agreed Ms Aylin Yazicioglu, executive chef at Istanbul's Nicole Restaurant.

CHANGING

"The food that comes to mind when people talk about Turkey are, unfortunately, all bad examples.

"We see this changing slowly. We'll do our best to change it."

At Nicole, diners are offered a multi-course tasting menu of local products aimed at showing off the best that Turkish cuisine has to offer.

"I believe that in a world geared towards the 'local', we've started to understand the value of our cuisine. We've started to realise the value of our products," said Ms Yazicioglu.

"In our country, everything is available throughout the four seasons."

Turkish food, she said, has much to offer and needs to promote its greatest assets, such as olive oil.

But to truly change perceptions, more work is required.

"I can say there's been a movement, but it would be too (hasty) to talk about a revolution. The conditions are not yet ripe for a revolution," she said. - AFP

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