Turkey’s riches are unlimited… Besides the places to see and its beautiful nature, our country also has regional flavors that are so delicious.
If you have a sweet tooth just as I do, Anatolia will open up endless horizons to you. Don’t think that all the sweets I taste at the places I visit force me out of my course, because every new route takes me to a new delicious taste. If you would like to join me on my favorite roads, historical bazaars, and streets at this time, let’s go all together and eat sweets talk sweets.
ŞAMBALİ OF İZMİR
İzmir’s delicious flavors are countless, boyoz, simit, kumru, seafood, herbs. One who has not seen Kordon and Kemeraltı in İzmir cannot say I saw İzmir. İzmir is full of historical landmarks like the Kemeraltı bazaar, the Kızlar Agası Inn, the Hisarönü Mosque, coffee shops, fish markets, bakeries, and nostalgic streets of my childhood. The best of şambali, a famous dessert identified with İzmir, is here, Meşhur Hisarönü Şambalicisi… Originally called Şambalı, the dessert does not contain honey, although the name refers to it. Contrary to many desserts, it does not contain flour, butter, or eggs. Şambali is made with semolina, sugar and milk. It can be served with cream of milk or cinnamon depending on your taste. Although it is sold topped with a peanut today, it used to come with an almond on top originally. It is not eaten from a plate, a piece of wax paper is wrapped around it to hold it. It used to be homemade and sold in tricycle food carts. Now we line up in front of a small shop.
Although şambali seems as if it belongs to the Middle East, it has Balkan origins. It adapts to its unique identity in İzmir at the beginning of the 1900s shaped by the war with the Balkan immigrants and the climate conditions. It might be considered as the synthesis of the famous dessert called revani of the Balkans and the Aleppo dessert of the Middle East. Founded by Adem Saatçi, who migrated to İzmir from Plovdiv, Bulgaria in 1939, Hisarönü Şambalicisi is a sustained, sweet tradition for everyone. Important tips are black oven, wood fire, copper tray. Şambali has also registered as a geographical indication just as boyoz and kumru has, increasing its recognition.
CHEESE HALVA OF ÇANAKKALE
You are enveloped by a feeling of being in a sorrowful geography while you are walking among the battle fields in Çanakkale, where one of the largest ground wars of the 20th Century was fought. This place is an open-air museum swarmed by tourists from all over the world. Tourists who come to visit this region don’t leave before tasting the cheese halva. Although no one notices while eating it, this halva is made of cheese. It is served baked or not baked depending on your taste, the most famous maker of this halva is Kadir Usta who has solved all its secrets in this business after forty years. The cheese is produced from sheep’s milk, the fat ratio of which is higher. While the milk is filtered in special tanks, it is sterilized. Therefore, you cannot smell the strong milk scent. Although, there are some bakers who make it out of cow’s or goat’s milk, Kadir Usta says he would choose not to make the halva if he couldn’t find sheep’s milk because he would not be able to capture the same great taste. Kadir Usta makes wonderful tahini halva with no preservatives as well. My selection is the hot baked cheese halva and a scoop of mastic ice cream on top suits it well.
KÜNEFE OF HATAY
Hatay is a giant treasure to stroll, to shop in, and to taste from; its world-known Mosaic Museum, St. Simon Monastery, the Habib-i Neccar Mosque, its bazaars, and streets lined with old houses. Hatay’s cuisine is a synthesis. It bears the marks of numerous civilizations. Turkish, Arabic, and French influences are distinguishable in every meal. Moreover, it was selected to take place in UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network as a creative city of gastronomy with over 600 unique flavors. It was not a surprise. This is the hometown of künefe. The most experienced region on the subject in Turkey is the Southeastern but the king of künefe is in Hatay in my opinion.
Different makers give different tips; however, according to the general opinion a good künefe should contain 40 percent shredded phyllo dough, 40 percent cheese, and 20 percent butter. The low proportion of dough and sugar makes it a lighter dessert compared to the other pastry desserts in my opinion, although many do not agree with me. Having been famous with his künefe made in the shade of a 124-year-old plane tree in Antakya, Yusuf Usta demonstrates his style of making künefe on a barbecue. When we consider that eating künefe everyday in this city is not something unusual, you might want to stop by for a künefe tasting at Tarihi Bizim Künefeci. According to Ragıp Usta who learned the fine details of künefe making from his father the secret is to make it in a copper tray and on embers. He also recommends drinking a cup of cold milk beside künefe to distinguish the taste of the desert.
RICE PUDDING OF HAMSİKÖY
The Zigana Pass, which connects the Black Sea coasts to the inner regions of Anatolia, has remained its significance during history. Caravans of the Silk Road starting from China passes through this road; goods come to the Trabzon port and sent to Europe from there. According to the villagers of Hamsiköy, stretches between the Zigana Mountains at 1245-meter altitude, this place used to be more colorful. The Ziga road, which was the only option then, used to advance through the Hamsiköy village among the green forests, therefore everyone used to stop here in the village to eat their famous rice pudding. After the main road that goes around the village instead of going through was built, all the large rice pudding shops moved on to the main road. Although the roads of Hamsiköy have changed, the fame of its rice pudding has remained the same. If you are going to eat the Hamsiköy rice pudding from this village, make sure that it is made with the cows’ milk raised in the Hamsiköy plateaus. The cows’ milk of these plateaus contain
Because this region’s milk has plenty of fat, the Ziganas’ air, wind, the smell of flowers and herbs. Whether you eat it in Hamsiköy, the highest altitude village of Maçka, or from,
Niyazi Usta or anywhere else the keyword is milk! Fresh milk is boiled for 4 hours, rice is thrown in, baked in earthenware pots. Although the rice pudding is usually served with ground hazelnuts on top, it is recommended to try it first without a topping to enjoy its distinct flavor. Milk Festival, which is held each year in the region in August, is a feast for the eyes and the heart.
BİCİBİCİ OF ADANA
Adana has a unique cuisine and an ambience. Adana is a destination worth visiting from its Sunday morning fried liver eating rituals to its colorful birds market, historical and fun places. The solution for Adana’s sultry weather is its cooling dessert called bicibici. It is basically sugar-free pudding made with water instead of milk, sprinkled with rose water and powdered sugar and served with shaved ice on top. You should visit Adnan Menderes Boulevard’s adjacent street that faces River Seyhan to enjoy the most unique bicibici sold there. Vendors display their goods along the banks of the river. If you would like to experience Adana as a local does, you should sit on a small stool there and enjoy the view.
BAKLAVA OF GAZİANTEP
Gaziantep does not only have you experience the true Southeast with its museums, old streets, houses, and bazaars; it also opens the door to a real legend for your palatal delight with its cuisine. This city can keep you busy for days only with its cuisine, making sure you will want more. While the experts argue about baklava, we should realize that tasting baklava must be in our bucket list. You should visit İmam Çağdaş, where you can taste the best baklavas in Turkey. After trying the baklava with phyllo dough rolled so thin, with delicious pistachio grounded coarsely, and with just the right amount of sugar, give chance to the other baklava stores. This delicious crunchy baklava is going to make you addicted to it.
Baklava has been made since the 1800s. It was learned from the bakers of Aleppo. Some sources suggest that Güllü Çelebi of Antep went to Aleppo to learn how to make baklava and some suggest that a baker of Aleppo happened to visit Antep and taught how to make it to the bakers here. The biggest trump card of the Antep baklava is the pistachios used. The dark green Antep pistachio with a dense aroma, which is picked in the first week of August called as ‘firik’ or ‘grey-meat’ by the locals, is used between the layers of phyllo dough. The butter and cream of milk is derived from goat’s and sheep’s milk. It is prepared by freeing it from salt.
THE SUR DESSERT OF DİYARBAKIR
You might be asking, ‘why not burma kataifi!’ This most ancient city of Mesopotamia, bearing the marks of 33 civilizations, welcomes you with another dessert: the sur dessert. This dessert is the dance of semolina halva with ice cream made of goat’s milk. Here is how it is made: gundelia gum and semolina are mixed with ice cream made of goat’s milk. First, gundelia gum is mixed with semolina and oven baked. After it comes out of the oven, it is wrapped around a ball of ice cream. While outside is burning hot, inside is freezing cold. This is a rare kind of dessert. It is topped with blueberries and cinnamon before serving.
With Diyarbakır Castle, its walls, On Gözlü Bridge, Hevsel Gardens, Ulu Mosque, which is the first mosque of Anatolia, and Dört Ayaklı Minaret, the diversity of this city, where many cultures and beliefs melt in the same pot, reflects on its cuisine . The sur dessert is known to be consumed often in winter to keep warm. It is possible to try this traditional dessert in Sur Ocakbaşı.