Unique Tastes of Turkey

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On a recent trip to Turkey I was hoping to find an adventure eater’s paradise. But alas, there was no goat head or fruit bat to be found. I did, however, discover three uniquely Turkish culinary delights that I can’t wait to share. Here are my favorite unique tastes of Turkey.

unique tastes of Turkey

The first of my unique tastes of Turkey was a luscious cup of salep from a street vendor in Istanbul. Image credit: Cherri Megasko

Salep (Also Saloop or Sahlep)

As my husband and I were walking around in Istanbul I spotted a street vendor selling something out of a beautiful golden urn. I could tell the contents were hot by the steam rising off the urn, and I surmised that it must be Turkish tea. The cost was just about $1 U.S., so I told the vendor I’d like a cup. What he handed me was a complete surprise, and ended up being my favorite taste of Turkey.

Salep is a thick, semi-sweet hot drink that to me tastes just like homemade hot custard. It reminds me of the custard from the banana pudding my mother used to make from scratch. I used to love to sneak it and eat/drink it hot, before it even had a chance to become pudding.

Salep is the name of the flour used to make the drink. It comes from the tubers of a certain species of wild orchid. I’ve read that the drink became so popular that it put the orchid’s survival at risk. In response the Turkish government banned the export of salep flour. In any event, I can say that salep is by far the tastiest hot drink I have ever had, far surpassing even the best coffee, hot chocolate or hot toddy. I searched the country over until I landed several packets of instant salep mix to bring home with me. It is no doubt one of the most unique tastes of Turkey.

unique tastes of Turkey

One of the unique tastes of Turkey I sampled was this balli yogurt which was garnished with local honey and poppy seeds. Image credit: Cherri Megasko

Balli Yogurt

This interesting snack incorporates three of Turkey’s most ubiquitous ingredients: yogurt, honey and poppy seeds. Our guide first mentioned it on our bus a day prior to us visiting a region of Turkey where they grow poppies to make opium. When he spoke of it, it didn’t sound all that unique – after all, we top our yogurt with all kinds of things here in the U.S. as well. But the next day when we arrived at the roadside station that sold it, I instantly became intrigued.

The yogurt was incredibly thick – similar to the consistency of soft serve ice cream. I questioned the lady who made it and found that it is just regular yogurt that is hung in a cheesecloth bag until most of the liquid drains from it.

The honey is local, and a product that Turkish bees produce a whole lot of. You can find honey and honeycomb for sale in all quantities in most of the roadside stops on Turkish highways.

To assemble to dish you simply put a (huge) portion of yogurt on a plate, spoon a generous amount of local honey in the middle, and then sprinkle the entire thing with poppy seeds. You mix it all together before you eat it and the result is a very uniquely sweet, yet slightly sour treat. But fair warning … although it is one of the unique tastes of Turkey, it is not at all a light snack!

Testi Kabob

We saw this on a few menus as we toured through Turkey. The dish gets its name from the clay pot – called a testi – in which it is cooked.

unique tastes of Turkey

If you order testi kabob in Turkey, you get the honor of chopping off the top of the vessel to reveal the delicious stew. Image credit: Cherri Megasko

Testi kabob consists of a Turkish beef stew that is placed inside a natural clay pot and sealed with bread dough. It is baked for several hours at a very low temperature. When served in a restaurant, the guest is given a large knife/clever and permitted to do the honors of chopping off the bread seal to revel the tender and tasty stew inside. Although the stew is good, it’s the uniqueness of the cooking and serving methods that make testi kabob one of the unique tastes of Turkey.

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42 thoughts on “Unique Tastes of Turkey

  1. Greg Todd

    My favorite foods were the fresh breads. Street vendors sold rolls, pretzel-like rings and whole loaves that ranged from whole grain to Italian-like hard crusted. My favorite was a twisted pretzel ring. That’s obviously not what it is called in Turkey, but that’s what I call them.

    I was hoping for some tasty goat dishes, but we did not run across a single opportunity. So what for my knowledge of Turkish cuisine…

  2. Robin (Masshole Mommy)

    Visiting Turkey is on my bucket list and hopefully I will make it there someday to try some of these dishes for myself. I love hearing about the different cultural foods.

  3. Jeanine

    It all sounds so exotic and neat! I’ve never been to Turkey, but maybe one day! I would love to see some of these foods and give them a try myself!

  4. michele d

    I’ve never been there but I would like to one day. Learning about and tasting their foods must be wonderful.

  5. Alli

    I would like to try the drink that’s made with the flour that comes from the tubers of the wild orchid. That yogurt sounds good, too. I’ve never been to Turkey, but I sure would love to visit.

  6. R U S S

    I have a friend who lives in Turkey and she’s been inviting me for the longest time to visit. She said there’s a lot of good stuff there and if I want to an ultimate gastroadventure, Turkey is one of the best places for this. I would love to try the Balli Yogurt.

  7. Ron Leyba

    Testing and tasting local foods of a foreign country is always a dream of mine. Testi Kabob looks and sounds really interesting and yummy! Thanks for sharing your Turkey experience.

    1. Gabriel

      Yea, that seems like a really cool idea that I think I’m gonna try to duplicate here. We’ve done bread bowls and stew, this seems like combining them.

  8. Rebecca Swenor

    It sounds like you found some good finds indeed. The hot drink Salep sounds so delicious and I would love to try it. The stew I would also love to try. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Fi Ní Neachtáin

    I’ve never tried any Turkish food before. That yogurt looks really interesting, I like the addition of seeds to it.

  10. Rosey

    That would be fun just to see it cooked in the clay pot, I think! I have a friend who went to Turkey years ago and she loved the food!

  11. breanna

    My brother just spend about 14 months in Turkey with the Air Force. He is a picky eater so I am SURE he did not try anything like this but I sure would dhave. I wish I would have had the opportunity to travel and visit him there. Beautiful!

  12. Angela

    I have to be honest, I have never even heard of anything you just posted some of it does look delicious but others not so much. I am one of the pickiest eaters out but I will still try everything and anything. This seems like such a great experience! I love to travel and hope to do more of it soon!

  13. Roselynn

    I have never tried Turkish food, but have heard a lot of great things about it. The Balli yogurt sounds like something I would definitely want to try out.

  14. Jacqueline

    I would like to try honey and poppy seeds in my Greek yogurt here at home! Wow, that’s a an interesting combo and a great way to sneak in extra healthy stuff 🙂 I love the open air market!

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