Last week* I had the excellent fortune of traveling to southeastern Anatolia with my good friend Greg. For the next few days I hope to write about some of my experiences and thoughts from my travels. We visited Gaziantep, Urfa, and Nemrut National Park. My first entry focuses on the epicurean aspects of our jaunt. And, let me say, the delicacies of southern Turkey do not disappoint…
I’ll begin with a list of the top food experiences we had:
1) Kuşbaşı. It doesn’t really matter where, but the small stands near the main square near the Urfa Bazaar were the ones we visited the most. Kuşbaşı means “the bird’s head” in Turkish – apparently the cut of the small pieces of lamb resemble the head and beak of a bird, and thus the name. Imagine this: soft bread – not unlike a tortilla -piled high with fresh (as if they slaughtered the lamb just for us) marinated lamb. This delight is served with fresh parsley, mint leaves, onions, lemons, grilled peppers, ground red pepper, sumac, salt, and of course, an ice cold mug of ayran to wash it all down.
I think the picture speaks for itself.
I really thought that I enjoyed Lahmacun in Istanbul. My favorite lunch item, lahmacun is often referred to as “Turkish pizza” by German Turks and Turkish Turks alike. I don’t really see the resemblance – okay so it is round and cooked in an oven. But this, my friends, is no pizza. How is the real deal in Antep and Urfa different than the sorry excuse for lahmacun in Istanbul? It’s bigger, cheaper, fresher, spicier, and, well you get the picture. My mouth waters just thinking about Antep’s lahmacun.
3) Anything on the menu at Imam Çadaş. This restaurant is the food heaven of Turkey. Indeed, I would venture to say that it is worth visiting Antep solely for the purpose of eating here – and perhaps the same could be said of the whole country of Turkey. They make baklava and kebaps – and they know what they’re doing. I enjoyed the Alinazik kebabı – the “kind Ali” kebab:
4) . Künefe. Greg and I adapted our eating schedule to fit our location, attempting to maximize our culinary adventures. The result was a daily discussion about where to go and what to look for for our additional meals such as “lunch 2” and “second dinner.” Even after a rigorous schedule of 4-ish attempted meals a day we somehow managed to gluttonously indulge in a dessert here and there. One of our favorites was künefe. Perhaps a picture describes the awesomeness that is künefe best:
In order to find delicious künefe you could go to this place:
The Gümrükhane or custom’s hall is a 500 year old kervansaray (think pit stop where you pay taxes on your camels, a weigh station of sorts if you will) on the silk road, which runs through Urfa. It’s now located in the midst of the Urfa bazar. The guys in the picture have been holding down the place for the last 500 years or so. Ask someone for künefe and you’re likely to be directed through a maze of tobacco salesmen and tailors (the place also doubles as a sweatshop like tailoring facility on the upper floors) until you find the künefe place. This place, needless to say, was my favorite place in Urfa.
5) Five is a shout out to pistachios. In Turkish the for for pistacio is “antep nut.” Fortunately you can also find them in Urfa. Buy them from this dude:
As you can see from the picture, the price is 6. Six lira or what used to be about $4 before the US decided to start a currency war with China (who knows what a dollar is worth now?!) buys you a kilogram – aka grocery bag for those of you who don’t do metric – of fresh hand picked Antep nuts. I’m not really sure if the naming of the nut is a sore subject for non-Antep residents so perhaps you should just ask for fistiği, as – generally speaking – a “nut” is a pistachio in these parts. They’re delicious.
*Okay so I did indeed begin writing this blog post some 6 weeks ago after returning from the southeast. However in this case “last week” refers more to “last month-ish” which translates as last week in Eric / Turkish time.
** Photography provided by Greg and his sweet new camera. Thanks for letting me jack your pictures!