The standard Turkish breakfast includes bread, butter, jam and/or honey, olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, cheese, yogurt, cold meats, fruit juice, perhaps eggs, and tea or coffee. It’s often set out as a buffet.
Bread (ekmek, ehk-MEHK): standard Turkish sourdough white bread, baked fresh twice a day (early morning and late afternoon). Fancier places may add francelâ (shaped like a baguette, but with a denser crumb), bread rolls, whole wheat, and/or simit (Turkish circular sesame “bagels”).
Butter (tereyağı, TEH-reh-yah): the best comes from the Black Sea region because of its fat well-fed milch cows, but you may just get the standard little packets.
Jam (reçel, reh-CHEL) and/or Honey (bal, BAHL): the best is jars of home-made fruit preserves, but you may also encounter the little standardized sealed packets. Same with the honey: the stuff in the packets is good, but Turkey produces excellent honey in places like Marmarisand even Kars. A tip: mix your butter and honey on the plate, then spread it on your bread—the Turkish way.
Olives (zeytin, zey-TEEN): black zeytin range from small, luscious oil-cured to rather dry, too-salty ones. Green olives are flavorful but tart, sometimes bitter, and rarely stuffed with pimiento.
Tomatoes (domates, doh-MAH-tess) & Cucumbers (salatalık, sah-LAH-tah-luhk): in season, very good. Out of season, maybe flavorless.
Cheese (peynir, pey-NEER): standard is beyaz peynir(white sheep’s milk cheese), the best being tam yağlı (full fat), creamy, slightly salty and delicious. The worst is dry, sour and/or overly salty, perhaps from having been recycled from one morning to the next—or maybe it’s just cheap. You may also get yellow kaşar peynir. Taze kaşaris fresh (unaged) and mild; eski kaşar is aged, a bit sharper and more flavorful.
Yogurt (yoğurt, YOH-oort): Usually excellent! It’s most often the plain kind, freshly clabbered, not flavored or sugared (add your own sugar, if you like). The little plastic factory-filled containers of embalmed, sugary-fruit-goop-sweetened yogurt also appear on Turkish hotel breakfast buffets, though, so I guess nothing is sacred.
Meat (et, EHT): Hotels serving an international clientele may serve bacon and pork sausage, but in general you won’t find these pork meats on the breakfast tables of this Muslim country. What you’ll find is beef sausage or bologna, mostly cold, mysterious and boring.
Fruit juice (meyva suyu, mey-VAH soo-yoo): usually a disaster, even in expensive hotels. It’s either real juice heavily watered down or (gasp!) fake “artificial fruit drink” made from chemical powder—an unutterable sinin a country that produces an abundance of Europe’s finest fruits and juices. A very few places, such as Cappadocia‘s Esbelli Evi, the Villa Hotel Tamara in Kaş, the Su Otel in Bodrum, etc., offer fresh-squeezed orange or other juice worthy of Turkey’s reputation for producing excellent fruit.
Eggs (yumurta, yoo-moor-TAH): boiled yumurta with yolks ranging from liquid to petrified may be set out on breakfast buffets. If you see no eggs, ask for yumurta(yoo-moor-TAH). You can often request one boiled to order: three-minute is very runny, five minute is hard-boiled, the perfect boiled egg is kayısı (“apricot”)—everything soft but not liquid. In fact, you really never know how it’ll come out, so you may prefer fried eggs (sahanda yumurta), or an omlet, even peynirli (with cheese).
Tea (çay, CHAH-yee): usually good traditional Turkish tea brewed super-strong and meant to be cut with hot water to your desired color and strength (1:4 or even 1:5). Traditionally served only with sugar, but lemon is often available for foreigners. There’s always milk for the coffee on the buffet so you can astound the waiters by putting some in your tea if you like. See Turkish tea.
Coffee (kahve, KAH-veh): breakfast coffee is not usually Turkish coffee but Fransız (French) or Amerikan, meaning somewhat weaker, without the grounds lurking at the bottom of the cup. Or it may even be (shudder) instant(hazır kahve, neskafe). Surprisingly, non-Turkish kahve is often a disappointment, even in expensive places: often strong but rarely fragrant, with a dark, burnt (rather than roasted) flavor. It’s a mystery why. Good medium- and dark-roast coffee is sold in the markets, but brewing in the hotels often fails.
So much for the standard breakfast. If breakfast is not included in the price of your hotel room, you can wander out and breakfast freestyle on su böreği, a big rectangular multi-layered cake of steamed pastry stuffed with white sheep’s-milk cheese and parsley. Or—my favorite on-the-road breakfast—a steaming bowl of lentil soup (mercimek çorbası) with lots of fresh sourdough bread.
Pastry shops (pastane) have lots of cakes, biscuits, puddings and sweet treats, sometimes with hot, sweet milk or sahlep (sweet orchid-root-and-milk drink)—especially good in winter.