Mushrooms (mantar) are not an important ingredient in traditional Turkish cuisine, but they are used, and they are finding their way into more dishes as Turkey develops its own mushroom-farming industry.
You can usually see the mushrooms, whole or chopped, in the dish you’ve ordered, but of course you want to be sure, so if you’re allergic to mushrooms, let restaurant waiters and cooks know:
—İçinde mantar var mı? (EECH-een-DEH mahn-tahr VAHR muh, “Does it have mushrooms in it?”)
—Mantar alerjim var! (mahn-TAHR ah-lehr-ZHEEM vahr, “I’m allergic to mushrooms!”)
—Ölümcül mantar alerjim var! (EW-lewm-JEWL mahn-tahr ah-lehr-ZHEEM vahr, “I am deathly allergic to mushrooms!”
—Hiç mantar yeyemem! (HEECH mahn-TAHR yee-YEH-mehm, “I cannot eat any mushrooms!”)
Note that mantar correctly translates as “fungus,” and is used in that sense as well. Mantar hastalığı is any fungal disease, for example. But in a restaurant, mantar will be interpreted to mean the edible spore-producing bodies of any basidiomycetous fungus.
With this exception: mantar is also the word for cork, probably from the shape of a champagne-bottle cork, which resembles a common mushroom; but mantar is used for any sort of cork or bottle-stopper, or anything corky, including the cork in a popgun. So don’t panic if, in a fancy restaurant, the waiter puts a mantar on your table. It will probably be the cork from your wine bottle.
Traditionally, mantar was looked upon by Turks as a “European” ingredient in foods, not a Turkish one. When I first arrived in Turkey in 1967, a chef wanting to make a “European dish” just made a Turkish dish and added cheese and mushrooms to it. But Turks are developing a taste for mantar so you must be careful. Some chefs—particularly up-to-date chefs making “fusion” cuisine—may use it in unexpected ways.
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