With 85 million olive trees, Turkey is among the Mediterranean’s top olive (zeytin) and olive oil (zeytin yağı) producers.
The cuisine of this region, and of modern Turkey, is based on olive oil. So, if you’re allergic to olives, olive oil and olive products, how do you avoid eating them when you travel in Turkey?
Useful Words & Terms
To ask if a dish includes olives or olive oil, ask İçinde zeytin var mı? (ee-cheen-DEH zey-TEEN VAHR muh, “Does it include olives?”) or İçinde zeytin yağı var mı? (ee-cheen-DEH zey-TEEN yah-uh VAHR muh, “Does it include olive oil?)
You can also say Zeytine alerjim var (ZEY-teen-EH ah-lehr-ZHEEM vahr, “I’m allergic to olive.”)
To ask for a dish to be prepared without olives (a salad, for example), ask for it zeytinsiz (ZEY-teen-SEEZ, “Without olive.”)
Know Your Fats & Oils
First, assume that the oil used in any dish is olive oilunless you question its maker and receive the answer that there is categorically no olive oil or other olive product in it.
Next, know how to ask for an alternative fat or oil to be used in the preparation of your food:
Butter = tereyağı (TEH-reh-yah-uh)
Clarified butter = sade yağ (SAH-deh yah)
Peanut oil = Yer fıstığı yağı (YEHR fuhss-tuh yah-uh)
Olive oil = zeytinyağı (zey-TEEN ya-uh)
Safflower oil = aspir yağı (ahss-PEER yah-uh)
Sunflower oil = çiçek yağı (chee-CHEK yah-uh) or ayçiçegi yağı (‘EYE’-chee-chey-yi yah-uh)
Soups are traditionally made with meat or chicken broth. Added fat may be margarine, clarified butter, or a non-olive oil, but you should ask.
The traditional dressing for Turkish salads is olive oil and either lemon juice or vinegar, but you can ask for a söğüş(sew-EWSH), just plain cut-up tomatoes and cucumbers, with no dressing at all. You can then dress this with lemon juice (limon suyu), vinegar (sirke), and/or salt (tuz) and pepper (karabiber). Salads made with mayonnaise include olive oil because mayonnaise includes it.
Baked Goods & Börek
Baked goods such as bread, rolls and börek are usually prepared with butter, margarine or the lighter oils such as safflower or sunflower.
Stews (Sulu Yemekler)
Most Turkish stews are made with butter, margarine, or the fat of the meat, but you must ask. Look for shiny fat globules on the surface and quiz the waiter or cook about the type of fat: butter? Lamb or other animal fat? Or olive oil?
You can always request an omlet or sahanda yumurta(fried eggs) to be made with butter (tereyağı), margarine (margarin), sunflower or safflower oil. A 3-minute boiled egg is an üç dakikalık yumurta, a hardboiled egg is a haşanmış yumurta.
Stuffed Vegetables (Dolma)
Famous Turkish stuffed vegetables (dolma) are prepared two ways: zeytinyağlı (“with olive oil,” served cold) and etli(“with meat,” served hot). The cold version is always made with olive oil; the hot version may have added fat or oil, but it may be margarine, butter, clarified butter or another non-olive fat. You must ask.
Delicious Turkish fish may be basted with olive oil before being fried or grilled. You may be able to ask for it zeytin yağısız (ZEY-teen-yah-uh SEEZ, “Without olive oil.”) Turkey also produces lots of sunflower oil (çiçek yağı or ayçiçek yağı) and safflower oil (aspir yağı), and some chefs, for some dishes, may prefer these lighter oils. You can request that they be used to prepare your fish or chicken dish.
Grilled Meats (Kebap)
Most grilled meat dishes are unlikely to be made with olive oil. The cooking meat produces its own fat.
Turkey produces an abundance of delicious fresh fruit, which should have no oil in or on it.
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