Sweet bell peppers (Capsicum annuum) come in a variety of colors, most commonly green but also red, orange and yellow.
Those allergic to sweet bell peppers may also be sensitive to other capsicum foods such as hot/spicy peppers, pimiento, cayenne pepper, and spice mixes and sauces (such as spaghetti sauce, Tabasco and other spicy sauces) made with capsicum peppers and/or their seeds.
The most common capsicum pepper served in Turkish restaurants is sivri biber, the long, light green pepper, usually spicy-hot, which—grilled—appears on nearly every plate of roast or grilled meat, especially lamb.
Second most common, and just as easily identifiable, is biber dolma, a sweet green bell pepper (dolmalık biber) stuffed with a mixture of rice, spices, and other ingredients, including currants, pine nuts, lamb, etc.
On most restaurant tables in Turkey there is a bowl or shaker of dried hot/spicy pepper mix for use by those who like it, the dry equivalent of that bottle of hot sauce found on every Mexican restaurant table.
The greatest challenge for those allergic to capsicum is likely to come from the many tempting Turkish stews and sauces, in which capsicum ingredients may not be visible. Most Turkish dishes are savory rather than spicy, so spicy peppers are not in most dishes, but it’s possible that a capsicum may be part of the recipe.
A lesser challenge is distinguishing between allergenic capsicum products and kara biber (Piper nigrum, common black pepper), which has no biological relationship with capsicum, but which uses the same word—biber, pepper—in Turkish as in English.
In Turkey as in many countries, kara biber is a very common ingredient in many dishes, as well as a common sight on nearly every dining table.
Here are some words to help you:
Is there pepper in it? = İçinde biber var mı? (EECH-een-DEH bee-BEHR VAHR muh)
Yes = evet (eh-VEHT)
No = hayır/yok (‘higher,’ YOHK)
Not black pepper, green pepper. = Kara biber değil, yeşil biber. (kah-RAH bee-behr dey-YEEL yeh-SHEEL bee-behr)
I’m allergic to [green] peppers= [Yeşil] bibere alerjim var([yeh-SHEEL] bee-beh-REH ah-lehr-ZHEEM vahr)
I can’t eat any hot or green pepper. = Hiç acı, sivri, yeşil gibi biber yeyemem. (HEECH ah-JUH see-VREE yeh-SHEEL gee-bee bee-BEHR yee-YEH-mehm)
Most processed food packages in Turkey contain lists of ingredients, often in several languages, but you may want to have a Turkish speaker help to interpret the ingredients list.
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