Turkey raises a LOT of sunflowers (called “moonflowers:” ayçiçeği [‘EYE’-chee-cheh-yee]) and uses them mostly as snacks and for cooking oil.
The raw sunflower seeds (ayçiçeği çekirdeği, ‘EYE-chee-cheh-yee CHEK-eer-deh-yee) are sold in small quantities as snacks, and Turks traditionally crack the shells with their teeth and nibble the seeds on bus rides, ferry cruises, sporting events, etc.
Sunflower oil is very popular for cooking, as it is lighter and probably cheaper than olive oil. You should probably assume that some dishes you see in Turkey will have been prepared with sunflower oil (ayçiçeği yağı, ‘EYE’-chee-cheh-yee yah-uh).
Sunflower oil is a common ingredient in margarinethroughout the world, and because Turkey produces lots of sunflower oil, it’s possible that it could be in Turkish margarine. There’s always butter (tereyağı, TEH-reh-yah-uh) and olive oil (zeytinyağı, zey-TEEN-yah-uh) to use at table instead.
Few dishes have sunflower seeds hidden in them. If the seeds are used in cooking at all, they may be sprinkled on top as a garnish, which might make them easier to avoid. But I cannot guarantee this, especially in trendy restaurants where young chefs may depart from traditional recipes and invent new ones.
The good news is that lots of good Turkish food is safe for those allergic to sunflower seeds.
Here are some phrases:
Ayçiçeği (çekirdeği) yeyemem (‘EYE-chee-cheh-yee [CHEK-eer-deh-yee) yee-YEH-mehm, “I can’t eat sunflower (seeds)”.
Ayçiçeğiye ciddi alerjim var (‘EYE’-chee-cheh-yee-YEH jeed-DEE ah-lehr-ZHEEM vahr, “I have a serious allergy to sunflowers.”)
Does it have sunflower in it? = İçinde ayçiçeği var mi?(EECH-een-DEH ‘EYE’-chee-cheh-yee VAHR muh)
Yes = evet (eh-VEHT)
No = hayır/yok (‘higher,’ YOHK)
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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