Local Cuisine of Adana, Turkey
Southeast Turkey is well-known for its flavorful cuisine. We’ve designed this guide for you to better digest the terms you might come across when experiencing the amazing gastronomy in Adana.
The best kebab (kebap) is Adana kebab. No other place in the world makes better kebap than those in Adana. The quality of the meat and the way the chef prepares it has a major effect on its flavor. Even if you know all the ingredients precisely, it would hardly taste the same. Years of experience are needed to be able to make the meat hold onto the skewer without falling apart, which is a real work of art.
One of the biggest known mistakes is that people think Adana Kebap has to be hot and spicy. This is the major difference between kebabs made in Adana, and those made out of Adana. Real Adana kebab is not spicy, but is served with a grilled spicy green pepper, which is where the spice comes from for those who desire it. Lamb meat is very finely minced with a mincing knife, until smooth. After being mixed with spices and finely chopped red bell peppers, it is wrapped around the skewer, and placed on a charcoal fire until ready to serve.
Best enjoyed with mouth-watering salads, Adana Kebap is a definite must-try.
Adana is all about hot and spicy, even at breakfast. Acılı Ekmek is a soft and spicy bread topped with a mix of red chili pepper, sesame seeds, and red bell pepper paste. Almost every bakery in Adana has Acılı Ekmek, its size may vary from baker to baker, but try to go for the thicker ones rather than the thin ones. This is either a quick great grab-on-the-way snack, or the perfect breakfast combination. Whenever I find myself in Adana, I make sure to get Acılı Ekmek before I leave.
Analı Kızlı Çorbası (Soup)
Analı Kızlı, translated as Mother and Daughter, is one of the most time-consuming soups to make, but is a masterpiece and worth every second. You must be wondering about the history laying underneath its name. Analı Kızlı soup is made with two types of bulgur meatballs and chickpeas, the bigger meatballs are filled with ground meat, while the smaller ones have no filling. Usually this soup is made at home and barely found in restaurants, due to its hard work. At home mothers would sit together with their daughters and teach them how to shape the meatballs, while the mother prepares the big filled ones, the daughters would help shape the small ones. This is where the name of this delicious soup comes from. Even as a local, it can be hard to find restaurants that make it, but if you are lucky you can find it in smaller homestyle restaurants.
Who doesn’t like Turkish Delight? Cezerye is Adana’s Delight, which can't be found anywhere else. Made of candied carrots and nuts, Cezerye are soft gelatinous square-shaped sweets dipped into shredded coconut. There are different variations of Cezerye, you can either go for the original ones or a try the pomegranate or mint-flavored ones.
Apart from that, some are made of pistachios, peanuts, hazelnuts, or walnuts. Usually Cezerye is found in local shops, located in the Old Town Center. One of my favorite places to buy them is at ‘Helvanın Mucidi Hacı Ahmet Şahin’. You can have them wrapped in boxes, perfect to give as a gift or for yourself as a little souvenir from Adana.
Fellah Köftesi, also known as Sarımsaklı Köfte, is an Adana classic, and takes its name from the Arabic-rooted folk of Adana, called the Fellahs. Fellah Köftesi are small spiced bulgur meatballs topped with a garlicky tomato and red pepper paste mix. Usually, this dish is put in the center of the table, and consumed as a shared meal.
The most crucial part of the dish is the right consistency of the meatballs. The meatballs have to be kneaded very well until they reach a paste-like form, otherwise, they would fall apart while boiling. Once cooked, they are mixed with a garlicky, spiced sauce, topped with some parsley, and sometimes consumed with a drizzle of yogurt on top.
Halka Tatlı is one of the most popular syrupy desserts. It resembles a circle-shaped churro, dipped in syrup. You can see many people eating this dessert on the go while wandering around the city.
One of the best Halka Tatlı is made by ‘Ağaçaltı Tatlıcısı’. What’s different at this place is that they make a giant swirl, and cut it afterward into 20 cm pieces. They make it fresh, and constantly have new customers who come to buy kilos of Halka Tatlı. Being almost every child's favorite dessert, Halka Tatlı is definitely a must-try specialty dessert in Adana.
İçli Köfte is an Adana speciality, arguably the best are found there. Popular in the Middle East,İçli Köfte’s preparation process requires a lot of patience and hard work. This is why you can’t find it easily in restaurants, as it is usually made at home by talented housewives.
İçli Köfte is a bulgur meatball, filled with spiced ground beef, cooked in boiling water and usually served with a slice of lemon aside. The bulgur for the outer part of the meatball is very well kneaded with some spices and tomato or paprika paste, until it reaches a soft paste consistency. After that, it is meticulously filled with the precooked ground beef mixture and tightly closed without leaving any gaps. After being cooked in hot water, people usually eat it by slicing it in two and squeezing some lemon on it.
One of my favorite drinks, Şalgam is a fermented turnip juice usually consumed with kebab, simit, and other street food. It is made of sour and salty pickled red carrots and left to ferment until ready, which might take up to 10 days when homemade. You can buy it in pickle shops, where they prepare it fresh. Not only is it delicious but also very good for your health, Şalgam is an indispensable beverage for the locals. Being so sour and fresh, it makes for the perfect drink to be consumed in the hot summer heat of Adana.
Sıkma is not well known outside of the Mediterranean region. When you go to Istanbul, you may find people who have never heard of it before. Sıkma can be compared to a savory rolled-up crepe.
The name Sıkma comes from the verb ‘squeezing’ (sıkmak), as after filling the dough it is tightly rolled up by squeezing it. The dough is very thinly rolled, and baked on a fire-heated metal sheet. Once the dough is baked, after being buttered, it is filled with either a mix of onion and white cheese or spiced potatoes. Once rolled up with the filling, it is lightly buttered and again placed on the sheet until it turns a nice color. Usually, it is served with hot pickles and olives, along with a refreshing Turkish yogurt drink, Ayran.
Şırdan is one of the most popular street foods of Adana. Şırdan is the name given to the last of the four parts of the stomachs of ruminant animals such as sheep, lamb, and cows. It may not sound appetizing or be pleasing to the eye, but is still consumed regularly by locals and outsiders visiting Adana. Şırdan is stuffed with a rice filling and boiled until tender. Due to having a very strong smell and flavor, it is consumed with a lot of cumin.
Taş Kadayıfı is another specialty of Adana, which is rarely found outside its borders. This dessert is one of my personal favorites. It is crunchy, nutty, and has a nice touch of cinnamon. ‘Taş’ means stone in Turkish, refers to the crunchy texture of this syrupy dessert.
It is a sort of sweet dumpling filled with a mix of walnuts, sugar, and cinnamon. Before being filled, the pancake-shaped dough is baked on the pan only on one side, until the upper part is fully cooked and filled with tiny air gaps. The process of baking it only on one side enables it to stick well together after being filled and folded into a half circle. First, it is deep-fried until golden brown, and then dipped into syrup. Taş Kadayıfı is mostly consumed during Ramadan and is best when eaten fresh and warm.
Yüksük Çorbası (Soup)
I love soups that serve as a meal on their own. Yüksük Soup is made with mantı, Turkish meat-filled dumplings, chickpeas, and sometimes added chunks of meat. Except for the making of the dumplings, the soup is quick and easy to prepare. A base of tomato and pepper paste stock is prepared and brought to boil with the dumplings and chickpeas until ready. Once done a herby, minty spiced butter mix is added to the soup and is ready to serve.
Written by Julide Koca