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Turkish Food: A Guide for Thrifty Travelers

Last Updated on September 1, 2022

Visiting Turkey inevitably means experiencing its world-famous cuisine. There are so many distinguished dishes in the streets of Turkey, and as is true all around the globe, some meals are cheaper than others. If you’re a thrifty traveler who loves delicious food, this article will help you save money during your stay! 

No matter what dish you eat, a rule of thumb for saving money is to walk a few blocks away from highly touristy areas. For those interested, this will also give a glimpse into Turkish life and culture, away from the crowds. If you are in a coastal city, walk inland, and generally, food will be just as delicious at a more affordable price. If you are in a touristy area, head to the outskirts of the city. What better excuse to walk through Turkey’s lovely streets?  

 

Pide/Lahmacun

Cooked in a wood-burning oven, these delicious dishes are not only budget-friendly but will also leave you wanting to find the nearest Turkish restaurant in your hometown. 

Pide is most commonly described to foreigners as a kind of pizza, and though its ingredients are similar, Pide is quite distinct. On a soft dough, this dish is made with mixed meats, cheese, or vegetables. Its shape is long and thin, with pointed ends. It is paired well with soup or salad and the traditional Turkish drink “ayran.” 

Lahmacun is similar, but a bit lighter. On a crisp, thin dough, lahmacun is topped with minced meat. Its shape is circular, and often used as a wrap, filled with lettuce, vegetables, and lemon juice. 

Both of these dishes are served in most restaurants, but there are also restaurants that exclusively serve “hazır” or ready pide, making for a quick meal.

Çorba

Çorba” simply means “soup.” Turkey is full of many delicious soups, which are filling, delicious, and affordable. There are many traditional soups in Turkey, and you can’t go wrong trying any soup a restaurant offers. Our top recommendations are:  mercimek çorbası, a flavorful red lentil blended soup, ezogelin çorbası which is made of red lentils and bulgur, and yayla çorbası which is a wonderful yogurt-based herb and rice soup. Each of these soups is traditionally served with bottomless bread, making for a filling, delicious meal at an affordable price.

 

Gözleme

Gözleme is a stuffed Turkish pastry. Baked on a large skillet, this flakey pastry can be filled with a variety of meats and vegetables, making for a light, delicious meal. This dish is on many menus and is also sold in Turkish Pazars. If you are looking for a quick, affordable meal, gözleme will not disappoint!

Çiğ Köfte 

One of the most iconic dishes in Turkey is çiğ köfte. Regardless of your budget, this meal is a must. Directly translated, this dish means “raw meatballs.” Today, street vendors make the dish without meat.

Çiğ köfte is a delicious, healthy dish and has lived through many generations in the region. It is traced back to the biblical figure King Nimrud, Noah’s great grandson. This ancient dish is traditionally made with raw meat, bulger, tomato paste, tomatoes, onions, pomegranate extract, and seasonings. Today, it  has become a street food all throughout Turkey. 

 

 

 

This is considered to be a Turkish “meze,” or appetizer. It is traditionally served in small meatball-sized pieces, with iceberg lettuce, fresh herbs, and thin bread to create wraps. Often, pickles and tomatoes are also served with this dish. It happens to be one of the cheapest, most filling meals and it is easy to find regardless of which part of Turkey you choose to visit. 

There is a high probability that upon returning to your home country you will find your local Turkish market and re-create it yourself. It’s that good!

 

Döner 

Döner is a dish you will see on nearly every corner in Turkey. It is made of shaved meat from a  spinning vertical rotisserie. The meat and fresh vegetables are wrapped in thin bread and topped with sauce. Sometimes, fries are added to döner wrap. This will likely be a staple during your stay in Turkey!

 

Ev Yemekleri/Mezeci 

All throughout Turkey, there are restaurants that serve “ev yemekleri” or home-cooked foods. At these restaurants, a different meal is prepared each day. The main course changes, but is always served alongside Turkey’s mezes: sarma, dolma, sigara börek, su böreği, and usually a side dish made with eggplant. Ev yemekleri is not only affordable, but also one of Turkey’s most enjoyable and flavorful meals.

 

-by Abigail Goosen

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