Turkish cuisine inherited its Ottoman heritage which could be described as a fusion and refinement of Turkic, Arabic, Persian and Greek cuisines. Ottomans fused various culinary traditions of their realm, with influences from Middle Eastern cuisines, along with traditional Turkic elements from Central Asia such as Yogurt. As a result, the Ottoman Empire created a vast array of very technical dishes. Furthermore, it can be observed that various regions of the Ottoman Empire contain bits and pieces of the vast Ottoman dishes.
The best flavoured white cheeses and yogurt are prepared from sheep milk. Although rice, which is called pilav, is the essential side dish of many foods, bulgur pilavi (prepared from pounded wheat: bulgur which is used in a number of Turkish specialities) can also be used for the same purpose.
The bread is prepared from wheat, barley or corn. Pide (broad, round and flat kind of bread made of wheat) and tandir ekmegi (baked on the inner walls of a round oven called tandir) are some examples for authentic types of bread in Turkish cuisine. Another type of bread commonly eaten in Turkey is simit (or "gevrek"). It is a quick snack which is a ring-shaped bread covered with sesame seeds. Simits are eaten either plain or with cheese or jelly.
Frequently used ingredients in Turkish dishes include eggplant, green pepper, onion, lentil, bean, tomato, garlic, and cucumber. Grape, apricot, cherry, melon, fig, lemon, pistachio, pine nut, almond, hazelnut, watermelon, and walnut are among the most abundantly used fruits and nuts. As the variety can be observed in the Spice Bazaar (Misir Çarsisi), spices have a special place in the Turkish cuisine. Preferred spices and herbs are parsley, cumin, pepper, paprika, mint, oregano and thyme.
Turkish cuisine, taken as a whole, is not a homogenous cuisine. Actually, in Turkey, specialities varry according to region. Aside from common Turkish specialities which can be found throughout the country and traditional eating habits, there are also region-specific specialities. The Black Sea region's cuisine (Northern part of Turkey) is mainly based on corn and hamsi (anchovy, a kind of fish). On the other hand, south eastern cuisine lead by Urfa, Antep and Adana is famous for kebaps, mezes and dough based desserts such as baklava, kadayif or künefe. Especially in the western parts of Turkey, where olive trees are grown abundantly, olive oil is the major type of oil used for cooking. The cuisines of Aegean, Marmara and Mediterannean regions display basic characteristics of the Mediterrannean cuisine as they are rich in vegetable, herbs and fish. It is quite frequent in Turkey that the name of specialities are accompanied with the name of a city or a region (either within the borders of Turkey or not). It suggests that it is a speciality of that city/region. Alternatively, it refers to the specific technique or ingredients used in that specific city or region to prepare that speciality. For example the difference between Urfa kebap differs from Adana kebap in the use of garlic instead of onion and the level of hot peppers which kebap contains. On the other hand, central Anatolia is famous for its pasta-based specialities such as keskek (kashkak) or manti (Kayseri).
Turkish cuisine went through dramatic changes in 20th century and the eating habits of the Turkish people has significantly changed due to the Western influence. Fast food is gaining in popularity and all major fast food chains can be seen all over Turkey. At home, however, microwaveable goods and pre-prepared or frozen foods are rare and households rely primarily on the rich and extensive dishes of the Ottoman Empire.
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