Food connects us all; whether it’s the social aspect of sitting down together to enjoy a well-prepared meal or purely the basic need to refuel our bodies… In other words do we eat to live or live to eat. We certainly know which category we fall into, especially when we’re in Fethiye.
A culinary portrait
Dishes define a culture, reflect the environment in which they are produced and tell a story of the country in which they are eaten. Fethiye excels at simple, fresh, traditional and wonderfully tasty food.
There are many classic lokanta to choose from if you haven’t got round to cooking your own Turkish food. They may not be in the most attractive parts of town but once you discover them you’ll understand why we can’t get enough sulu yemek. There are also some excellent traditional eateries specializing in village food, especially in places like Kayaköy, Kargı and Üzümlü.
Cuisine and produce can cross borders and Turkey has many regional delights that nowadays are also available in Fethiye’s shops and markets but we have decided to choose local dishes, as far as possible.
So let’s celebrate…
We haven’t even started and we’re cheating. Of course we adore all the fresh vegetables grown in the region. For example, if you discover some traditional Pembe domates (large heritage tomatoes) in the market, and assuming you love them as much as we do, you will have found the perfect base for one of the best salads in the world. Pembe is pink and it’s how these tomatoes are described.
Chop them along with some red onion, grated carrots, cucumber, mint, parley and lots of rocket, and dress with nar ekşisi and olive oil you’ll have a delicious summer feast, served with grilled fish, meat, mucver, the list is endless… and these tomatoes are wonderful grilled too. We have already written about local vegetable production and the Taste of Fethiye project, which is encouraging Fethiye’s hotels and restaurants to buy their produce from Fethiye farmers.
A firm, plump, round aubergine grilled over a barbecue, split open and mashed with smashed garlic, a dribble of local olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice, grilled, peeled and chopped, spicy red peppers and finally chopped parsley… the smokiness and powerful flavours are guaranteed to blow you away.
You could stir some rich, creamy yogurt with the smoky aubergine mix and have the mother of all mezes. Or you could dribble some honey over a bowl of strained (suzme) yogurt (try mixing goat and cows milk yogurt together for something really special) chuck in some chopped seasonal fruit and you have a heavenly breakfast. Fethiye has several local brands that are exceptionally delicious: the creamy traditional kind as well as the thicker suzme yogurt. We think both are equally scrumptious.
Yes. Lashings of it… Pine, thyme (kekik) or flower honey. Use it in hot drinks, drizzle it over fresh fruit, or simply spread it over hot, buttered toast. The Fethiye region is famous for its honey, and rightly so. It also happens to be an important ingredient for our favourite, yeşil sarma, the green pistachio packed ones in the picture. These ones shown below come from Gaziantep, and although you can buy them in Fethiye, that story is for another time.
Now we are going to cheat!
We said Top Five and OK, this is two ingredients, but we have already gone over our allowed five and really could not include it. This requires a wickedly sweet tooth and is made by stirring pekmez, that’s Turkish molasses made with anything from grapes to carob, with tahin, a locally produced, sweet, roasted sesame paste. While the mixture isn’t remotely photogenic, we think one spoonful and you’ll agree that you’re tasting the food of the Gods.
By the way, this tahin is different from the white one used in many middle eastern savoury dishes, and before you dash off to make some it’s off the scale as far as calories are concerned, so be warned.
What are your favourite Turkish foods?
As with our previous Top Five Stories our choices are subjective but do let us know what your favourite foods are. Let’s share them with our readers.