Meze is an event rather than a type of dish. It’s an evening gathering of family and friends, a leisurely grazing on nibbles and tidbits. The defining feature of meze is that people are there to eat and enjoy the selection of dishes: there’s no prescription for what must appear on the table.
Origin of the meze
In ancient Persia, rulers employed personal food tasters to ensure the meals were safe to eat. When Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent‘s Ottoman forces conquered the Persian Safavids in 1538, the Sultan took the idea of tasters home with him. Süleyman’s staff of çesnici (taste slaves) were given small plates of food samples, known by the Persian word, meze, meaning pleasant, enjoyable taste. As news of the Sultan’s safety practice reached public ears, it became the fashion of the rich and famous to exercise a variation of it. Before long, replicas of Süleyman’s çesnici-başi (chief food taster) were seen at upper class dinner parties throughout İstanbul. The meze craze caught on in upper class haunts and, not to be outdone, lokantas and cafe’s. And so it was the meze passed into Turkish culinary culture. – excerpt from World Food Turkey
Meze is everywhere
In Turkey you’ll find some form of meze (appetisers) everywhere you go. If you’re dining out, a spectacular array of meze will be brought on a tray for you to select from.
Or you can order a mixed meze plate
Different meze for different main courses
The selection of that’s offered before your meal depends on what you choose as your main course. Completely different line-ups are traditionally served with either fish or meat.
A typical selection often includes: beyaz peynir (white cheese), kavun (sliced ripe melon), acılı ezme (hot pepper paste), haydari (thick strained yogurt with herbs), patlıcan salatası (cold eggplant salad), cacık (yogurt with cucumber and garlic), dolma (rice-stuffed vine leaves), arnavut ciğeri (a liver dish, served cold), fava (mashed broad bean salad) and çiğ köfte (raw meatballs with bulgur) and many more. There are hot and cold meze. Usually the cold selection is served first followed by the hot . That’s before you get to the main course and dessert!
There are endless variations to choose from that change from region to region and from season to season. Try your own combinations and create Turkish-style ‘meze’ of your own.
Here are a few more recipes from our Recipe Box