Lo and Behold! I bear the good news for all vegetarians planning a trip to Turkey. Let go of your apprehensions because the land of Doner Kebab has plenty to offer you that will titillate your taste buds and leave you craving for more. On my recent trip, I went armored with packets and packets of Haldiram snacks to survive in this meat-loving country. I had all my apprehensions about getting good Vegetarian Food in Turkey.
However, the nation welcomed me with so many vegetarian options that quickly made me get rid of the extra luggage.
How do you ask for Vegetarian Food in Turkey?
Here is what I memorized before leaving and it was helpful –
- Vejeteryen (Vay-Jay_tayr-yayn, Vegetarian)
- Et var mı? (eht VAHR muh, “Is there meat?”)
- Yumurta yok (Yuh-muhr-tay Yok, No Eggs).
Now if you have that by heart, shall we begin?
Let me share my favorite 10 vegetarian options that you should try when in this country.
Çig Köfte (Chi kuhf-tay)
The name translates to “Meat Balls”. But don’t let it fool you, this vegetarian delicacy is made of ground bulgar wheat, vegetables, walnut, pomegranate sauce and Turkish spices kneaded over and over for hours to finally create a tantalizing specialty you cannot get enough of.
Our first taste of a Turkish specialty was “Çig Köfte Durum”. The spicy minced vegetable mix is spread generously on a paper-thin lavaş bread and wrapped with a dash of lime & crunchy fresh lettuce leaves. As good as a full meal on the go, this was our favorite of Turkish savory dishes.
Pro Tip: Çig Köfte is best combined with “Ayran” a yogurt based salty drink that soothes the hit of spice. It is quite like our version of Buttermilk and it was an instant hit with us. Packaged Ayran is very easily available on the counter at most packaged beverages outlets. But the home-made Ayran we tried at Goreme was certainly special.
Sigara means Cigar, Börek/Böregi is a dish made with Cheese and Pastry dough in layers. Sigara Böregi is nothing but a cigar-shaped fried cheese pastry roll. Crispy outside, soft herb, and cheese mix inside. It is certainly a winning combination for the snack time. There are a variety of fillings, some use basil, some use spinach and some even onion with feta cheese. Some preparations also use eggs so be sure to confirm before you order. I assure you, you wouldn’t stop at one.
Pide or Pizza
One word, Pizza. Yes! Pide is basically a boat-shaped Turkish version of pizza with cheese & other toppings. It comes with both vegetarian and non-vegetarian toppings so to be safe we ordered a cheese and tomato Pide. Crusty outside with delectable cheesy goodness lavishly thrown in. This sure is your go-to vegetarian meal, anywhere, anytime.
Think stuffed parantha and you have Gözleme. A flatbread, thinly rolled and stuffed with different ingredients like spicy mashed potato, spinach, cheese or minced meat. It will take your taste-buds on the journey back home. Patatesli Gözleme is close to our very own Aloo Ka Parantha, though much subtle in taste. This you will go back to.
Çorba is essentially soup and this one is made of lentils, mostly red lentils. Some also call this Dal Çorba as it is akin to our world-famous Daal. Now, this can be tricky as sometimes the lentils are cooked with chicken or meat stock so ensure you always ask before ordering. A lot of veggies are cooked with the lentils. And I could definitely catch the hint of tomato, onion, and garlic. Garnished with fresh herbs, this piping hot çorba is served with freshly made bread. And it leaves you with a smile as you spoon off the last drops from the bowl.
White beans cooked in a soupy tomato gravy with chilies and onions served with sticky rice (Pilaf). This is Turkey’s answer to our Rajma Chawal. Made with olive oil as is popular in the country, the warmth of this delicacy will certainly make you miss home a little less.
Zeytinyagli Yaprak Sarma or Zetinyagli Dolma
Zetinyagli means olive oil and Sarma is a dish made of Vine leaves, this is one of the unique vegetarian dishes I tried. Herbed Rice wrapped in Grape leaves seasoned with olive oil. This one is probably an acquired taste.
Now onto my favorite part of the meal, the dessert! Baklava is all too famous. If you have not heard of it, you are probably living under a rock. Well, this is a baked layered pastry with chopped nuts (pistachio or walnut) filling inside. Once it is flaky, crunchy & golden brown, sugar syrup (often with rose water) is poured to make this rich, sickly sweet and sinful dessert. If you have a sweet tooth quite like mine, you would want to go to the country just for this.
Another dessert worth trying is Sultaç. Thick, creamy, delicious vanilla flavored rice pudding that is a cross between our Firni and Kheer. Served cold and garnished with pistachios, this hits all the right spots.
This was a surprise treat. Looking for Baklava, we were literally bullied into ordering this and were we glad that we did? Certainly! Crackling semolina threads are spread on a heavily buttered iron/copper plate, a dollop of cheese pressed on top that is again covered with these thin wires of semolina and baked golden. Finally, drenched in hot sugar syrup, this makes for one of the most soul-satisfying desserts I have ever had.
And there is more Vegetarian Food
The better news is that this is not the end of the good news. The country has many other vegetarian options easily available. The common Turkish breakfast at hotels has a variety of olives & cheese, tomatoes, mixed salads, fresh fruit jams, butter, freshly baked bread that is crusty on the outside and super soft on the inside. Fresh fruits like strawberry and oranges and what not. Then there is Kumpir, a huge baked potato with 100 toppings thrown in. Simit, that is similar to the pretzel. Halwa, made of tahini (sesame seeds). The nutty and chewy delights. Turkey’s famous Dondurma which is a sticky ice-cream served by really entertaining sellers dressed in unique Turkish costumes. Who knows what else you may discover.
So, ready to say Merhaba Turkey?
Related Posts on Vegetarian Food
This is a Guest Post by Prakriti Sethia.
A creative professional, I consider myself fortunate to be able to combine my love for travel, nature, food, people & conversations that fill life into my years. Always pulled to new experiences, always up for an adventure and always delighted to share the wisdom gained along the way. I hope to continue enjoying the journey not just the destination.