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Food and Drink

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These days the Turkish breakfast ( kahvalti ) served at hotels and pansiyons is usually an open buffet, offering bread or toast along with butter, cheese, jam, honey and olives. There's usually unlimited quantities of tea, but coffee is generally extra. Many workers start the morning with a börek or a poça , pastries filled with meat, cheese or potato that are sold at a tiny büfe (stall/café) or at street carts. Others made do with a simple simit (sesame-seed bread ring). The traditional eastern Anatolian breakfast is a bowl of mercimek çorba (lentil soup) served with lemon and chilli powder.

Later in the day , vendors hawk lahmacun, small "pizzas" with meat-based toppings, and, in coastal cities, midye tava (deep-fried mussels). Another option is pide , or Turkish pizza - flat bread with various toppings - served at a pideci or pide salonu . Another snack speciality is manti , meat-filled ravioli drenched in yoghurt and oil.

A restaurant   (lokanta) serves more substantial hot dishes in rich tomato sauces, while a kebapci specializes in grilled or roast kebabs. Most budget-priced restaurants are alcohol-free; some places marked içkili (licensed) may be more expensive. A useful exception is a meyhane (tavern), which usually serves meze - an extensive array of cold appetizers - as well as grilled kebabs and fish as the focus for a full evening's eating and drinking.

Prices vary widely according to the type of establishment: from $3 a head at a simple lokanta , or $10-20 at regular resort restaurants , up to $50-100 a head at flashier places. Many don't have menus ; you'll need to ascertain the prices of most main courses beforehand. Meze , or appetizers, come in all shapes and sizes, the commonest being dolma (usually peppers stuffed with rice), patlican salata (aubergine in tomato sauce), and acili (a mixture of tomato paste, onion, chilli and parsley), as well as seafood salads and pickled fish. Main courses served in lokantas include a number of vegetable dishes such as green beans or baked beans in tomato sauces, though they're invariably prepared with lamb- or chicken-based stock. Meat dishes include several variations on the kebab (kebap) , for example Iskender kebap (slices of meat on pide , with spicy tomato sauce, yoghurt and salad), köfte (meatballs), sis (grilled meat chunks) or çöp sis (small bits of lamb). Fish and seafood are good, if usually pricey, and sold by weight more often than by item. Budget mainstays include freshly grilled sardalya (sardines), palamut (bonito), iskumru (mackerel), kalkan (turbot) and kefal (grey mullet).

Finally, those with a sweet tooth will find every imaginable concoction at a pastane (sweet-shop): best are the honey-soaked baklava , and a variety of milk puddings, most commonly sütlaç (rice pudding), which is consistently available in ordinary restaurants too. Other sweets include asure (Noah's pudding), a sort of rosewater jelly laced with pulses, raisins and nuts, and the best-known Turkish sweet, lokum or "Turkish Delight" - solidified sugar and pectin, flavoured with rosewater and sometimes pistachios, and sprinkled with powdered sugar.

Tea   (çay) is the Turkish national drink, served in tiny tulip-shaped glasses, with sugar on the side but no milk. Turkish coffee   (kahve) is also common, served in tiny cups; don't drink the last mouthful (it's the grounds). Instant coffee is thankfully losing ground to fresh filter coffee in trendier cafés. Fruit juices   (meyva suyu) can be excellent but are usually sweetened. Mineral water, either still (su) or fizzy (maden suyu) , is found at the tableside in most restaurants. Mesrubat is the generic term for all carbonated soft drinks . You'll also come across ayran , watered-down yoghurt.

Alcoholic drinks   (içkiler) are available without restriction in resorts and in most other places, though you may have some thirsty moments in smaller interior towns in the east. The main locally brewed brands of beer   (bira) are Efes Pilsen, Tuborg and, as a likely newcomer this year, Carlsberg; imported beers are available, but at a horrendous mark-up. Turkish wine   (sarap) varies alarmingly in quality; the commonest labels are Kavaklidere and Doluca, which both offer a variety of vintages. The national aperitif is anis-flavoured raki - stronger than Greek ouzo. It's usually drunk with ice and topped up with water.


Edit by: DougW
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