A Traditional Turkish Breakfast

Food & Drink
March 10, 2013 6:01 pm

To the granola bar-eaters in the subway, the Starbucks scone-chompers on the sidewalks, the gym-baggers with your smoothies… it’s time to take a lesson from the Turks in happy breakfasting. 

Breakfast, or Kahvalti, is a big deal in Turkey. Even the most basic of restaurant breakfasts come with a pile of plates: Fresh tomatoes, eggs, fresh jam, butter, multiple types of cheeses, olives, cacik (yogurt/dill spread), and kaymak (a very special kind of clotted cream). And those are just the essentials.

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This dazzling spread came from Van Kahvalti Evi, a popular spot in the hip neighborhood of Beyoglu, one of the newer waves of restaurants that serve breakfast all day. In the eastern Turkish city of Van, an entire street of restaurants serves only breakfast! The all-day breakfast trend was made famous there, which is why many spots in Istanbul (like this one) contain the city’s name.

In addition to the traditional Kahvalti spread of small plates, menemen is an egg-based dish made with onions and grated tomatoes, often with cheeses or sausages. It’s served in a big skillet to share with the table, and it’s succulent. Instead of drowning the fresh taste of tomatoes with oil and 20 dried spices like we often do in the U.S., the ingredients speak for themselves, and you can taste each one.

While I’m sure any Turkish restaurant would know how to make menemen for you, it’s somewhat hard to find on a menu in New York City where most of the Turkish restaurants are dinner-focused. Luckily, it’s not hard to make at home! The underrated food blog “A Seasonal Cook in Turkey” offers a great Menemen recipe. For other great Turkish recipes, Binnur’s Turkish Cookbook is excellent.

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At Van Kahvalti Evi, much if not all of the fresh produce and cheeses are sourced from Van, including the city’s famous honey which accompanies a unique type of clotted cream called kaymak. The two smothered together on a fluffy and porous bread is a combination that’s tough to beat. Pay them a visit at Defterdar Yokuşu No: 52.A, Cihangir, Beyoglu! Many of the waiters speak English are were so friendly to us.

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I’m still searching for the perfect Turkish breakfast in New York City, but most importantly, kaymak! The only method I’ve found so far is to purchase kaymak (Turkish clotted cream) online from Gulluoglu or at their midtown NYC location. I promise I’ll keep the search alive…

-Tara

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