Helin is from Antalya, a city on the south coast of Turkey. The warm Mediterranean climate and beaches have made it one of the most popular holiday destinations in Turkey. Three years ago, Helin moved to the Netherlands for her Masters and now, she’s doing her PHD. She convinced us that Turkish cuisine is more than döner kebap and Turkish pizza and told us about the importance of cooking in Turkey.
People from many different nations lived in Turkey for a long time, Helin explains. Turkish cuisine reflects this fusion of different cultures. Besides, Turkish cuisine is very rich. There are a lot of meat dishes but also a wide variety of vegetarian and vegan options. As main ingredients Turkish cuisine uses onions, garlic and tomato paste. These ingredients add flavor to almost any dish. Furthermore, although Turkish pizzas and döner kebab give the opposite impression, Turkish people eat a lot of vegetables.
"As main ingredients Turkish cuisine uses onions, garlic and tomato paste. These ingredients add flavor to almost any dish."
Therefore, according to Helin, this is the biggest misconception about Turkish cuisine. In the Netherlands, kebab is often eaten as street food after a night out. However, Helin tells us that “in Turkey this is offered by fancy restaurants, served neatly on a plate with a salad on the side.”
When asked what is most typical about Turkish food culture, Helin immediately mentioned the importance of breakfast. “In Turkey, breakfast is really important. During breakfast we eat bread together with a lot of small ingredients, such as olives, tomatoes, cucumber and cheese. When I find the time on weekends I still try to do this, even though it’s not common in the Netherlands,I try to do this as well on weekends, because I really love it!” Compared to Dutch food culture, Turkish culture is less practical. “In the Netherlands, dinner is really about just eating. But in Turkey it is actually about a lot of things. Therefore, cooking is very important in Turkey. They see it as a way to please your children and to put a smile on people’s faces.
"In Turkey, Kebab is offered by fancy restaurants, served neatly on a plate, with a salad on the side.”
Finally, Helin told us about the famous sweet treat Baklava. She explained to us that Greeks and Turks have argued for centuries about where the dish comes from. Because Greeks and Turks have lived together for so long, according to Helin it’s hard to say to which nation it belongs.