Gastro Routes: The Mediterranean Region
Mediterranean cuisine is one of the most popular culinary cultures with its famous flavours worldwide. The cuisine, which unite around olives, wheat, fresh vegetables, seafood, meat, dairy products, and plenty of spices and herbs, are divided into three large regions: the Eastern Mediterranean, Southern Europe, and North Africa. The Mediterranean cuisine of these regions also differ within themselves.
In Türkiye, the Mediterranean features some of the most delicious local ingredients. While fresh herbs and vegetables stand out in the Aegean, spices, and meat play the leading role in the Mediterranean coast. Now, fasten your seatbelts as we are heading to the Mediterranean coast of Türkiye chasing after some of the tastiest local delicacies of the Turkish Mediterranean cuisine. Our gastroroute consists of four main Mediterranean cities of Türkiye: Hatay, Adana, Mersin, and Antalya.
Home to a unique, celebrated cuisine and a blend of numerous cultures, Hatay has a very strategic location when it comes to its cuisine. Surrounded by the Mediterranean, Syria, Adana, and Gaziantep which is considered as the food capital of Türkiye, the local kitchen of Hatay focuses on meat, onion, and herbs, offering a rich selection of kebabs, side dishes, and desserts that keeps you coming back for seconds. Here's a brief list of the essentials to taste while in Hatay:
This is a dispensable part of every trip to Hatay. The city's famous dessert Künefe is made up of thin strands of syrup-soaked pastry baked around a core of unsalted fresh cheese.
When it comes to Kebab, no other cuisine is as popular as the Turkish. And, Hatay's tepsi kebabı (literary tray kebab) adds to the popularity of Turkish Kebab. Traditionally prepared by kneading minced meat with finely chopped onions, spices, and herbs, Tepsi Kebabı is delightful and filling. It gets its name from the large circular baking tray that it is usually cooked in. Topped with tomato sauce before it is baked in a stone oven, Tepsi Kebabı may just be your newest favourite Kebab variety!
Fellah Köftesi is a vegetarian dish prepared with bulgur, eggs, flour, and warm water. The ingredients come together to form a dough, that is doused in a garlicky tomato paste and topped with chopped parsley. If you are craving for some local delicacies, you will never go wrong with a plate of Fellah Köftesi!
Hatay's special take on stuffed meatballs, Oruk is made using bulgur, meat, walnuts, onions, olive oil, and various spices that are mixed very well. This labor-intensive delicacy is hard to miss in Hatay as you can spot them even on the street stalls. Squeeze a slice of lemon on top to add flavour if you like the sour taste.
Adana is famed for being the homeland of Turkish Kebab. But, Adana's rich food culture goes beyond the Kebab varieties. It is also home to some of the most delicious dishes from the Turkish cuisine which are bursting with spices and herbs to persuade you to come back to Türkiye!
The primary specialty of the city is made with meat, spice, and plenty of herbs. One special ingredient separates this kebab from minced meat on a skewer, and that is called 'tail fat,' giving Adana kebab its particular flavour.
A colorful, light, and refreshing dessert, Bici Bici is prepared with shaved ice, starch, confectioner's sugar, and syrup. There are two secrets for a perfect Bici Bici: wild ice from the mountains and locally produced rosewater syrup. Bici Bici is a great alternative to Turkish ice cream on hot summer days in the Mediterranean.
Şırdan is definitely not for the faint of heart. Not very attractive at first glance, it is made with a section of lamb stomach that is cleaned thoroughly and stuffed with spiced rice, topped with an ample dusting of cumin, and served alongside pickled carrots and peppers.
In Adana, Şalgam is sold on every corner. A type of turnip juice, it is a fermented, dark purple drink made of turnips and black carrots. Usually served with a plate of local Kebabs or other Turkish delicacies, Şırdan offers a salty and occasionally spicy punch. It is also great for health as it is full of antioxidants!
Located right next to Adana, Mersin is home to a vibrant dining scene cooking up everything from traditional Turkish food to gourmet dishes. Mersin’s cuisine also has a rich selection of seafood platters.
You can find this delicious specialty in every Turkish city these days, but you won't believe how ubiquitous Tantuni is in Mersin, its hometown. Small cuts of red meat are fried with a splash of cottonseed oil inside a vast, shallow metal pan called sac. The meat is topped with spices, chopped tomatoes, parsley, and sliced onions before being rolled up in a soft, fresh slice of flatbread called lavaş.
Cezerye is a sumptuous dessert, hailing from Mersin. Made with caramelized and grated carrots, sugar, and roasted nuts, Cezerye is usually covered with shredded coconut for extra flavour.
Locals of Mersin are really fond of their desserts. Kerebiç is a type of cookie, semolina mixed with walnuts or pistachios. What makes it unique is the soaproot sauce it is served with. You dip it in the sauce, sprinkle cinnamon on top, and enjoy!
Tarsus Kebabı, which is Mersin's answer to Adana Kebabı, is one of the most famous flavours of Mersin. The difference is that Tarsus Kebabı also includes onions. The reputation of this local specialty, which is served in wraps or as portions, is widespread— and it is highly recommended for those looking to taste new Kebab varieties.
Antalya's cuisine is rich and vibrant, thanks to its warm climate. Vegetables and fruits are incorporated into many local dishes. Citrus fruits are used for jams that go well with breakfast, and there is a large selection of seafood to munch on as well.
Antalya's Piyaz is one of the most special flavours of the city with its registered geographical indication mark. With a history of nearly a century, Antalya's Piyaz has a reputation beyond the province's borders. The secret is the small Çandır beans and the tahini tarator sauce that come together in one plate, leaving you wanting more.
Yanık Dondurma (literally meaning burnt ice cream) is made from the fatty milk of local goats that have been fed on wild thyme. The other unique ingredient is Salep powder. It is made of tubers of wild orchids that are washed, boiled, dried, and finally grinded into flour. Yanık Dondurma has a sharp, smoky flavour. Definitely worth a try while in Antalya!
This is an exquisite dish you may sample during your Antalya holiday. Girit Kebabı is unique because the dish is prepared with cubed lamb meat and complimented with artichokes. If you are looking for a balanced diet of meat and veggies, you should give Girit Kebabı a try!