We spent nearly two months in Turkey, spoiling ourselves with the decadence of a week in Istanbul before making our way to the southern coast for a break from travel as we rented an apartment for two months.
While we were not able to sample anything in terms of fine dining on our flashpacking budget, we did get a real taste for some of the cheaper Turkish morsels that will fit any backpacker or flashpackers budgets. The not so big surprise was that cheap eats can consist of more than doner meat in a pitta bread!
We will guide you through the cheap eats of turkey and introduce you to the local markets of Fethiye. The markets here will allow you to eat like a king on fresh fruit and vegetables for a fraction of the cost of eating out. You will not find much exotic fare here, but good quality organic, local, in season vegetables and fruit. Tomatoes and vegetables will set you back two or three Lira a kilo and potatoes even less at one Lira. Chicken is the main cheap meat on offer at around nine Lira per kilo, double that if you want to go for veal/beef.
Bread is also the main staple diet in turkey and you will get spoilt for choice in the local bakers (Firin in Turkish), basic bread start at less 75 than kurus (0.75 lira) for a basic freshly baked loaf up to two or three for the more speciality local breads.
Meat Based dishes
Chicken livers (Tavuk Cigeri Kavurmasi) that are fried in cumin, paprika, pepper and parsley until just cooked and are succulent.
Kokoreç This dish is prepared from lamb intestines wrapping seasoned offal which include sweetbreads, hearts, lungs or kidneys. The intestines of suckling lambs are preferred for the better quality versions.
Kofte – is a mixture of lamb, mutton and beef, seasoned and rolled up into a ball, flattened before being cooked on a barbecue. All places have their own secret recipes, but mainly involve cumin. Adana kofte are a much more spicy south east Turkish variety.
Kebaps are most often drunk with ayran; a curd based salty drink. With most snack meals in Turkey you will also be presented with a big jars of pickled red cabbage, vegetables and small whole chillies if you are feeling spicy.
Pizzas and Pancakes
Pide or Turkish Pizza comes in a range of varieties and is a flat bread that is topped with lashings of tomato, cheese, egg, meat or vegetables, Ask for Sujuk and you will get a spicy Turkish sausage sliced on top.
Lahmacun – a very thin pizza topped with minced vegetables and herbs including onions, tomatoes and parsley, then baked till crispy, great as a snack with a few drinks.
Gozleme or Turkish savoury pancakes, very thinly rolled pancakes usually prepared by the old ladies at markets and filled with cheese, potatoes, herbs, spinach, onions or meat or combinations of each.
The market ladies in Fethiye also do another version using a soda bread, this is filled with cheese, onions and served with fresh tomato and is delicious for breakfast or brunch.
Lentil Soup – Mercimek Corbasi – made with chicken stock, onions and carrots fried in butter, seasoned with salt pepper and cumin and as its Turkey is served with heaps of fresh bread.
Menemen – scrambled eggs, tomatoes and green Turkish peppers simply salt and pepper to complement the slight spice of the peppers. What this dish lack in looks it makes up for in taste, simple ingredients get they work wonderfully together.
Fish Sandwich – balik ekmek, is simply a fish sandwich served on bread with salad, it sound simple right?. Until you have tasted a fresh one in Istanbul or on the harbour at Fethiye you have not lived, simple yet delicious
Pomegranates – you will see this served as a freshly squeezed drink or fermented into a lovely vinegar dressing which is great with salads.
Olives – they’re everywhere and served for breakfast and dinner, but in my view they can’t beat the subtle flavours of western European olives, I found Turkish varieties a tad oversalted and a little harsh.
Turks love cheese, but those of you love cheddars or the blue and strong cheeses of Europe you will be disappointed. There are three varieties of Turkish chesses very salty, salty and not so salty. Its best to buy at the markets where you can get a taste before you buy so your can check the saltiness and flavour.
Beyaz peynir is a very salty cheese, the name means white cheese. Not dissimilar to feta but not as cheesy, I know thats not very helpful, but its the only way I can describe it.
Kaşar , is a slightly fatty sheep cheese , you may find this referred to as Turkish cheddar, but it is a very mild flavour compared to European cheddars.
Örgü peyniri, is a stringy cheese with a mild and not so salty flavour, it needs things to go with it to bring out the flavour.
All these cheeses go wonderfully with Turkish honey, which has to be some of the best I have ever tasted. It is not the cheapest item to buy here but well worth the money when you taste it alone or with the cheese.
Turkey did not disappoint in the cheap eats and snack food stakes, but has some way to go to beat the variety and flavours you get wandering the streets of Asia.