There is a fine food tradition in Turkey, going back hundreds of years to the royal kitchens. Dinners with family and/or friends are special and it is considered very poor form for individual family members to fix themselves a meal separate from the rest of the family.
The tradition of the Turkish meze platter is an essential part of Turkish culture.
Turkish mezes are perfect for social gatherings and are designed to promote talking through their casual, shared eating. Meze, or Turkish tapas, are small quantities of food served at the start of a meal.
They are usually cold and the emphasis is on fresh, healthy ingredients. Also, they are usually vegetarian!
Ordering Turkish Meze at a Restaurant
Whether eating in a restaurant or hosting a meal at home, most meals begin with mixed mezes. Most restaurants will supply 1 or 2 mezes free of charge but Turkish people will usually want to supplement with additional plates.
Many Turkish restaurants don’t have menus so you will be invited by your waiter to go up to the kitchen and inspect the mezes. The waiter will explain each dish. Most restaurants have a selection of 20 or so mezes, all made freshly on the day. So for a table of 2, it is normal to have 3 or 4 mezes.
Turkish Meze Traditions
Turkey has a fine heritage and rich traditions around liquor. Your meze should be accompanied by wine or raki, an anise-flavored liquor known as “lion’s milk”. It is usual to dilute raki by adding water to it, upon which it will turn cloudy. Most Turkish people select raki as their accompaniment rather than wine.
There are many types of meze to choose from. Typically there will be vegetable-based dips, marinated vegetables, salads and breads. It is all very social with the plates being placed in the center for guests to help themselves.
It is typical for Turkish meze dips to be served over a long duration, often 2 hours before the main course is served. It is also typical to eat the mezes in a garden or balcony setting and then sit around and talk as the raki takes effect! It’s a lovely tradition you’ll want to take with you long after leaving Turkey.
Normally the main course of grilled fish or grilled meat will follow the mezes, following the fresh flavors with something a little stronger.
Turkish Mezes are certainly a great way to start a meal and healthy to boot! Today’s Turkish meze menu has 5 mezes to choose from and it is a lovely contrast of tastes and colors. It’s also really authentic – most of the recipes came directly from people we knew in Turkey!
Please let us know what you think, leave us a comment below. Do they taste just like the meze you remember from Turkey?
Turkish Food and Yogurt
Yogurt is a feature of these Turkish starters, featuring substantially in two of the five options here. And, I have to say that we really enjoyed Turkish yogurt. It is thicker than Greek-style yogurt! Try and find it if you can. And, if you can’t source it, use Greek-style or Bulgarian-style.
More Turkish recipes on Compass & Fork:
Another Turkish recipe, yogurt soup can be served cool in summer or warmed in winter. Easy to make and healthy.
In Turkey, we quite often enjoyed a pomegranate breakfast, featuring yogurt, as well as this delicious and healthy fruit. Absolutely superb in summer.
And finally, Turkish manti with garlic yogurt sauce. Manti is often called Turkish ravioli and the garlic yogurt sauce is killer.
Turkish Meze Menu
It is normal to start a meal with a Turkish mezze platter accompanied by copious amounts of bread. They are therefore similar to Spanish tapas but tend to be cold rather than hot.
A Turkish meze platter is sure to impress everyone and get the conversation flowing. The freshness, color, taste and not to mention the health aspects will leave you wanting more.
You can make one, some or all of the dishes! It’s a great way to start off a dinner party. In this set, you will experience different textures, colors and tastes.
The earthiness of raw beets (beetroot) in a yogurt-based dip, the recipe for which was kindly provided to us by a Fethiye market vendor from whom we bought many of our vegetables over a period of months.
An olive-based salad that might just have become our favorite salad ever (we thought that Asian-based salads held that title). The combination of the salty olives and the sweet molasses was a delight to savor, and something totally different.
Roasted and then vinegar-marinated red bell peppers (capsicums) that are truly gourmet. You won’t believe you’ve gone without it all these years.
Another yogurt-based dip, this time with carrots and finally mixed olives, simple, elegant and juicy. Apart from the finishing garnishes and dressings, the dishes can be prepared in advance! Perfect for a party.