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The Turkish Breakfast, or kahvaltı, is undeniably the most important part of Turkish cuisine. No mother in Turkey would be okay with her child grabbing a Pop Tart before heading out the door in the morning. Turkish breakfasts are family affairs which can last for hours, especially on the weekends. Turkish breakfast foods and traditions vary across the country but there are a few foods that are common staples whether you are in a big city or a small village. These include: tea, bread, white cheese, olives, eggs, tomatoes, cucumbers, butter or kaymak, honey, and a variety of jams.
The Turkish word for breakfast can be broken down into two simple words: kahve, meaning coffee, and altı, meaning under. So literally kahvaltı means what is eaten before drinking coffee. While most Westerners need their cup of coffee first thing each morning, you will find that missing at the Turkish breakfast. However, a large pot of çay, Turkish black tea, is arguably the most important part of the table. Countless cups of tea will be consumed throughout the meal and by those who linger while chatting around the breakfast table.
Bread is another staple at each Turkish table. While many types of bread exist, the most common will be a long loaf of soft white bread with a crusty exterior, still fresh from the fırın (bakery) down the street. A few other yeasty variations that are also quite popular are pide, poğaça, börek, and gözleme.
A wide variety of white cheeses grace every breakfast table in Turkey. These are made from unpasteurized sheep, cow, goat and even water buffalo milk.
Both black and green olives are very important. Often several different types of each will be offered.
Eggs have been an important part of Turkish breakfasts since the Ottoman Empire. Today they are most often served hard or soft-boiled. Occasionally they will be served like a sunny-side up omelet with sucuk. Sucuk is a type of spicy sausage made from beef, garlic and spices such as red pepper and cumin.
Ruby red tomatoes and crisp green cucumbers are sliced and served at every Turkish breakfast. They add great color to the table and taste great alongside all the cheeses and olives.
Often a deep yellow butter will be served, but if you are lucky they will also offer kaymak. This delectable treat is clotted cream skimmed off the top of fresh milk (often from water buffalo). When mixed with honey and slathered on a piece of fresh bread you will think you’ve just tasted a bit of heaven!
Jams and fruit preserves are very important, and the options are endless. From mild, blush colored rose-petal jam, to thick & seedy raspberry jam, or sweet & tangy quince jam, you are bound to find several options that please your taste buds. A popular favorite is a cherry jam with whole cherries. Along with the jams & breads, simit is often served. These crusty bread rings are covered in seaseme seeds and perfect for dunking into a variety of jams or a chocolate spread like Nutella.
For more about the foods mentioned here, Turkish recipes, and the stories behind dome of Turkey’s most iconic dishes head to Jale’s blog!