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While I’ve always thought Turkish Breakfast was quite an amazing feast, everything pales in comparison to the serpme kahvaltı served in villages throughout Turkey. I’ve heard about these famous breakfast feasts and often been told that the Eastern province of Van serves them like none other. Until recently, however, I had never enjoyed one myself. Since moving to Bursa last summer, I have had the pleasure of indulging numerous times and feel the experience is well worth it’s own story. From where I live I have been to visit Misi Köyü, Gölyazı, and Cumalıkızık Village. While the breakfast spread and atmosphere at each of these three villages is well worth the trip, I’d like to highlight my experience in Cumalıkızık village.
My first time visiting this village was at the invitation of my friend. She invited me to her mom’s “restaurant,” the Nazar Gözleme Evi. While there are lots of picnic tables among persimmon trees and along a river, we chose to eat indoors on traditional Ottoman-style cushions placed on the floor around low, round tables. In the center of this room is a woodburning stove which provided comfortable heat as well as providing a place for us to toast our own bread.
As soon as we were seated the courses began to arrive. Each of the three times I’ve had the pleasure of eating there I have been amazed at the selection and variety as more than a dozen tiny dishes appear laden with delectable food. While the selection changes some, there are always some main staples you are sure to enjoy: a large tub of fresh bread, sliced cucumbers and tomatoes, black and green olives, fresh kaymak (clotted cream from water buffalo or cow) & honey, along with a variety of white cheeses and homemade jams. My friend explained that they grow the produce in the village and her mom preserves the jams fresh each year. My favorite was the very sweet and unique white mulberry jam. I also sampled blackberry, raspberry, pumpkin, cherry and fig jam. Each time I’ve enjoyed a huge breakfast there, a steaming pan of Menemen (tomato & egg dish) has been brought to the table which I’ve enjoyed. The traditional wrapped grape leaves are always a personal favorite, and I was excited when one of the women invited me into her home afterwards to teach me how to make them. I’ve determined it’s a talent I don’t have, but the way she could stuff and roll the little logs so quickly amazes me and I tried my best. Not only is Turkish cuisine delicious, it is truly a beautiful art form.
The variety of white cheeses never ceases to astound me. There is often at least one crumbly kind similar to feta cheese which is available in the States, sometimes soft, sometimes hard. Another type of cheese is similar to string cheese and is really fun to eat, but doesn’t melt at all like the Kaşar cheese does which is similar to mozzarella. Another type of cheese comes in small braided ropes and has a very soft consistency. Really, the list is endless. There is a delicious dish they make with melted cheese and serve hot in a small frying pan. It’s called kuymak or mıhlama and is most famous in the Northern province of Trabzon, near the Black Sea. This delectable dish is made with melted butter, cheese and corn flour. It might not sound very amazing, but when eaten hot with fresh bread, it is melt-in-your-mouth delicious.
In the other villages I have visited one of my favorite side-dishes of fried phyllo dough and cheese, sigara börek, often accompanies the breakfast feast. However, in Cumalıkızık village they serve small balls of mashed potato and cheese that’s just so yummy. The same woman who taught me to roll the grape leaves invited me back to learn how to make these friend potato balls so stay tuned for that new recipe. Sometimes hard-boiled eggs, scrabbled eggs or sunny-side up eggs are served along with a spicy, garlicy sausage called sucuk. French fries, salami and Nutella seem a common breakfast side dishes in Misi Köyü & Gölyazı as well.
Of course, each table is served its own pot of black tea (çay) on a little burner to keep it piping hot. As you visit for hours while eating, it’s nice to order some gözleme for which this restaurant is named. The way the women roll the dough so thin and then stuff it with cheese, meat, potato, or even eggplant before cooking it on low round burners directly over a gas tank is amazing. Here’s a picture of my friend’s mother outside behind her kitchen making some fresh gözleme for us. After a few more hours of visiting and eating, top the meal off with a small cup of Turkish coffee, as always, served with some Turkish Delight and a small glass of water.
A village breakfast is a feast meant to be leisurely enjoyed with friends and families over the course of many hours. It doesn’t do it justice to rush through it quickly, but then with that amount of food it would be impossible to do so. After so many hours of eating and sitting, wander through the quaint cobblestone streets and enjoy the feeling of stepping back in time a few hundred years. This village was founded in the mid-1300s and has preserved much of the old Ottoman feel. There are many stalls set up for tourists where you can purchase the delicious homemade jams, beautifully knitted shawls, and ornately carved woodwork among other things. As you wander through the village, notice the many old houses which were built using straw and mud before cement was so popular. Make sure you bring good walking shoes as the narrow streets are all cobblestone with a dip in the middle where a constant trickle of water flows as snow melts from the tall mountains above. Come to the village for breakfast, but be prepared to spend the day enjoying a feast for all your senses.
For more about the foods mentioned here, Turkish recipes, and the stories behind some of Turkey’s most iconic dishes head to Jale’s blog!