In Türkiye, every meal reflects the heritage, traditions, beliefs and experiences of different cultures that have lived together for centuries. The gastronomic world in Türkiye has prioritized reducing food waste for centuries. Even today as many different parts of the world are adjusting their menus to accommodate goals for zero-waste and farm-to-table cooking, Türkiye has already accomplished many of these goals while preserving local heritage.
Türkiye plays an active part in the Slow Food Movement, underlining the principle that everyone has the right to sustainably sourced, healthy and hearty. A number of the country’s major gastronomic capitals, including İzmir, Bodrum, Ayvalık, Aydın, Adapazarı, Samsun, Ankara, Gaziantep, Kars and Iğdır, have been participating in the movement for decades. Due to Türkiye’s biodiversity, cities and villages rely on specific kinds of local vegetables, fruits and grain; so travelers can expect to not only be tasting truly homemade dishes, but dishes important to the region’s local heritage as well.
Three Turkish cities have been registered by UNESCO in the UNESCO Creative Cities Network in the field of gastronomy. Gaziantep in the northwest Mesopotamian region has been a gastronomic highlight dating back centuries, especially to the era of the Silk Road. While the city is well-known as the hometown of kebab and baklava, it is also home to a variety of its own unique dishes such as lebeniye, a rich yet light meatball soup served with a yogurt sauce.
Hatay, which was registered by UNESCO in 2017, has a variety of native dishes including içli köfte, a type of stuffed meatball. Hatay’s most notable dish is künefe, shredded phyllo dough with local unsalted cheese baked over a coal fire.
The most recently registered city, Afyonkarahisar, is famous for its kaymak (a type of clotted cream), Turkish Delight and sucuk (a type of sausage). The city’s rich cream and meat products are connected to the cultivation of the poppy, a staple of an Afyonkarahisar breakfast. The unique spice from the poppy gives a rich flavor to the meat and sucuk sausages.
The Turkish emphasis on zero-waste cooking is seen in recipes using stale bread to make crackers or fruit peels to make jams. Reliance on local farmers’ markets in which purveyors bring in organic, pesticide-free ingredients are an important part of Türkiye’s heritage.