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Turkish Cuisine in the 11th Century
Reşat Genç

In addition to fresh consumption for everyday use, meat was also frozen in ice 11 and especially dried in the sun to be eaten later. Turks called dried meat kak et, and this manner of drying and preserving meat is still practiced in Turkey today. Meat was also preserved as pastırma. Salted, pressed and dried with certain spices, meat made into pastırma was known as yazok et 12. In addition, a type of sausage called soktu (mod. Turkish sucuk) was made by mixing liver with meat and spices and stuffing it into intestines 13.

On the subject of meat consumed daily, the most-prepared dish was kebab, known by different names. The most common of these was şiş kebabı, or meat cooked on a skewer. In addition, just as today, lambs were roasted whole over a fire lit on the ground 14. Lamb was also steamed in a closed pot 15. A dish similar to today’s kâğıt kebabı (kebab in paper) was present in the 11th century, in which fatty chicken or red meat was wrapped in a thin layer of dough to prevent the leaking out of the fat during cooking 16. As far as we know, every part of a slaughtered animal was used, just as it is today. As they singed the head 17, a food called simsamrak was made from head meat. According to Kaşgarlı, this dish was made as follows:

After the head is cooked, its meat is diced finely and put into a casserole. Into this, spices are mixed, and sour yogurt is added on top of it. It is left to stand for a time, and then eaten. 18

From information about the preparation of various dishes provided in the Divanü Lügati’t-Türk, we know that “ekşili” (soured) dishes, made with the addition of things like sour yogurt and vinegar, were very popular with the 11th century Turks. Thus soured dishes have ha special place in Turkish culinary culture, because they have remained a feature of Turkish cooking since the 11th century. In the same vein, while the animal’s liver was cooking, mustard and vinegar were poured over it to make it swell and cook well. 19. The brain of animals was also held in high esteem in the 11th century, and when the Turks slaughtered a sheep for an honored guest, the brain was served to him 20. Soup was also made of the feet, but we do not have any information on how this was prepared. The Turks also knew a type of stuffed intestine, made with meat and spices. In addition, they had a dish they called yörgemeç, which is described as follows: The tripe and intestines are diced finely, then fried or baked and eaten 21.

Though we know the dishes of the 11th century Turks included a dish similar to today’s kadınbudu köftesi, we know nothing of how it was prepared 22.

It is certain that the Turks also used the milk of the animals they used for food. In addition to drinking the milk fresh, we see that they also made butter, yogurt, ayran, cheese and kaymak (clotted cream). On the other hand, just as today, they liked the milk given for a newly-born animal (colostrum), which they called aguz (mod. Turkish ağız) 23. Just as today, the Turks called clarified butter (Standard Turkish sade yağ) sağ yağ 24. However they called their caul fat yakrı (mod. Turkish iç yağı), and used sesame oil, which they called krüç yağı. We also learn that some of them called oil/fat öz (essence), and a food that was rich because of its fat content, özlü aş (food with essence) 25, and the term özlü yemek still carried the same meaning today in various parts of Anatolia.

Yogurt, made by fermenting warm milk with a starter, which they called kor, was a much consumed food. In addition to being eaten plain, it was also added to tutmaç and a host of similar foods. In addition to being watered down and drunk as ayran, it was also dried; 11th century Turks called dry (mod. Turkish kuru) yogurt kırut 26. On the other hand, they sometimes added vinegar to yogurt to obtain another curdled milk product, and also mixed milk into yogurt to make another food called iküik. As for ayran, it was made and drunk as is done today, and a type of cheese called süzme (lit. “strained”) was made from it 27. In addition, an old type of ayran called buldunı was made by adding either fresh grapes or raisins to ayran 28.

Just as they do today, the Turks were making various types of cheeses out of both whole and skim milk. Another foodstuff they produced was kaymak (clotted cream, obtained by heating whole milk in a broad pan), which was eaten alone as well as used in the preparation of other dishes.

Honey, which some Turks called arı yağı (lit. “bee oil”) 29 was another important foodstuff. Eaten alone, it was also used in the preparation of a dish called bıhsı. Kaşgarlı Mahmud describes its preparation: Wheat is boiled, and almond kernels are added. To this, honey, milk and cooked bulamaç is added. After it ferments, it is eaten, and its milk is drunk 30. In addition, honey was mixed with an herb called kumlak and made into wine.

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