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Notes on the Culinary Culture and Foods of the Turks of Bulgaria

Kâmil Toygar-Nimet Berkok Toygar

Bulgaria was under Ottoman rule for centuries. Approximately one million Turks still live in its Rhodope, Deliorman and Koca Balkan regions.

After the end of Ottoman rule the Turks of Bulgaria, despite nearly losing their cultural identity under various pressures, are striving hard to preserve their customs and traditions, and pass these on to future generation.

In this contaxt, we will examine the important place of eating and culinary habits within the values of the Turks living in Bulgaria. The chief characteristics of this cultural wealth are:

  • As the Turkish and Bulgarian peoples lived in among each other for centuries, may different Turkish dishes have entered Bulgarian cooking, many of which have still preserved their Turkish names. Among the first to come to mind, for example, include turşu, paça, işkembe, kıyma, yufka, musakka, yahni, imambayıldı, güveç, köfte, kavurma, kapama, kebap, çömlek kebabı, çöp kebabı, tas kebabı, şiş, sarma, börek and yoğurt.
  • Yogurt, a food enjoyed today in Europe and America, passed to these continents via the Bulgarians.
  • Turks living in Bulgaria maintain a strong tradition of Baklava making, especially for religious holidays and celebrations, the feast (Bayram) of Ramadan in particular, where the making of baklava begins a week before the holiday. The baklava is sent to special bakeries to be cooked, and on these days, large crowds gather outside the bakeries. Names or other markings are written on the pans to avoid confusion. Following the Bayram prayers, baklava is served to those who come to visit their parents, close relatives and neighbors, and is sent to their non-Muslim Bulgarian neighbors as well. Bulgarians who live far away also come on Bayram to eat baklava.
  • Similarly, the Turks living in Bulgaria also hold festive celebrations of the Feast of the Sacrifice. The meat of the slaughtered animals is first distributed to those who could not make a sacrifice, relatives, neighbors and the poor. Bulgarian neighbors are also not forgotten; they are also given boiled mutton. The word kurban (sacrifice) has entered the Bulgarian language; and in a culinary sense has come to mean “boiled meat.”
  • As fruits and vegetables were not plentiful in every season in Bulgaria until fairly recently, winter preparations were a very important part of the Turks’ culinary culture. This accounts for the broad variety of soup components, pickles and preserves, dried vegetables and fruits and various canned and brined staples. It was traditional in every Turkish home to make at least three types of fruit preserves. When women visit each other, they always serve a spoon of preserves accompanied by a glass of water. The main types of preserves made are cherry, tomato, plum, squash, grape, sour cherry, apricot, peach, quince, apple, pear and rose. Just before they are removed from the heat, it is common to add a few washed rose geranium leaves, which lends a pleasant aroma to the preserve.
  • The order of dishes served on special occasion meals is: Soup, a dish of vegetables and meat, kapama, börek, a sweet (revani, milk/yogurt cake, kadıngöbeği, baklava), stuffed vine leaves with meat, yogurt, and Turkish coffee.


Soups

Köfte Çorbası
Meatball Soup

Ingredients:

200 gr medium-lean ground meat
2 medium onions
1 c rice
1 T tomato paste
1 t black pepper
3 T vegetable oil
Salt to taste

Thickener:

1 egg
A few drops of vinegar
½ c yogurt

1. In a pot, bring two liters of water to a boil together with the finely chopped onion, vegetable oil and tomato paste.
2. Knead together the meat, half a cup of the rice, black pepper, and salt, and make hazelnut-sized balls, place on a pan with a bit of flour so that they won’t stick.
3. When finished, add the meatballs to the boiling water, add the remaining rice, and cook on medium heat.

Thickener: Thoroughly mix the egg, vinegar and yogurt, and whisk this gradually into the soup. Serve hot, sprinkled with a bit of wild thyme if desired.

Source: İsmet Hacıdağlı

Kuru Fasulye Çorbası
White Bean Soup

Ingredients:

1 c white beans
1 medium onion
4 T vegetable oil
1 t ground red pepper
Salt to taste
1 T flour
1 t mint
1 T tomato paste
Vinegar to taste

1. Allow the beans to soak in water overnight. The next day, boil them till done but not disintegrating.
2. Saute the finely chopped onion in the oil, together with the mint.
3. Add the flour and sauté, then add the tomato paste, red pepper and boiled beans. Add hot water to cover well and boil.
4. Serve in bowls with vinegar to taste.

Source: İsmet Hacıdağlı

Hamur İşleri - Dough/Batter-Based Dishes

Akitma
Crepes

Ingredients:

1 c flour
2 c  water
Salt to taste
1 T butter or margarine

1. Mix the water, flour and salt to make a medium thin batter.
2. Spread a frying pan with butter or margarine, and pour the batter in thin even-sized rounds.
3. Stack and cut them, and serve with pekmez (grape or mulberry molasses), cheese or yogurt.

Source: Cemile Özgöç

Kıvırma Dolangaç (Kol Böreği)

Dough:

500 gr flour
1 egg
Salt to taste
½ c milk
2 T vegetable

Filling:

200 gr Lor cheese (mizithra, or fresh unsalted curd)
2 T butter or margarine, melted

Topping:

1 c yogurt
2 eggs
½ c oil
Salt to taste

1. Mix the first ingredients and knead into a dough, let rest. Divide into egg-sized pieces and roll out into thin yufkas.
2. Grease a baking pan. Put cheese on top of the rolled out yufka, drizzle with melted butter, fold the sides in to make a oblong börek 10 cm wide, seal and arrange on the baking pan.
3. Mix the topping ingredients and drizzle over the top with a spoon.
4/ Cook at medium heat till browned, let cool a few minutes and serve.

Source: İsmet Hacıdağlı

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