Bordered on three sides by seas, crossed by great rivers and creeks and lakes, Turkey is practically a great nation of water. The fish living in these bodies of salt and fresh water hold an important place in this culture’s cuisine. The fish in countries like Turkey, which has inland seas, are especially flavorful. This is because such fish have many bottom and active mid-water fish, and these are more flavorful than open-see and ocean fish. In addition to the flavor of these fish, Turkey is a wealthy country from several standpoints. Every sea has its own naturally-occurring fish, and each has its own season and special flavors. The hamsi of the Black Sea, the istavrit of the Marmara Sea, the sardines of the Dardanelles and the sea bream of the Aegean are fish which are immediately identified with these waters. Other fish such as mackerel, tuna, turbot, bonito, çinakop (small bluefish) and lüfer (adult bluefish) have a special flavor in each sea in which they occur and bring a different flavor to the table.
In addition to professional fishing, we see rod fishing as well, both for sea fish as well as for those of rivers and lakes. The most common freshwater fish in Turkey are trout and carp. Turkish trout are considered one of the most delicious freshwater fish in the world; the best are caught in the streams of the eastern Black Sea region.
Until very recently Turkish fishing was a local, private sector, but in the last 25-30 years it has made great strides. In addition to new techniques of catching saltwater fish, there have been great leaps in freshwater fisheries as well. Today, fish farms in both fresh and salt water are helping to ensure the survival of endangered fish, and assuring their presence on our dining tables.
There are three main ways of preparing fish in Turkey: grilling, frying and steaming. All three are used in homes and restaurants, according to the type of fish and the season in which it is caught. Dishes of which fish is a component are more common among people who live along the coasts than inland.
In addition to fish, Turkey has an abundance of other seafood as well, such as mussels, oysters, octopus, squid and shrimp.