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Traditional Foods of Trabzon

Kalkanoğlu Pilavı: One institution that has preserved the traditional culinary culture of Trabzon for years is the Kalkanoğlu restaurant. For years it operated as a small restaurant, making its signature pilaf and compotes. In recent years it has been modernized and serves a wider variety of dishes. Kalkanoğlu pilaf is sold by the kilo. Here is the recipe:


1 kg rice
2 lt water
1 T tomato paste
250 gr butter
Meat (red meat or chicken, to taste)
Broth made from bones

Bring the broth to a boil in a pot, and add the salt and tomato paste. Meanwhile, wash the rice until the water runs clear, and let stand. If the pilaf will include meat or chicken, these are simmered separately. When the water is at a rolling boil, add the rice (the flame should be set high). After adding the rice, lower the heat and allow to simmer. Once the rice begins to absorb the water the meat is put over the top and it is covered and cooked till done. When done, hot melted butter is poured over the top.3

Akçaabat köftesi: These are made at köfte (meatball) restaurants alond the road between Trabzon and Akçaabat. Akçaabat köftesi is two or three times the size of Tekirdağ köftesi (which is about 2 inches long and < 1 inch wide), but is a soft köfte. They are sold by the kilo. Recently they have begun to be mass produced, and are now sold pre-packed and ready to cook.4


1 kg ground meat
100 gr crushed rusk
1 clove garlic
½ t black pepper
½ t salt

Mix all ingredients and shape into köfte, cook on the grill, serve hot.

Trabzon döner kebab: In Trabzon, döner kebab is eaten in pide, bread or with pilaf.


5 kg yumurtalık meat
500 gr tail fat
3 onions
1 T tomato or pepper paste
1 ½ c yogurt
½ t olive oil
1 clove garlic
½ t black pepper
½ t salt

Remove gristle/tendons from meat and pound very thin with the tail fat. Grate the onion finely and mix with the tomato paste, yogurt, olive oil, garlic, black pepper and salt. Mix the meat with this mixture and allow to marinate for around 12 hours. Then cut the meat in to large and small pieces, and arrange on the vertical spit with a layer of tomatoes in between. Set the spit in place and cook, turning. Cut the cooked meat with a long sharp knife, cutting only the browned surface layer, serve.5

Sweets – Compotes

Honey: Beeswax is put into the hives to encourage the bees to make honey. The taking of the honey is known as “milking the bees” in Turkish. This is done in the evening when the bees have returned to the hive; the hive is smoked with burning brush to drive the bees away. The combs, called gömeç, are then removed. The combs are boiled in a kettle, then strained to separate the honey from the wax. The honey is stored in clay vessels or jars. A portion of the wax is poured into molds for future use, and some is returned to the hives. Honey is eaten plain or with honey for breakfast, as well as used in various sweets and to sweeten various types of gruel.

Sütlaç (rice pudding): Made with milk, rice and sugar, and a very little salt. The best sütlaç in the area is made in the village of Hamsiköy near Maçka, and is sold to restaurants. It is said that it is being sent to Istanbul as well. What gives Hamsiköy sütlaç its unique flavor is the milk, which is flavored by the wild flowers that the cows eat in the mountain meadows. As this milk is available nowhere else, this rice pudding cannot be made elsewhere; it will not have the same flavor. In order to promote this dessert in Turkey and abroad, Hamsiköy held the first “Hamsiköy Sütlaç Festival” 2006. The recipe follows:


2 lt milk
300 gr rice
500 gr sugar

Heat the milk gradually; meanwhile boil the rice in a separate pot, and when it is soft, add to the milk along with the sediment. Add the sugar, and cook until the rice is mushy. Remove from heat and pour hot into bowls, serve cold.6

Laz Böreği: This is a sweet type of börek:


1 kg high-gluten flour
25 gr salt
100 gr butter
8 eggs
Juice of one lemon
1 lt water
1 kg butter

Cream Filling:
1.5 lt milk
450 gr sugar
250 gr flour
5 egg yolks
½ t vanilla

The dough is a type of puff pastry. Mix the first ingredients and knead well, then form into a round ball. Cut an “x” in the top of the dough, with the “arms” and roll out into a cross shape, with the “arms” of the cross a bit thinner than the middle. Form 1 kg of butter into a square shape and place into the middle of the dough, and fold the arms of the cross over the butter to enclose it. Seal the edges well, then roll out the dough, and fold in half and then once again into fourths. Wait half an hour, and roll out again. Wait another half hour, then roll out to 1 cm thick in a shape that will allow you to cut it in half and put it into two baking pans. (I.e. for two 9x13” pans, roll out to 18x13.) Cut in half and put the dough over the bottom of two greased baking pans, and bake in a medium hot oven.

While the dough is baking, mix the ingredients for the filling, and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until thickened. When the börek dough is cooked, remove from the oven and pour the cream over the cooked börek in one of the pans. Remove the cooked dough from the other pan and place over the cream filling. Cut into serving size, and sprinkle with powdered sugar. It may be eaten hot or cold.7

Tatlı süt çorbası: “Sweet milk soup,” this is the “süt çorbası” with bulgur in the “Soups” section above, sweetened with sugar.

Yufka: An unleavened wheat flour dough is rolled out into thin yufka, then cooked plain or with a filling in a large frying pan or a kıylı in the oven. A sugar syrup is poured over the top.

Nişasta: A dessert made with potato or corn starch cooked with milk and sugar. “Nişasta” literally means “starch.” It is basically a blancmange.

Tatlı makarna: “Sweet noodles.” Either homemade or store-bought noodles are cooked and mixed with sugar as a dessert.

Ekmek makarnası: “Bread noodles.” Stale bread is dipped into a light sugar syrup, then heated and served as a dessert.

Kavut: This is a sweet porridge made from pan-roasted barley flour, with honey or a light sugar syrup. It is mostly made in the high villages of Trabzon, where barley is raised. It is made in the same way as kuymak (see above). When the kavut has come to a porridge consistency, it is removed from the heat, and a well is opened in the center, into which a syrup mixed with butter is poured. The kavut is eaten with spoons, dipping into the syrup. Another way is to make many holes in the top of the kavut and pour honey over so that it fills the holes.

Un helvası: “Flour halvah,” made mostly on the evening of a death, at the home of the deceased. Wheat flour is roasted in a pan and then a honey or sugar syrup is added. When it thickens, it is squeezed into individual pieces and eaten after it cools.

Beton helva: Literally “cement halvah,” it is also known as taş helva (“stone halvah”). To make it, a sugar syrup is boiled to 150° C, and an infusion of soapwort root (Saponaria officinalis) is added. To the resulting white sugar paste, tahini is added, and is stirred until it comes to the desired consistency. Various other ingredients such as hazelnuts, pistachios, walnuts or cocoa may be added. It is then poured into molds to solidify. Halvah maker Mustafa Özbak of Trabzon calls this “cement halvah” because the halvah is poured onto a marble slab to cool. Trabzon has a very old tradition of halvah making; the best known halvah makers in the 20th century have been the Bozkurt family. İsmail Hakkı Keleş and his partners, who learned the trade in the beton halvah factory in Trabzon, now make in Istanbul, and also cool it on a marble table.8

Hoşaf: These are compotes, made from fresh apples, plums, sour cherries and quinces as well as dried figs, raisins and oven-dried apples and pears, known as “maranda.” They are most often made during Ramadan, and accompanied by pilaf and pasta.

Reçel: Preserves, made from such fruits as cornelian cherries, plums, apples, quinces and figs. Rose petals are also collected and boiled with a sugar syrup to make rose petal preserves.

Fresh and Dried Fruits

Maranda: Oven-dried apples and pears. Just as there are different varieties of sweet and tart apples, there are also various pear varieties. As the dried fruits are very fragrant, they are called by the same name as a sweet-smelling mountain wild flower called maranda. The dried fruits are eaten during the winter as is, or made into compotes.

Ayva (quince): Quinces have a long shelf life, and may be stored through the winter and eaten fresh, or made into preserves. Their leaves are also made into a medicinal tea, drunk as a folk remedy for colds and coughs.

Fındık (hazelnuts): A important cash crop in Trabzon, hazelnuts are eaten both green and ripe/dry. Ripe hazelnuts are eaten either as is or roasted. Green hazelnut kernels are called “kanci.” Hazelnuts have a high volume of oil, which is a very healthy. They are used in a variety of sweets, and are roasted either in pans on the stove top, or in ovens, or in pans placed on top of the soba.

Hurma (wild persimmon): This is a small cherry sized persimmon (Diospyros lotus) that grows in some villages; it is unique to the region and grows on a tree about the size of a cherry tree. The fruits ripen in the fall, and may either be eaten fresh or oven-dried for winter consumption. The Japanese persimmon (Diospyros kaki), often mistakenly called Trabzon  hurması (Trabzon persimmon) has a light orange fruit around the size of a peach; this is the persimmon most often sold at the markets. The small persimmon is raised only in the Trabzon region.

Karayemiş: This is the fruit of the evergreen cherry laurel (Laurocerasus officinalis), which is native to the eastern Black Sea region. It is known as taflan in some areas. The fruits are the size of very small cherries, though there some larger varieties, and grow in clusters. It may be eaten fresh, dried or pickled for the winter, and is also made into preserves.

Dut (mulberries): Beyaz dut (white mulberries - morus alba) and kara dut (red mulberries - Morus rubra) are eaten fresh during the summer, and white mulberries especially are dried for winter consumption as well as made into molasses.

Mora (blackberries): These grow on thorny bushes at the edges of fields and on roadsides. They are eaten fresh and made into preserves.

Pekmez (molasses): These are made of either mulberries or plums in the Trabzon area. More recently, Zile pekmez sold in round wooden boxes, has been popular.

Üzüm (grapes): In Maçka, black, white and red grape varieties were grown. They were eaten fresh, and made into grape must and vinegar. According to old source, there were grape vineyards in in the Maçka area, and the Greeks of the area especially made wine.

İncir (figs): The three most common varieties are “yuvarlak” (round), “kuş inciri” (bird fig) and “patlıcan inciri” (eggplant fig). They are eaten fresh and made into preserves.

Kiraz (cherries): Both white and black cherries are eaten fresh. According to the old calendar, cherries in Trabzon ripened in June, and for this reason the local people call this month the “cherry month.” The old calendar was thirteen days behind the modern one; for example “Kalandar,” the old calendar name for New Year’s falls on January 13 on the modern calendar.

Vişne (sour black cherries/Morello cherries): These are eaten fresh and as compote.

Erik (plums): Various varieties of plums are raised in Trabzon, and are eaten both fresh and as compote. In addition to the cultivated varieties, the wild plums that grow in the forests and along the roadsides are sweet and used in the same ways.

Çitlenbik (hackberry): Hackberry, (Celtis tournefortii), known in Trabzon as “çatlambuk,” bears pea-sized, orange fruits that turn dark as they become overripe, with a large seed. They are eaten fresh.

Ceviz (walnut): Walnuts are eaten both green and fully ripe. In the past century, there were many walnut trees in Maçka, and the town was known in Turkish as “Cevizlik” (Walnut grove). This name occurs in some old texts. In Meksila village, in the meadow where the Hamsiköy and Mulaka creeks join, there were once large walnut trees. For this reason Meksila is also known as “Cevizlik” locally.

Kızılcık (cornel/cornelian cherry): This tree from two to three meters in height, is not actually a cherry but a species of dogwood, Cornus mas. It grows along roadsides and the edges of fields. Its tart fruits are about the size of a small cherry and red, with a single olive-like seed. They are eaten fresh and also dried for winter use. There is a black and a pink variety. It’s juice is strained and made into vinegar or syrup and bottled.

Amofta: The wild strawberries that grow in the forests and along the edges of fields in the Maçka area are called amofta. It’s Latin name is Fragaria vesca. The fruits are eaten fresh and made into preserves.

Preparation of Foodstuffs for The Winter

Some fruits and vegetables are gathered during the summer when they are plentiful and dried either in the sun or in ovens for winter use:

Fresh and dried corn: When fresh, corn is boiled, baked or roasted; and also dried in the sun or in an oven for winter. Ground in a mill, it becomes meal for bread or porridge. It may be boiled on the cob for eating, but also removed from the cob and made into koliva, or corn soup. The dry kernels are coarsely ground at home mills for yarma, or cracked corn, used in soup. As corn is a good source of glucose, it is used in Trabzon’s lokum (“Turkish delight”) factories. Also, the starch obtained from corn is used in sweets. As throughout the Black Sea region, corn is an important staple in Trabzon. Old people remember that during the famine during World War I, the woody part of the corn cobs was ground into flour to make bread.

Dried squash: Both summer and winter squash are dried in the sun and cooked in winter, especially on kalandar (New Year’s). In addition, the peel of summer squash is peeled in long strips and hung up to dry, and used for various winter dishes.

White beans: Beans are grown in cornfields, in between the rows of corn. When the plants dry in the fields, they are pulled from the ground on a day with wet weather. The plants are then hung on a dead tree with many branches called a carnak, which is set into the ground at the edge of the field or the yard. When they have completely dried, they are beaten with a stick to thresh them. There are two varieties, one long and thin called horoz fasulyesi (“rooster beans”) and one short and round, called şeker fasulyesi (“sugar beans”). The beans are put into sacks and stored for winter. They are cooked in many ways, as mentioned above.

Pinto beans: After they have dried well, the beans are removed and stored for the winter. They are also gathered when still fresh, before their pods have hardened, and strung to dry. These are boiled in the winter and then used in the same way as green beans.

Potatoes: In the high villages, a portion of the potatoes dug in the fall are kept for winter use. They are baked in soba ovens, or underneath the sac (convex griddle) on the hearth. The floury “Russian” boiling potatoes are cut in half and boiled, then eaten with cheese or telli minci (string cheese with minci, see above). The other type of potatoes are used in a variety of dishes.

Tomato paste: Extra tomatoes in the field in the fall are boiled into paste.

Yufka and makarna: Yufka, or thin flatbread, is made from wheat flour, cooked on the sac and dried for winter use. “Makarna,” cut from yufka, is dried in the sun and stored in cloth bags for winter use.

Bulgur: In the old days, wheat was raised in Trabson. The wheat was boiled, then dried in the sun and ground into bulgur in home mills. The “Italian” variety of wheat was used for bulgur making.

Pickles: The most commonly made pickles in Trabzon are green bean, kale, cabbage, papper, eggplant, tomato, cucumber and karayemiş(cherry laurel fruit).

Bean pickles are used both as an eating pickle as well as boiled and mixed with mashed potatoes as patates-turşu kavurması. Sometimes the pickled beans were simply sautéed without the addition of potatoes.

Fish: Hamsi is the best known fish in Trabzon; however all the fish along the shore and in open waters near Trabzon are caught, and there are many kinds of fish in the Trabzon fish house. These include bluefish, mackerel, bonito, tuna, turbot, eel, needlefish, horse mackerel, gray mullet, sea bream, umbra and red mullet. At one time dolphins were much hunted and used for fish oil. Fish is prepared fried, grilled, steamed, and cooked with lemon, according to the variety. There is a fish oil and fish flour factory in Trabzon, established by the Meat and Fish Association.

In Uzungöl, Sera and Çakırgöl lakes and in the area’s many streams, freshwater fish such as trout and carp are plentiful. In recent years many fish farms have been established along the streams, and the fish are served in restaurants set up along their banks.

1. Mustafa Duman, “Trabzon – Maçka’da, 1950 – 1960 Yılları Arasındaki Geleneksel Mutfak Kültürü”, Yemek Kitabı, Tarih-Halkbilimi-Edebiyat,  (Hazl: M. Sabri Koz), Kitabevi Yayını, İstanbul, İkinci. Baskı. Kasım 2003, s. 793-830.
2. Özhan Öztürk, Karadeniz, Ansiklopedik Sözlük, II. Cilt, Heyamola Yayınları, İstanbul,  Mart 2005,  s. 957-958.
3. Şamil Horuluoğlu, Trabzon ve Çevresine Özgü Yemekler,  Akçaabat, (t.y), s. 29
4. Şamil Horuluoğlu, A.g. e.  s. 14.
5. Şamil Horuluoğlu, A.g. e. s. 14.
6. Şamil Horuluoğlu,   A.g. e.  s. 37-38.
7. Şamil Horulıoğlu,  A.g. e.  s. 35.
8. Erkan Eraydın, “Hamsi Üzeri Taş Helva”, Trabzon, Kültür, Sanat,Haber Dergisi, Sayı:5,  (Ocak-Şubat-Mart 2004),  İstanbul, s. 52-55.


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