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Dishes and Food Culture of Siirt

M. Akif Işık*

Siirt has a rich culinary tradition; the women of Siirt approach cooking as if it were a work of art. Young girls generally learn to cook from their mothers. As every Siirt woman knows how to make the local foods, there are few professional cooks in the region. However on special days whoever is the best at making a particular dish, helps their relatives or neighbors to prepare it.

In homes that have a garden or a yard, the kitchen is generally in a corner of the yard. In multistory traditional homes, it was located on the lower floor. Before the advent of gas stoves, kitchens included a hearth. Called the tefeye, the hearth was made from stone and mortar, and was located opposite the entrance. When a pot was on the hearth, an iron rod called a hacırke was placed under the pot so that it would not spill outwards. During the cooking, a shovel called an ıslam and tongs known as kılbıteyn were used. When the fire died down, the coals were pulled forward with another iron tool called a şıngel, and an iron tripod was placed over them; this supported the pot. Those who were not well off burned manure. In addition to the hearth, food was cooked on braziers and wood stoves during the winter. Various beliefs about the wood stoves, known as soba, included: “Never spill water on the soba,” and “Never spit on the soba, otherwise it will hit a jinn and you’ll become poor.” There was also a belief against leaving dishes unwashed overnight: “Never leave dirty dishes in the kitchen overnight; demons will lick them and the abundance of the home will flee.”

The kitchen walls had several niches in which pots and pans were kept, as well as certain constantly-used ingredients such as salt, pepper, mint and onions. Dishes were washed in an area which resembled a black shower basin, called a mıssap, made of mortar or cement. The washed dishes, and especially the spoons, were placed into a woven basket in order to drain and dry cleanly. This basked was known as a şeyhill maalok. There was no tap in the kitchen; water needs were met by carrying water. According to the family’s means, lighting was provided by oil or gas lamps, which either hung from the ceiling or stood on a shelf. Also, in better-off households, leftover foods were kept in a screen cabinet or covered with a flat-topped woven basked called a sefoye.

Every house had a pantry in order to store foods and drinks. In some houses, this was located in the basement, known as the tabok. Items such as cheese, butter, molasses and kavurma were usually kept in glazed earthenware vessels, while dry goods such as bulgur, rice, chickpeas, lentils and beans were stored either in muslin bags or in large wide-mouth bins called den. Fresh bread made for quick consumption was wrapped in clean cloth called gabarıl acin and stored in round tin containers called ıbeyz muravvoh. Dry bread intended for long-term use, called ıbeyz keek, was either strong on ropes or kept in muslin bags.

The main oils used in cooking were butter and olive oil. Recently margarine and sunflower oil have come into used as well. Tail fat is used in dolma and kavurma. It is also cut finely and fried, and eaten at breakfast; this is known as sıle.

Herbs and spices such as black pepper (fılfel), red pepper, flake pepper, mint, red basil (rihen), thyme (zahter), and coriander (kızbara) are used in large quantities.

Salads generally make heavy use of onions. Onions are sliced thinly and kneaded with pepper past or sumac as a salad. Salads are also made from tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, lettuce, hammettita (madımak, knotweed) and harşef (a type of thistle).

On summer days when the tandır, an oven generally sunk into the floor) is being used, before making the ıbeyz keek, the women generally arrange eggplants on long iron skewers and char them in the tandır. These are then peeled, crushed in a large wooden mortar and pestle called a dadoka, and then sautéed with garlic and eggs and eaten with a fresh bread called ığbeyz muravvoh. This dish is known as ebu gannuç. Today the eggplants are usually either cooked in the oven or charred over a gas burner.

In addition to the breads mentioned above, a çörek called basmayat is made with milk and oil for special days. The tops are brushed with beaten egg and sprinkled with sesame and nigella. These can be eaten fresh, or dried for long-term storage just as with ığbeyz keek. Formerly made in a tandır, çörek is now made in ovens and bakeries.

Drinks include ayran, sherbets, lemonade and sour cherry juice; in the winter, grape molasses (pekmez) is mixed with water and made into a sherbet called cıllep. Wild rose petals are gathered and made into rosewater by packing into bottles, covering with water and leaving in the sun for eight to ten days. The water, which takes on the color and aroma of the roses, is sweetened with sugar and cooled with ice (in the old days, with snow).

1- Şorbıt Zehtar (Bulgur Soup with Thyme)
2- Şorbıt Basal (Onion Soup)
3- Lebeniye (Yogurt Soup)
4- Cecruniye
5- Şorbıt Rıs (Rice Soup)
6- Mışovşe (Red Lentil Soup)
7- Adesiye (Green Lentil Soup)
8- Tamatisiye (Dried Tomato Soup)
9- Şorbıt Rişte (Hand-Cut Noodle Soup)
11-Terbiyeli Çorba (Soup with Egg and Lemon)
12-Şehriye Çorbası (Vermicelli Soup)
13-Un Çorbası (Flour Soup)
14-Pırtıye (Spinach Soup)
 l6-Kasabıt Hanva (Tart Liver Soup)
 17-Rus (Head and Feet Soup)
18-Şorbıt Şişe (Cracked Wheat Soup)
 l9-Kır’iye (Squash Soup)
 20-Tenhus (Yogurt and Rice Soup)


1- Rıs (Rice Pilaf)
2- Nohutlu Pirinç Pilavı (Rice Pilaf with Chickpeas)
3- Perde Pilavı (Pilaf Cooked in Yufka)
4- Rıs al Lahem (Rice Pilaf with Meat)
5- Domatesli Pirinç Pilavı (Rice Pilaf with Tomatoes
6- Şehriyeli Pirinç Pilavı (Rice Pilaf with Vermicelli)
7- Sever (Bulgur Pilaf)
8- Şehriyeli Bulgur Pilavı (Bulgur Pilaf with Vermicelli
9- Nohutlu Bulgur Pilavı (Bulgur Pilaf with Chickpeas)
10- Yeşil Mercimekli Bulgur Pilavı (Bulgur Pilaf with Green Lentils)
11- Sever al Lahem (Bulgur Pilaf with Meat)
12- Taze Fasulyeli Bulgur Pilavı (Bulgur Pilaf with Green Beans)
13- Domatesli Bulgur Pilavı (Bulgur Pilaf with Tomatoes)
14- Kuru Soğanlı Bulgur Pilavı (Bulgur Pilaf with Onions)
15- Ikruş al Sever (Bulgur Pilaf with Tripe)
16- Kengerli Bulgur Pilavı (Bulgur Pilaf with Kenger – a type of thistle)
17- Pıçoç (Pilaf from finely-ground bulgur)
18- Hıntiye
19- Şişe (Cracked Wheat Pilaf)

Dolma and Sarma
(Dolma refers to stuffed dishes; sarma refers to those made with cabbage, grape leaves etc. which are “wrapped” around the filling.)

1- Dolmas Made with Fresh Vegetables
2- Dolmas Made with Dried Vegetables
3- Katıklı Dolma – Dolma with Yogurt
4- Ekşili Sarma - Sarma in Sour Sauce
5- Sarmas Made with Rice
6- Sarmas Made with Cracked Wheat)

1. Fresh Vegetable Dolmas
These dolmas are made with eggplant, peppers, tomatoes and zucchini. Lean meat is cut finely with a knife (ground meat is not used), as well as onion and parsley. According to the type of dolma to be made, additions include rice, spices, salt, pepper and/or tomato paste and oil. The filling is put into the vegetables, which and then arranged in a pan, and covered with hot water. They are allowed to cook at low heat for 15 minutes, then sumac water (made by soaking sumac berries in water for several hours) is added, and they are cooked for 15-20 minutes more.

2. Dried Vegetable Dolmas
These are made in the same way as fresh vegetable dolmas, above, but with dried eggplant and peppers, which must be softened in boiling water before stuffing.

In Siirt, dolmas are traditionally always made with meat. However in recent times they have begun making the vegetarian “olive oil” dolmas as well.

3. Katikli Dolmas-Dolma with Yogurt
Large zucchinis are peeled, then cut into long thin strips, like strapping. These are washed and salted generously. After an hour in the salt, they are washed again. A filling made of bulgur, lean ground meat, onion, red basil and spices (red pepper, salt, pepper) is kneaded as for çiğ köfte (raw köfte) and squeezed into oblong pieces by hand. These are wrapped in the zucchini strips and arranged in the pot. Water to cover is added, and they are simmered till done. These are served topped with yogurt and butter heated with red pepper.

4. Ekşili Sarma – Sarma in Sour Sauce
Bulgur, lean ground meat, onion, red basil and spices are kneaded as above and squeezed into oblong shapes. These are wrapped in blanched cabbage leaves. Sour pomegranate kernels are put into the cooking pot, and the sarmas are arranged on top of them. They are then cooked with a generous amount of water, and served with the resulting broth.

5. Sarma Made with Rice
These are the same as the dolmas in the first and second recipes but made with grape, chard or cabbage leaves.

6. Cracked Wheat Sarma
Sometimes instead of rice, cracked wheat is used for grape leaf and chard sarmas. These are called yaprak şişe. These are generally made and eaten at gatherings of women.

Börek and Other Baked Goods

1. Su Böreği
2. Sımeket
3. Salhiye (Börek with Puff Pastry)
4. Sac Böreği (Börek made on a convex griddle)
5. Fatayor Markin (Gözleme – dough rolled out thin and folded over a filling, then cooked on a convex griddle)
6. Kalbur Hurması – Sweet in which the dough is pressed on a sieve or grille to give a pleasing texture.
7. Haşvet

Köfte (Meatballs and Croquettes)

1. İçli Köfte - Filled Köfte
2. Kitel - (Siirt Köfte)
3. Kitel Fum – Köfte with Garlic)
4. Irk
5. Taptap
6. Kıftel Leben (Köfte with Yogurt)
7. Bellog (Lentil Köfte)
8. Çiğ Köfte (Köfte of Raw Meat, Bulgur and Spices)

Vegetable Dishes

1- Metfune
2- Türlü (Similar to a Ratatouille)
3- Madlum (Eggplant or Zucchini layered with meat)
4- Other Vegetable Dishes

Miscellaneous Dishes

1. Cokat (Stuffed Intestine)
2. Ikruş (Stuffed Tripe)
3. Perive (Biryan – Lamb cooked in a tandır)
4. Lahem Ala Udeyn


Many different sweets are made in Siirt and are very popular:

1- Baklava
2- Sarı Burma (a rolled baklava)
3- Kadayıf
4- Rayoşu Mekatip
5- Mıçerket
6- Kalbur Hurması Tatlısı
7- Siirt Pastası
8- Siirt Kurabiyesi
9- Keek Tari
10- KeekTeze
11- Keek Mıhşi
12- Semle (Cheese halvah)
13- Aside (Flour Halvah)
14- Haşvet
15- Lokma Tatlısı (Dough fritters)
16- Pekmezli Kadayıf (Kadayıf with Grape Molasses)
17- Kar Helvası
18- Sımsımiye (Sesame with Grape Molasses)
19- Gebole
20- Şernuniye
21- Muhallebi, Sütlaç, Pelte (Rice Flour Pudding, Rice Pudding, Jellies)


SİİRT İL YILLIĞI (1973): Ajans Türk Matbaacılık Ankara 1973
KILIÇÇIOĞLU, Cumhur: Her Yönüyle Siirt, Kadıoğlu Matbaası Ankara 1993
ATALAY, Ömer: Siirt Tarihi, İstanbul Çeltut Matbaası 1946.

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