Famous Travellers on Bursa Cuisine
The city of Bursa, located on the south shore of Marmara sea is the first capital of the Ottoman Empire. Bursa was built on very fertile land therefore the ingredients grown on this land is plentiful forming a very rich cuisine. Although the regional cuisine of Bursa is very rich and varied, it has remained under the shadow of “İskender Kebab” the most popular dish of Bursa.
Throughout the history, most of the famous travellers have visited Bursa and wrote in their journals about the diverse dishes with high regards. What they have written in their journals gave us valuable information on Bursa cuisine.
İbn-i Batuta’s impressions of Bursa in 1350’s:
“Bursa is a large city of Turks that has wide and spacious streets and market places. City is surrounded by vineyards, gardens and streams.” He also mentions the feast offered to him by Ahi Şemseddin on day of ashura*. After the wonderful “iftar” meal and the “sema” demonstration he wrote, “This was one of the best days that I had in the Turkish cities.” (Bursa Mutfağı, M. Ömür Akkor, p.7)
The impressions of Evliya Çelebi during a trip he took to Bursa in 1650’s:
“Uzun Çarşı is very colorful and fancy with all the shopkeepers available to take care of your needs. The “Kebapçılar” marketplace located in Pirinç Han is very elaborate. All the food and drink sellers are Muslim. The “Bakalar” Market is very clean. Fruit compote is unique to this realm. The white bread tastes as good as the white bread from the Tophane bakery in İstanbul. The “çakıl” bread is only found in this realm.
The white pastry is like a rose. They have wonderful kebabs due to the fleshy animals they breed. Helva with musk is wonderful as well.
The lifewater that you will drink from Pınarbaşı, where water flows from 17 different places, various fruit compotes, colorful sherbets, coffees, strained bozas (the fermented millet drink).
There are 40 different varieties of pears. Various grapes, apricots, cherries, and chestnuts are matchless. There are 7 different types of mulberries.” (Bursa Mutfağı, M. Ömür Akkor, p.8)
Impressions of Moltke from 1800’s:
“We had lunch at a typical Turkish kebab restaurant. Kebab served on wooden trays. Lamb chunks cooked on skewers and wrapped in bread. It was a very delicious dish. On top of that a plate of salty olives and sherbet...” (Bursa Mutfağı, M. Ömür Akkor, p.5)
*The tenth day of the month Muharrem in the Islamic calendar that marks the mourning day for Hüseyin, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammed, who was killed during the Kerbela Battle.