Who knew breakfast could be this good? Exploring the anatomy of kahvaltı (full Turkish breakfast)

After a brief hiatus in Europe, travelling through 6 countries in under a month, I’ve returned with a full belly, entirely inspired by the culinary idiosyncrasies from each country, city and region.

After such an amazing trip, I couldn’t help but share my experience and observations, in particular in regards to Turkey.

After travelling through Istanbul, Nevşehir, Pamukkale, Hierapolis, Kuşadası and Cappadocia, the most overwhelming difference between a standard North American diet was the variety of foods, especially for breakfast.

Let’s talk kahvaltı for a sec, or should I say, “before coffee”. By far, one of the most popular words chalked up on slate in small restaurants, this feast features just about everything to satisfy cravings in a group setting. This includes fresh salads, olives, cheeses, yoghurts, honey, jams, preserves, eggs, muhammara, fresh bread, and of course, tea.

I could almost write an entire post about this one order. Satisfying both sweet and savoury palates, featuring refreshing tabule and indulgent preserves, you can’t go wrong. Let’s break it down, the kahvaltı features 7 different components:

  1. Salad
  2. Bread
  3. Sweet spreads
  4. Savory spreads
  5. Eggs
  6. Cheese
  7. Tea

1. Salads

Featured imperitively to cut through the richness of creamy, salty and sweet features, the  kahvaltı. Cross out the cracked wheat or heavy drizzle of lemon juice, this tabule is very minimalistic, featuring roughly chopped parsley with sumac sprinkled onions and a side of tomatoes and peppers. I’ve had this salad many times with my kahvaltı, or a simple side salad of fresh tomatoes, cucumbers with fresh mint.

2. Bread

Little known to many, Turkish meals are always accompanied with bread. Whether flat and malleable or plump and fluffy, they have a huge variety of baked breads.

3. Sweet spreads

I cannot insist on how delicious the honey is in Turkey. Sweet and floral, over bread or with yoghurt, it was a treat in and of itself. That was a staple found every time for breakfast. Something I discovered on this trip was rose petal jam. Unless anything with rosewater, this light pink jelly with delicate petals was subtle and sweet without an overwhelming perfume-like flavour.

4. Savoury spreads

This one’s a large category; including olives, cheeses, yoghurts and muhammara. Let’s stop there for a second. Muhammara, not unknown to many who’ve explored Middle Eastern or Persian dishes, this spicy spread can be distilled down to the two most important ingredients: hot peppers (roasted) and walnuts. Rounded out with lemon juice, pomegranate molasses, spices, garlic and a thickener (often breadcrumbs), this simple looking spread packs a punch and was my definitive favourite.

5. Eggs

A staple in breakfast dishes these can be served either fried or boiled. Many places serve them as is, though they can be found in a dish called menemen (scrambled with tomatoes, peppers, spices and yoghurt). This dish was always a winner in my books!

6. Cheese

I’ve never associated Turkey to cheese production, but the selection presented for breakfast was just a teaser for the sheer amount of options available was overwhelming. From beyaz peynir (fresh white cheeses), similar to feta regarding salinity and texture, smoked cheeses, to dil peyniri (stringy cheese, similar to a salty mozzarella), you will not be at a loss. Spreads similar to labneh are also served sometimes with hot pepper flakes and olive oil to be spread over bread.

7. Tea

How could I forget the most important part of breakfast: the tea. Typically Turkish tea, or Rize tea (as opposed to apple tea consumed later throughout the day), this black tea is served in narrow-waisted glasses. You can find this tea and apple tea sold and consumed throughout Turkey; even sold on the ferry ride from Kabatas Station to Üsküdar, though I’m sure it can be found on others as well!

The tea culture in Turkey includes mostly herbal or floral infusions with the most popular being apple tea. Made from ground dried apples, this tea is very sweet and consumed throughout the day, often in the afternoon. You can also find sage, rosehip and pomegranate flower teas consumed throughout Turkey.

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