In Turkey, despite an Islamic prohibition against alcoholic drinks, there is a rich tradition associated with liquor, rakı and even wine. Drinking alcoholic beverages in the company of family and friends both at home and in restaurants, is a part of any special occasion.
Similar to the Spanish tapas, “Turkish mezes” are the general category of dishes that are brought in small quantities to start the meal off. These are eaten until the main course is served, along with wine or more likely with “raki” – the aniseed-flavoured national drink, sometimes referred to as “lion’s milk”. The minimum essential meze for raki are slices of honeydew melons and creamy feta cheese with freshly baked bread.
Beyond these, a typical Turkish meze menu includes dried and marinated mackerel, fresh salad greens in thick yogurt sauce with garlic, plates of cold vegetable dishes cooked or fried in olive oil, fried crispy savory pastry, deep fried mussels and calamaris served in sauce, tomato and cucumber salad and fish eggs in sauce.
The main course that follows a meze spread will be fish or grilled meat. When the main course is kebab, then the meze spread is different. In this case, several plates of green salad and tomatoes in spicy olive oil, mixed with yogurt or cheese,”humus” – chick peas mashed in tahini, bulgur and red lentil balls,”raw kofte”, marinated stuffed eggplant, peppers with spices, nuts and pickles, are likely to be served.
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