There are a couple foods (and drinks) here that I didn’t love at first, even at second, but I’ve slowly come to really understand and enjoy them.
I tried simit within my first week in Ankara and let me tell you, I was sorely disappointed. I was told “This is
like a donut, only not as sweet.” … Or not sweet at all. It is chewy, more like bread and covered with sesame seeds. Some teachers would eat simit as a breakfast. I decided to give it another chance and finally discovered something wonderful when I had a chance to buy fresh, hot simit. (Most simitçis – simit sellers – have their carts out on the sidewalks and it’s not hot. At this place, I could see them pulling it from the stone oven). It was great. I finally understood the simit!
Way back when, there was a different type of simit for each region of Turkey. Some can still be found (Istanbul simit is sold in Ankara) but I think some practices have died out.
This took me at least a handful of attempts to understand drinking this. It’s basically a salted, watery, plain yogurt drink. It wasn’t until the temperature started rising again in the March/April months that I realized how refreshing ayran can be. Before I would sip, sip, sip slowly and not be able to finish one (slightly smaller than a can of soda). Now when I receive ayran, I find myself gulping and having to slow down so I have some left when the food arrives. I have seen tap ayran which weirds me out too much to try yet. Pre-packaged please!
(For those in the Cities, The Black Sea serves ayran)
I love this stuff. It’s sour cherry juice and tart is a great word to describe it. There is also vişne ice cream and jam, but the juice is where it’s at. (Whatever “it” is) It seems to be a “love it, hate it or mix it with lemonade” drink. I drink it straight, Andy mixes with other juices.
Künefe is another food that seems particularly regional. It’s a dessert – pastry, filled with cheese (the best is from Hatay, apparently), topped with simple syrup, heavy whip cream and pistachio crumbs. It is delicious. Where the cheese comes from will sure to spark a discussion among Turks about the best regions for cheese, with Hatay usually winning. A word to the wise – split one, don’t try to eat your own after a meal!
There are a couple of things I have tried and don’t like – kokoreç and rakı come to mind – but I’ll leave that for another day. (I just realized I didn’t post about kokoreç! I will remedy soon)