With a variety of vegetables available in Turkey, Turkish cuisine has a wide range of vegetarian dishes. The traditional dishes of this cuisine vary from region to region because of the influence of several cultures. From Greek to Middle Eastern and the Balkans to Ottoman, the combination of flavours and ingredients are blended together to form dishes that can be enjoyed by all, especially the vegans. This is the only reason that the Turkish cuisine is fast making its name on the worldwide culinary platform.
An important aspect of Turkish cuisine is whether a dish has meat in it or not. When a dish is cooked without any meat then it’s called zeytin yağlı which means cooked with olive oil, and are mostly served cold.
The highlights of Turkish vegetarian and vegan cuisine are dolma and sarma, in which just about everything can be stuffed. The cuisine tends to be olive oil-based, giving an extra light flavour to so many delicious fresh veggies.
Here are five delicious Turkish vegan dishes that you should surely savour –
Mucver or Zucchini Fritters
Mucver just means fritters in general, and these are zucchini fritters with feta cheese, onion, and dill. The zucchini is either shredded or finely chopped and then fried in olive oil, typically with a touch of red pepper flakes sprinkled on top to give it just the slightest hint of a kick to it. It can be made with or without egg and depends on your taste. These are the most common and classic type of fritters; however, one can make carrot or potato mucver as well.
This dish is inspired by Ottoman cuisine and literally means “the imam fainted”. The name supposedly comes from an imam, whose wife told him that she’d used all the olive oil for just one dish. He fainted first at the cost of this one dish, and then after trying it imam fainted again at how delicious it was! It is essentially a large flat eggplant stuffed with all kinds of yummy goodies and drenched in olive oil. The stuffing is an onion and garlic with tomatoes and herbs and spices.
Mercimek Kofte or lentil balls
Mercimek Kofte, or lentil balls, are traditional kofte prepared using cooked red lentils and bulgur, and then shaped into balls and then stuffed with herbs and spices. Different recipes call for rice, onions, currants, and pine nuts, and it’s often eaten around a piece of lettuce, cabbage, or vine leaves. Veggies can be thrown in as well, like peppers, zucchini, tomatoes or eggplants. But traditionally, it’s just a load of herbs and spices with possibly some tomato and pepper paste for a real burst of flavour with every bite.
It’s a bulgur-based salad made with tomato paste, finely diced tomatoes, parsley, and garlic, and looks very similar to Tabbouleh salad. Dry onions or spring onions are both fairly common, and so are cucumbers chopped as finely as the tomatoes. Lemon and olive oil are usually used as dressings, though many regions use pomegranate syrup (nar eksisi). It’s served often for celebratory occasions and always with a cup of Turkish tea as well.
Dolma or Stuffed Vine Leaves
Vine leaves are usually stuffed using rice, onions, currants and pine nuts along with veggies. As rolling out the stuffed vine leaves can be difficult, it’s often a rite of passage for children or a bonding experience as all the family gets together and stuffs their food together before devouring the delicious food.
These are amongst the most common dishes and an excellent source of protein for vegans looking around for something new to try!