Turkish/Kurdish Breakfast, Tea
Breakfast in the Hasanpaşa Kervansaray (General Hasan Caravan Fortress), Diyarbakır
Sorry about the quality of this photo of the week. I took it while very hungry and anxiously anticipating eating the pictured meal.
The Turkish word for breakfast is kahvaltı, which literally means “before coffee.” Despite this, I rarely see Turks drinking coffee after breakfast. This may come as a surprise considering the famousness of “Turkish coffee” in the Western world. While Turks do indeed drink Turkish coffee on occasion, they much prefer çay (tea – pronounced the same as “chai”), which they drink during all waking hours. One day during my trip to Turkish Kurdistan, I decided to count how many cups of tea I drank. The number was 12, and I had turned down no fewer than four.
Çay, unless otherwise specified, is a strong black tea that comes from the Black Sea region of Turkey. It’s served strong with a couple of sugar cubes on the side – sweeten to taste, but don’t even think about adding milk. The typical vessel for çay is a small, tulip-shaped glass with a saucer.
Fun fact: Per capita, Turks drink more tea than people in China, England, India, or Japan.
Breakfast is a huge deal in both Turkish and Kurdish cultures. There’s no arguing that it’s the most important meal of the day here. It’s also a trademark of Turkish and Kurdish hospitality; hosts always serve breakfast to overnight guests. (I was even served koç yumurtası last week, without warning. Feel free to look it up.) At home, breakfast is served on the floor atop a special “breakfast rug.”
The general theme of breakfast is very similar all across Turkey, but some ingredients – mostly fruits and vegetables – vary depending on the season and location. A standard Turkish breakfast consists of:
- jam (flavors like rose, sour cherry, and apricot are popular)
- a hard-boiled egg
- green olives
- fresh vegetables: tomatoes and cucumbers, maybe spinach
- beyaz peynir (“white cheese,” similar to feta, but softer and less sharp)
Lyla and the class vegetarians – afiyet olsun (bon appétit)!
Our Kurdish breakfast at the Kervansaray was essentially a Turkish breakfast of monstrous size and quantity. I contained the following (from left to right, as if you were reading a book):
Soft eggplant sauce, crushed hot red peppers with oil, potatoes, seasoned fried eggs with beef, beyaz peynir with thyme, börek (a Turkish pastry with a beyaz peynir filling), cooked eggplant, tahini with honey, crumbly and sharp beyaz peynir, baked bell pepper sauce, sautéd bell pepper, super salty Diyarbakır-style beyaz peynir, fresh spinach with lemon, local-style black olives, fresh and peeled tomatoes, fresh cucumber, beyaz peynir #4, beyaz peynir #5 (strikingly reminiscent of string cheese, but less labor-intensive), local-style green olives, yogurt with pomegranate preserves and seeds, çay, banana with oranges and oats, honey and kaymak (sweet, buttery Turkish cream), fresh bread
I’m a tad embarrassed to admit that my two companions and I nearly finished this breakfast.
How do these breakfasts sound to you? Do you normally eat breakfast? I certainly hope so. Any favorite Portland brunch spots or dishes?