Distinct and unique, Ottoman cuisine, has a wide range of delights to offer. The great variety of Ottoman cuisine was inherited and intermingled with Turkish cuisine, leaving us with countless delicious flavors.
The Ottoman Empire reigned for around 700 years, and as you can imagine, it was a melting pot of cultures and cuisines. As such, it is inevitable that such an empire would have such a vast culinary culture. This great importance is marked by the size of the kitchen at the Topkapı Palace, built by Fatih Sultan Mehmet, that is 5250 square meters! Palace cuisine, Matbah-ı Amire, became an integral part of the food culture.
In the Kuşhane kitchen, food is prepared for the Sultan. In the Has kitchen food is prepared for the council viziers and harem people. In the Valide Sultan kitchen the elite ladies of the harem would cook.
In the Ottoman Empire, meat dishes were of great importance, and sheep meat was the preferred dish. Other than sheep meat, lamb and goat meat were consumed.
A lot of butter, cinnamon and plenty of herbs were used in Ottoman food. Fruit was also used in many dishes, plum was often used in meat dishes.
Ottoman food culture has a wide and varied selection of deserts. At helva shops the cook would use honey instead or sugar.
Some of the most frequently made deserts are cherry bread desert, helva, tavukgöğsü, Saray lokması, revani, baklava, güllaç and aşure. Ayva (quince) desert was a well-loved dish. Jams were made from melon and watermelon. Stewed fruit and sherbet were side dishes for main meals, and sherbet was said to have healing components. Apple, mint lemon, saffron, sour grape, basil, cranberry, poppy and tamarind sherbets were very popular in Ottoman cuisine. As a remedy, fruit stews were made from fresh seasonal fruits, to heal and soothe.
There are plenty of other delights in Ottoman cuisine. Another example is kavun dolması (stuffed melon), cooked lamb meat in melon. This delicious dolma is comprised of melon, meat, almonds, pistachios, blackcurrants and plenty of herbs. Enginar dolması (stuffed ar tichoke) was another favorite as well as Beyrani and Mutancana, lam dishes. Mutancana is cooked with red grapes, honey and almonds. Mahmudiye is famous dish with a fruit twist. Mahmudiye consists of chicken, cinnamon, clove, apricot and almonds. Piruhi is a tasty dough-based dish, like mantı (ravioli) except it is cooked with tulum cheese. Amongst the great side dishes, there is the wonderful Babagannus recipe, a chickpea paste mixed with herbs and tahini.
Ottoman etiquette was just as vital and vibrant as Ottoman cuisine. Family and friends would convene, but not at a table, food was eaten on the floor, and Sultans would be served with special golden trays.
Ottoman cuisine was an inspiration to the world, with its vibrancy, and openness to innovation. Today you can observe the effects on Ottoman cuisine not just in Turkish cuisine, but across the globe. From America to China, Russia to Africa, the Ottoman cuisine legacy, from food culture, to techniques and food, lives on. Mantı (ravioli), börek (pastry), kavurma (stewed meat) can be found in many different cuisines. Due to the fame of the Ottoman cuisine, the famous film award ceremony, the Oscars, even held an Ottoman inspired evening meal.
The delicious flavors and dishes of Ottoman cuisine, were devloped by the fertile lands of Anatolia, historical richness and the influence of many different cultures.