Foodie’s Paradise

I’ve been thinking about food quite a bit the last few weeks. Maybe it’s the cold weather, maybe it’s the only thing I miss about living in the Village, but either way, I’m hungry.

Food in Mersin is rather unique with its mix of Turkish, Ottoman and Arabic, and a flavour all of its own. Food is always better when it is produced locally, when it is distributed locally and when it reaches the table locally. One of the biggest attributes to Mersin food is everything is fresh, straight from the pazar to the table. Here are some of my absolute favourite foods to enjoy in Mersin.

Photography by Nancy Habbas

Tantuni

Mersin has many dishes that originated from the province. My favourite and probably the best known of all Mersin dishes is – the tantuni!

Tantuni is a traditional street food dish consisting of thinly sliced beef that is seasoned with Turkish spices and herbs, usually cooked with onions and tomatoes. The combination is cooked in specially designed tantuni pans.

Traditionally, the dish is served rolled in a durum wheat wrap, with ground sumac and a lemon wedge on the side. Since every tantuni chef has his own method and secret technique of preparing the dish, it is said that the flavours of tantuni are never the same. 

Icli Kofte

Anyone who has been to a Middle Eastern or Lebanese Restaurant would have tried the similarly made Kibbe, but I know that a Turkish Icli Kofte is just that little bit better. They are incredibly difficult to make, and the few times I’ve tried have been nothing more than a disaster, but if you happen upon a local making them do not leave before you taste one (or a dozen).

Künefe 

Künefe is a crazy ass desert served here in Mersin and throughout Turkey made of cooked cheese, syrup and icecream. Künefe is well known throughout the provinces of Mersin, Gaziantep, Hatay, Kilis and Adana, although it is served in many Arabic countries.  If you do want to make an attempt of this amazing dessert I suggest you go check out Ozlem’s recipe.  She is, as usual, my go-to person when attempting Turkish food but this one looks a little out of my league.

Cezerye

Made with caramelized grated carrots, sugar, and nuts, this sweet concoction is rolled into balls and usually covered with shredded coconut before consumption. When I was in Tarsus recently, I was told that Cezerye is an aphrodisiac, so consume with caution.

Kısır

A classic Turkish salad made with thin bulgur wheat, tomatoes, mint, garlic, parsley, and either lemon juice or sour pomegranate molasses. Red pepper flakes are often added to the salad to make it spicier. A must-have for your mangal.

Sarimasakli Kofte

People may try telling you this is an Adana dish but don’t you listen to them, it’s definitely a Mersin tradition. Made from the same bulgur wheat as the kısır, they are rolled into tiny balls and boiled. After cooking its topped with a sauce made with garlic, lemon, salca, parsley and oil. Delicious.

Batkırık

Similar to kısır, batkırık is my go-to for a quick and easy meal. These are so easy to make but the secret to a successful batkırık is the sauce. Onion, cumin, salca and oodles of garlic. Mix it into the bulgur wheat before making patties. Batkırık is also sometimes made as a cold soup with tahini and water added.

Fındık Lahmacun

A specialty from Tarsus, these are easy to snack on at any time of day. Topped with mince meat, herbs, red peppers and spices, these have the added ingredient of hazelnuts before being baked to perfection.

Sıkma

When you’re driving down the D400 you’ll probably pass tiny shacks on the side of the road selling sıkma and çay. Usually made with flat durum wheat break or rolled pastry they are filled with onion, white cheese and parsley. Sıkma means handshake so I imagine these little morsels were thus named because they fit in your hand so easily.

Karsambaç

A traditional dessert originating from Camliyayla, a small town high in in the Toros mountains. Similar to a snow cone, but completely unique, Karsambaç is made with a combination of clean mountain snow (straight from the mountain) and a sweet syrup such as sugar syrup, or molasses.

Taş kadayif

Crispy on the outside, walnut in the middle, and coated in a decadent sugary syrup.

Kerebiç

A local dessert unique to Mersin, is made with semolina and is often served during Ramadan.  


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