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Rail Paul

The Young Turks of Istanbul cuisine

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Jay Cheshes has an article in the WSJ about the surge of interest in locally sourced ingredients among chefs in Istanbul. Istanbul has seen an influx of native Turkish chefs, familiar with local ingredients who also have experience in European and American kitchens. Figs, sumac, rose water, Circassian chicken, and other familiar ingredients are presented in a new form. A new culinary academy, a new international food festival, and many people eager to try new foods.



Two of those chefs, Uryan Dogmus and Cihan Kipcak, opened their jewel-box restaurant, Gile, earlier this year in a swish shopping district. They offer a 13-course menu of high-concept food based on traditional flavors every Turk understands. The classic components of an Aegean breakfast become modernist squares, spheres and squiggles—watermelon compressed in a vacuum-sealed bag paired with sheep's-milk-cheese ice cream, olive oil dust and walnut purée. Walnut-sauced Circassian chicken, an old Ottoman mainstay, is transformed into silky moons of chicken pâté paired with mulberry molasses and chilled apple-cream soup. "These are all dishes we grew up with," said Mr. Dogmus. "It's food we know, but served with a twist."


The article cites chef Mehmet Gurs (Mikla at the Marmara Hotel) as a guiding influence over some of the young chefs. His lab works with ingredients, his restaurants present ideas. The Turkish culture is very conservative, no one messes with traditional recipes for mother and grandmother. But now they do.




The chef, raised in Sweden by a Finnish mother and Turkish father, had been serving international fusion food—Scandinavian, Turkish, a little Italian and French. And then one day he scrapped all the imported luxuries, the foie gras and caviar, that Istanbul diners have long expected from a white-tablecloth venue. "Instead of Parmesan, we're serving this raw-milk cheese made in a crappy hut somewhere in Anatolia," said the chef. "Overnight we switched to nothing but ingredients from the region."




A meal at Mikla



Lamb shanks slow-cooked inside clay amphoras were finished in a Josper charcoal oven—the latest thing in kitchen equipment—then served with house-made buffalo-milk yogurt and green almonds from the western edge of the country. Red mullet fillets were paired with green lentils trucked in from a village near the Syrian border; Aegean grouper was drizzled with sun-dried-fig vinegar from an organic farm near Mr. Tan's hometown


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The article makes a point of gathering ingredients from all over Turkey and its environs, then consolidating them into modern presentations. The large number of expatriate Turkish chefs makes the cultural melding inevitable.


Having a guy get in a car and start visiting tiny villages, cook with the grandmas, etc was a great idea.

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