When I wrote to Burcu of Almost Turkish Recipes about this post, she replied saying that a post about yogurt in Turkish culture would have to be very long! Well, here is the short version, but there is further reading for anyone who makes it to the end still wanting more.
Yogurt is thought to originate from Central Asia, the heart of the ancient silk road. It was probably discovered as a way to preserve milk, especially in the furnace-like summers of the Uzbekistan desert. The bacteria in yogurt mean that it can last much longer than fresh milk.
Today yogurt is a main ingredient in the cuisine of many Middle Eastern countries, including Turkey, Iran, Armenia, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Israel and Iraq.
Photo: yogurt soup from Almost Turkish Recipes blog
Out of these countries, Turkey has to be the most enthusiastic consumer of yogurt. In the book ‘Middle Eastern Food’, Claudia Roden says:
In Turkey, yogurt is used extensively as a bed for meat or vegetables, or to be poured over salads, eggs, vegetables, rice, almost anything in fact.
Surprisingly, she doesn’t mention one of the most unusual Turkish yogurt dishes, yoğurt çorbası (yogurt soup). There is a recipe for it later in the book though. Yogurt soup is a favourite winter warmer in Turkey and is often given to sick people. Read how to make it here.
Turks also use yogurt to make a refreshing and very popular summer drink called ayran, as well as serving plain yogurt to accompany virtually any kind of meat dish.
Photo: meatballs with yogurt on the side from Bursa Daily Photo
As promised, if that’s not enough for you have a look at the article Of yogurt and yörüks, where Saudi Aramco World magazine visits a Turkish food scholar to learn more about Turkey’s love affair with yogurt.
More on food around the world in Topics of the World
About the authorLucy