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Tried and Tasted: The best Turkish food you’ll get in Delhi? Read on

We have found the perfect place Delhi for the lovers of Turkish cuisine. Here we talk about Baris and the food you should definitely try when there.

tried and tasted Updated: May 10, 2017 18:16 IST
Rahul Verma
Tried and Tasted
Kuzu inzik -- roasted lamb shank is a must try.(HT Photos)

A revolution knocks on the door – and it comes with a fork and knife. The world of food is more exciting than ever before. New restaurants are coming up offering novel cuisines or digging out old ones. Chefs are looking at unusual ingredients and dramatic ways of presenting food. Meanwhile, some wizened old experts continue to wield magic with their skewers and ladles in remote parts of the city. There is a world waiting to be discovered or re-embraced– new cooking styles, world food, sub-regional cuisine and tiny holes in the wall which produce the most delightful dishes. Here’s a guided tour.

There’s much more to Turkey than Erdogan, I have been telling myself. There’s Turkish coffee, for one, and then there’s Turkish Delight. And, of course, there is Turkish cuisine.

Strangely though, while we have been embracing various kinds of cuisines, we are still to acquaint ourselves fully with Turkish food. Mediterranean dishes can be found in many of our metros, but there are hardly any restaurants -- even in India’s food hub, Delhi -- which offer Turkish food. And that is why my eyes popped out some days ago when I heard that a new restaurant serving primarily Turkish food had opened up in Delhi.

It’s called Baris – which means peace. The chef is Turkish, Sahin Ibis, and clearly passionate about letting people know about the food of the region.

Watch: Turkish Lamb Shanks

Well, there is certainly a lot to know, for various streams have been added to the bubbling Turkish cauldron over the years. Because of its geographical location – it’s European as well as Asian – Turkish cuisine has been enhanced by a great many influences – including Greek, West Asian, Central Asian and European. And because the Balkans had been a part of the Ottoman Empire, there is Balkan touch to the food, too.

I am certain that the cuisine has a future in India because there are many flavours that the Indian palate is familiar with.

In fact, there are quite a few commonalities between the cuisines of the two regions. The word pilaf – our pulao -- comes from Turkey. Like our shorba, the Turkish have corba, which is like a soup. Many of our favourite ingredients – such as eggplant and yoghurt – figure prominently on a Turkish menu, too. Like our paneer, the Turkish have their peynir, a kind of soft cheese which goes into many dishes such as salads and pastries. Pomegranates are much feted, and can be found in anything from their rice dishes to labneh, a cream cheese, often served with diced tomato, cilantro, red onion and pomegranates.

I think what I love the most about Turkish food is the wide variety that it offers both vegetarians and non-vegetarians. The sea is right there, which explains why Chef Ibis likes to cook a dish called kardes guvec – prawns in a spicy tomato cream sauce, flavoured with thyme and served with garlicky aioli. You can’t eat Turkish food and not have kebabs, for the meats are succulent, and cooked with just a few spices. I had some delicious manti, dumplings filled with meat and served with a garlic-based yogurt sauce, and lamb kibbeh, fried bread stuffed with minced lamb, onions, pine nuts and spices, and served with tahini sauce.

Many years ago, when one of the first Greek restaurants opened in Delhi, I fell in love with its dolma, a steamed grapevine leaf stuffed with herbed rice. The Turkish have many versions of that – including something called cig borek – a crispy roll with a filling of feta cheese and caramelised onions.

But I think my favourite dish is the kuzu inzik -- roasted lamb shank with pomegranates and tomato, served over saffron-infused rice and grilled vegetables. The meat is poached for long hours, which ensures that it truly melts in the mouth. I enjoy meat dishes with gravy (and potatoes), but a perfectly grilled or roasted shank is in a class by itself. The juices are captured within, and the meat is enveloped by an aroma of herbs such as thyme and rosemary. And of course there is a sprinkling of sumac, a tart spice much used the region.

A bite of some kuzu inzik, and you are at peace with the world. On this, you don’t even need a referendum.

(Rahul Verma has been writing on food for over 25 years now. And, after all these years, he has come to the conclusion that the more he writes, the more there is left to be written)

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