Discovering India-Türkiye’s culinary connection: A journey through shared traditions - Hindustan Times
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Discovering India-Türkiye’s culinary connection: A journey through shared traditions

ByFırat Sunel
May 23, 2024 03:37 PM IST

From the street foods of Istanbul to the fresh, vegetarian dishes of the Aegean coast, Türkiye offers a familiar yet exciting experience for Indian visitors

Any Indian tourist visiting Türkiye will be delighted to discover the many parallels between Turkish and Indian cultures, particularly in their food cultures. From vibrant street food scenes to celebratory family gatherings, food plays a central and cherished role in both nations. In Türkiye, for example, we connect with family and friends over hour-long breakfasts, featuring a spread of fresh vegetables, cheeses, olives, Turkish pastries, and “çay” - the classic Turkish tea. We serve Turkish coffee and Turkish delight (“lokum”) to our guests, cherishing the warmth of the conversations that accompany them. There's even a saying that loosely translates to: “The memory of a cup of Turkish coffee lasts for forty years.” Similarly, in India, the delicious masala chai is an indispensable part of daily life.

Tarhana çorbası (Turkish Cuisine Week)
Tarhana çorbası (Turkish Cuisine Week)

Both countries, with their rich histories, boast time-honoured and regionally diverse cuisines. Just like in India, we take pride in the variety across our regional cuisines. In Türkiye, this diversity spans from cold mezes and light “olive oil-based dishes” of the western coast which highlight the freshness of vegetables, to the spicy, succulent kebabs of the southern and eastern regions. Both Turkish and Indian cuisines celebrate regional flavours and ingredients, weaving a rich mosaic of culinary traditions.

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Indian tourists visiting Türkiye experience these parallels first-hand. Indeed, we are happy to see the rise in Indian tourists visiting Türkiye each year, indulging in the country's culinary treasures and other attractions. In recent years, the number of Indian visitors to Türkiye has reached an all-time high, with 231,000 visitors in 2022 and 275,000 in 2023. We expect this trend to continue, anticipating that the number of Indian tourists will reach 350,000 in 2024, setting a new record.

For Indian tourists, Istanbul and Cappadocia typically stand out as the most preferred destinations. However, as the number of Indian visitors increases, we are delighted to see a growing diversity in the Turkish destinations that they wish to explore. The westernmost coast of Türkiye, the Aegean region, is emerging as a popular choice. This sun-drenched coast, with its lush landscapes of green and turquoise, offers magnificent scenery, a rich ancient history, and a healthy food culture, which emphasises the freshness of local produce.

Indian tourists visiting Türkiye should include the Turkish Aegean region in their itineraries. This destination is a heaven for vegetarians in particular – with the vast array of fresh, vibrant and plant-based dishes it offers. From wild greens to fragrant herbs, sautéed with garlic and olive oil, every bite embodies the essence of the Turkish Aegean way of life. These dishes attest to the regional philosophy of embracing wholesome and sustainable cooking practices, which prioritise taste as well as health and longevity.

Indeed, the "Turkish Cuisine Week," initiated in 2022 by the First Lady of Türkiye Emine Erdoğan and annually celebrated from May 21 to 27 has this year focused on and showcased the flavours of the Turkish Aegean. Recent years have witnessed an upsurge in restaurants across the Turkish Aegean region, bringing to the fore innovative and creative recipes, while sourcing fresh produce directly from nearby fields to the tables. Notably, five regional restaurants (in the provinces of Izmir and Bodrum) earned Michelin stars last year. The Turkish Aegean cuisine offers many culinary treasures awaiting exploration, ranging from plant-based dishes infused with the region's distinctive olive oil to refreshing cold mezes, alongside an array of fish and seafood delicacies.

In your next journey to Türkiye, make sure to pay a visit to the Aegean coast as well, to immerse yourself in its sunny beaches, crystal-clear turquoise waters, sublime landscapes and the delights of the Turkish Aegean cuisine. You'll discover a sense of familiarity and connection as you encounter the striking parallels between Turkish and Indian cultures and cuisines, leaving you with cherished memories to treasure.

Fırat Sunel is the Turkish ambassador to India. The views expressed are personal

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