Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Mesopotamian Food

(My cleaning lady did not come today and I have guests for dinner tomorrow. I have to clean, shop and cook. So excuse me for posting an old article I wrote 3 years ago after a month old trip to Syria and Eastern part of Turkey..)
It is not wrong to say that appetizers or starters are rather the main dishes in Syria. They are serving so many different varieties at the beginning; the main courses are becoming less enjoyable afterwards. Rice with saffron or pounded and smoked wheat called frik served with chicken or beef and a kind of yogurt soup made with small wheat balls called Lebeniye were the ones remained in my mind as main dishes.
Kebabs were average except one. If you happen to be traveling on the Damascus – Aleppo motorway one day, don’t forget to stop at the Tower Restaurant, which you could easily identify with the huge Eiffel Tower standing at the front. Its specialty is flat meat balls cooked with tomatoes and served in a shallow cooking pan. It was just delicious. Another good address for starters in Syria is the Beit Sitti House in Damascus.( )

But I think the primary taste in Syria is the sweets. There are so many shops selling various types of sweets in both Damascus and Aleppo that even a simple window-shopping is an experience itself. The practice of using less sugar and syrup compare to the ones in Turkey greatly increased my capacity to consume. A dangerous feature :) Of course there is also the kunefe; you should definitely taste this warm sweet served with melted cheese inside. You could fulfill all you sweet desires with a single kunefe served at an average price of 40 cents.

Good kebabs are definitely on the Turkish side of the border. Although the previous visitors told that the quality was not as it was before, I still ate the best kebabs in Gaziantep at İmam Cagdas. The kebab with vegetables was just great. Also the sweets made with pistachio should make a visit to your stomach.
Also take a note to drink a zahter tea (a type of thyme) at Tahmis Coffee House that was built in the year 1640 which is located at the end of the Elmacılar Bazaar in Gaziantep. Tahmis is also a nice stopping point for narghile lovers.

In Diyarbakir Aslan Lokantası located at the entrance of Aslan Hotel is a nice restaurant where you good taste good food and kebabs but try to avoid the time during the lunch break as you have a good chance of waiting in queue to eat. Another thing to taste and buy in Diyarbakir is the almond paste of Atlas. This small store located at Ekinciler Cd. No15/C and the quality of its product could easily compete with the famous Bebek Almond Paste in İstanbul and the prices are much much cheaper.

Antakya is another heaven for meze-starters. We ate the best ones in the Kervan restaurant in Harbiye region of the city that is famous with its water falls. Anadolu restaurant at the center of the city was said to be good with its foods and kebabs but I happily settled with delicious grilled calamari in the two nights we ate there.

I don’t particularly like drinking coffee but largely enjoy the smell and the rituals. Although I don’t like the taste of cardamom they are adding into the coffee in Syria, Urfa and Mardin regions I strongly advise the bitter and dark coffee- mirra- served around Urfa and Mardin. It was obtained by boiling the coffee in 3-4 hours in dim fire and served in small cups that you have to drink in one sip. Its dark, its bitter and leaves a kind of sour taste in your mouth afterwards. I tasted the best mirra in a small coffee shop in the Urfa Bazaar and the trick of its good taste was a bit of Nescafe they added when boiling the coffee.

Sweet Shop in Aleppo
Sweets from Gaziantep and Syria
Mirra coffee in Urfa


  1. Three years ago. Seems like an eternity for every things happens so fast now! I like the looks of the pistachio dessert (and the taste too, I'm sure).

  2. I'm feeling hungry, now. Kebab, kunefe, all those tasty tasty treats. I have to admit I'm not much of a coffee drinker, either. But I do love the coffee with cardamom. There's something soothing and medicinal about the flavor. I really enjoyed reading this post, so filled with talk of food and lovely photos to go with it. Mmmm! Thank you!


  3. So interesting post!.
    Thanks for sharing your lovely photos, too.
    hugs hugs

  4. I didn't mind the repeat. A thyme tea - sounds very delicate. Enjoy your dinner party.

  5. I miss Middle Eastern food! When I lived in Ramallah, Palestine, the sweet shops were very interesting to me, and looked like the photo you have on your post. Kunefe was also very popular there.

    And cardamom was also added to the coffee there. I discovered wild thyme tea in Armenia and really like it. It's not on the shelves of Western supermarkets, at least not the ones I've been to.

    Nice to be reminded of the good eats!

    Miss Footloose
    Tales of the Globetrotting Life

  6. So many wonderful exotic things..., I'd love to eat more "foreign" foods!

  7. I wish you a wonderful time with your company. You have me sitting on the edge of my chair trying to taste all these delicacies!
    Vast Mystery

  8. mm...can you smell it?... a Turkish coffee, medium sweet - perfect dessert!

  9. I am a coffee fanatic and the last pic of coffee looks cool. That must be a traditional kettle from turkey... Ha... I need a coffee... NOW!!!

    My new blog on Fashion - FASHION PANACHE
    Abhayapradha Ranganathar Koil at My Travelogue

  10. Wow! What a great post! Those sweets and coffee look right up my street! mmm...

    And thank you for visiting my blog and for your sweet birthday wishes!

  11. I would love to try Mesopotamian kebabs of all sorts and am certain I would enjoy every bite of them all. Yum!! But I do have to wonder why anyone would bother drinking coffee that is bitter and leaves a sour taste in your mouth. I must be missing the point.

  12. wish i could be there to sample it all...
    eating very light today,
    to make up for feast of food tomorrow!

    here we are starting our thanksgiving holiday!

  13. This was so informative, thank you. And the food looks really good.

  14. an old post is perfect for me since i never saw it, and since im new haha
    everything sounds delicious... i would love to try it some day!

  15. Hi, I have a present for you on my blog.
    Ppease stop by and pick it up.
    hugs hugs

  16. This sounds so delicious you made me hungry, and I just had a big Thanksgiving dinner!

  17. Best regards from Germany where I am for a short trip!

  18. I'm so happy you posted an older post because it is very interesting. The food all looks delicious, I love trying and learning about various cuisines throughout the world. I hope you had a nice party with your friends and family.

  19. Hi Aysegul! Meze, ok; but not so keen on kebabs... ;))

    Old Town Bilbao is now at Blogtrotter for your joy. Have a great weekend!!

  20. Are you ok, Aysegul? I just saw a report on the mud slides in northern Turkey on television and immediately thought of you. I hope you and yours are safe.

  21. Bayramınızı kutlar sevdiklerinizle birlikte daha nice bayramlar dilerim.Saygılarımla.

  22. Interesting and yummy post! Hope all is well. My daughter is learning french online and has met a few young men from Turkey! They seem nice but I don't let her talk without me over her shoulder. It's fun to meet people from other countries though, and I should have her read your blog! Take care.:)

  23. I really like to eat. especially the food. I will try to make at home. thank you, your articles are very helpful



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