We all know Turkish cuisine is lavish and most frequently associated with the dainty dip-like meze dishes and intricate kebabs, but little do most know that there are a number of dishes in which eggs take the spotlight, which if you get to try in Türkiye are truly a delight.
In fact, some of the most beloved dishes in Turkish cuisine are actually centered on eggs and similar to the omelet tests of culinary skills subjected to newly trained French chefs, in the Ottoman Empire, the cook that ruled the proverbial roost was actually said to have been selected based on their preparation of the time-consuming egg dish soğanlı yumurta (eggs with onions), which consists of caramelized onions seasoned with cinnamon and allspice. These days the dish is near nonexistent, which is perhaps due to the supposed three hours that were spent tossing and turning the onions until they were glazed to perfection.
While the former was supposedly used to measure a cook’s skill, there is another egg dish said to actually be the favorite of Sultan Abdul Hamit II, the sultan said to have started the egg dish criteria for cooks, and that is yoğurtlu çılbır (poached eggs in yogurt). In this dish, poached eggs are dosed in a garlic-yogurt sauce, with a drizzling of chili pepper butter over the top. These days, sometimes the name is shortened to just çılbır, so don’t be surprised if you order poached eggs and get a dollop of garlicky yogurt on the top.
These days, most foreigners in Türkiye will have come across a Turkish omelet, which is generally a light and thin folded-over half circle, served alongside most breakfast spreads either plain or when requested with the addition of melted kasseri cheese. However, the true breakfast egg dish delight comes in the form of menemen, a savory and tasty scrambled egg dish in which eggs are cracked into a pan of sauteed onions and green peppers. The combination results in a juicy and very flavorful scrambled egg dish, where the eggs nearly get lost in the mixture. Menemen can be found in nearly every venue serving breakfast and in many cases, the tomato and pepper mixture used in the dish is prepared in the fall months when tomatoes are at their peak and the mixture is stored in glass jars to be consumed in the winter months. In many cases, the dish will be ordered for the table and people rip off pieces of bread to dip into it altogether.
Scrambled eggs with little half-moon slices of Türkiye’s spiced sucuk sausage is hands down one of the most favorite Turkish egg dishes out there. Referred to as sucuklu yumurta (eggs with sucuk), this dish is available everywhere breakfast is served and is an easy one to prepare at home. You start out by getting the juices to be released from the sucuk by sauteeing it in butter and then simply add cracked eggs into the mix, which become puffy and scrambled and are consumed with slices of fresh white bread, or if you’re lucky simit , Turkiye’s answer to the bagel.
Ispanaklı yumurta (Eggs with Spinach) is an egg dish that is less available in restaurants and mostly prepared in homes, but it consists of spinach and sauteed onions and garlic with eggs cracked into crevices opened on the surface. The trick here is to cook the egg just enough so that the yolk is encapsulated by a layer of cooked egg whites, granting that ever-so-satisfying breaking off the egg yolk, which then oozes into the dish. This one is also generally shared with bread being the main utensil.
Kaygana is basically a Turkish version of a hearty and thick crepe. The ingredients are pretty much the same, but in this case, the crepe is either stuffed with hearty ingredients such as wild greens, spinach, chard, parsley, feta cheese and in the black sea anchovies or the ingredients themselves are incorporated into the batter in which case, the dish resembles more of a thin frittata.
Yumurtalı Ot Kavurmas
In the homes in more rural areas, where picking wild greens is a regular pastime and where they are also widely available in farmers markets, yumurtalı ot kavurması (egg with sauteed greens) is a very popular go-to dish consisting of sauteed onions and any medley of wild greens that have eggs scrambled into the mix. Or, the eggs are cracked directly into nests shaped into the wild greens, which can include wild asparagus, mallow, mustard greens and fennel to name just a few. This egg dish is a popular meal for dinners and as usual, is shared amongst diners.
Fortunately, most foreigners will have had the chance to try mücver, which is a grilled patty of grated zucchini, spring onions, dill, parsley eggs and flour and is served with a side of yogurt. This staple in the Turkish culinary repertoire can be found in many restaurants serving meze, but it is also a classic for any potluck or picnic meal and amongst family and friends.
Last, but certainly not least is yumurtalı pide (pide with eggs). While this dish is not necessarily an “egg” dish, it definitely is a specialty containing eggs and one that I think visitors should be aware of. This is because in this dish, eggs are cracked onto the top of a savory pide and it doesn’t matter whether the pide’s base is ground beef, cheese, sucuk or what have you. Any pide restaurant, of which there is one on nearly every street in every town of the country, will have the option of adding a cracked egg onto the top of your pide, morning noon or night as these venues also tend to be open for most hours of the day.