THE MOST POPULAR SPICES IN TURKISH CUISINE
There are many reasons why traditional Turkish cuisine is so appreciated all over the world. Details such as the combinations of ingredients used in cooking, cooking techniques, and indispensable cooking sauces make Turkish dishes tasty for everyone. However, the most magical parts of Turkish cuisine are the hidden spices.
The reason why Turkish cuisine is so popular the world over is the secret herbs and spices that make up the delicious flavors. Not only do we get a wonderful aroma, these condiments are super beneficial to our health. Here are the most popular herbs and spices you can find in Turkish foods.
Red Pepper Flakes
Red pepper flakes are one of the most popular spices in Turkish cooking. Red pepper flakes, which add a delicious aroma and a slight bitter taste to dishes, are made by drying hot and sweet fresh peppers in the sun and crushing them. Varying from region to region, some chili flakes are not roasted before being crushed. They are used in all types of cooking, from soups to juicy hotpot dishes and casseroles to stir-fries. Also known to be a natural painkiller, red pepper flakes are believed to strengthen your immune system as a result of being packed with vitamin C.
Black pepper, which is widely used all over the world, adds its flavor and bitter taste to every dish in Turkish cuisine. The most common use is in a dry form and generally black grains are ground and used as powder. Black pepper is used both during the cooking and serving stages. Black pepper is known to facilitate digestion and burn fat due to its antioxidant effect. It is frequently consumed by those suffering from a cold, as it strengthens immunity.
Thyme, a plant that grows almost everywhere in Anatolia, is usually picked in the mountains. It is widely used in Turkish cuisine, both dried or crumbled. Thyme, which has a sharp aroma, is especially preferred in meat dishes. In fact, farmers who feed their cattle with thyme in Anatolia offer the tastiest meat. Thyme in Turkish cuisine is not limited to food. Fresh thyme brewed in hot water is often consumed as a tea. It also has antiseptic properties and provides a wide range of benefits to those who suffer from high blood pressure and heart diseases, as well as alleviating digestive problems.
With its intense essence and refreshing flavor, mint is a favorite herb used in salads, appetizers, cold juices, stuffed vegetables (dolma), and yogurt dishes. Mint is also good for stomach ailments and helps with your respiratory tract.
The intense aromatic flavor of cumin is an indispensable part of Turkish cuisine and is used a lot in the popular dishes of köfte (meatballs) and generally in the preparation of meat dishes. Turks prefer their cumin in powder form; it is hardly ever used as a seed. The intense aroma of cumin grown in Anatolia is especially used to suppress the smell of meat. Cumin is also used to make spicy sausages known as sucuk. Among the many health benefits, it is very good for asthma, increases immunity, facilitates digestion, delays cell ageing, and is excellent for anemia. Nursing mothers use it as a remedy for babies’ gas.
Sumac is a spice known to be as tart and tangy as a lemon and is used extensively in Turkish cuisine. Grown in southeast Türkiye, sumac is collected from dwarf trees. The leaves are dried and ground into powder. Not only is it used in Türkiye’s most famous kebab dishes, but also on onion salads, çiğ köfte (bulgur patties), fish, and mantı. Sumac facilitates digestion and balances the body’s sugar levels.
The bay leaf accompanies many delicious flavors in Turkish cuisine. Bay leaves are collected and dried from bay trees. Bay leaves, which change the taste of the whole dish with their pleasant aroma, are not edible plants. They are only used for their fragrance. They are generally used in dishes that have a tomato sauce and meat dishes made with fish, beef, poultry, and game animals. Bay leaves are also used in the production of canned and pickled goods in Türkiye. As they are antiseptic, they have a preventive effect against diseases.
A distinctively sweet aromatic spice used in Turkish cuisine from the Ottoman period. Its smell and flavor are so strong they can change the entire character of a dish. Cinnamon, which plays a role in Turkish cuisine in stick and powder form, is often used in the rice used for stuffing vegetables, lamb, and chicken dishes. It is also an indispensable aroma in Turkish desserts. Cinnamon is added to beverages such as boza and salep, which are unique to Turkish cuisine. It is a source of polyphenol antioxidants, helps reduce cholesterol, regulates blood pressure, increases body resistance, and treats fungal infections. Cinnamon also contributes to weight loss due to its effects on fat burning.
Rosemary is obtained from the leaves of a dwarf tree grown in the Mediterranean. The leaf of this tree has a pleasant smell and is always green. It is used in Turkish cuisine a lot. The small thin spiny leaves are used both fresh and dried. Due to its pleasant smell, rosemary oil is used both in meals, herbal medicines, and cosmetics. It is also consumed in the form of fresh rosemary tea. It’s used for making meat dishes and sauces. It also has many health benefits: it reduces stress and offers a sense of relaxation. Rosemary is rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.
The clove spice is obtained by drying the dark small, nail-shaped buds of the clove flower and plays an integral role to Turkish cuisine. Its intense taste and dominant aroma are especially appreciated in sherbets and compotes. Cloves, which are also used in the production of cakes and desserts, are included in herbal teas such as black tea, consumed by many Turks. Cloves have been one of the strongest known natural antiseptics used in the medical industry for centuries. Cloves reduce edema and are good for throat and stomach ailments. Cloves can also be chewed as they are good for oral health. The strong aroma of cloves is good for tooth and gum pain while they also refresh the breath. Following a meal, many people in Türkiye pop one of these in their mouths to eliminate bad breath. Many restaurants offer cloves with the bill.
Nigella seeds, sometimes called black cumin, are a spicy seed used to sprinkle on top many pastries, rolls, and other baked goods such as poğaça.Each seed has a unique, bitter flavor and their pitch-black color looks lovely on top of just about anything. Black cumin is most often sprinkled on pastries, savories, and layered cheese pies made with yufka or phyllo pastry.