ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Favorite Traditional Turkish Food- Dolma, Tava, Kebap and More

Updated on September 6, 2013
rmcrayne profile image

Rose Mary, an Air Force veteran, was stationed overseas, which enabled her to travel in Europe and beyond.

I was assigned to Incirlik (pronounced Injure-lick) Air Base, near Adana, Turkey in the early 90s. I enjoyed Turkey so much that I extended my obligation twice, staying 3 ½ years. I traveled fairly extensively in Turkey. My duty travels took me frequently to Izmir and Ankara Turkey. Since we stayed for a week or more in each place, we ate out a lot. I’m sure my colleagues have memories just as fond as mine of our gastronomical adventures! There was similar food in Adana, Izmir, and Ankara, but there were also special treats specific to each place.

I was also very fortunate to eat with Turkish families many times. As you might suspect, there were some nice treats that were not common to restaurant food. With a few exceptions, like Sheep Face Soup, I love traditional Turkish food.

I’ll present some of my favorite dishes that I encountered in my gastronomical travels in Turkey. Many are so simple that you might wonder how they could taste so good, or be so special. One key is fresh produce. Turks always use fresh vegetables and fruits, which are plentiful and inexpensive. My friend Necmiye and I went to the big pazaar in Adana and for $10 could fill my trunk up with produce, and pay a boy with a cart to collect it all and take it to the car!

Chopped tomatoes, onions, and cucumbers. Add olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic for Coban Salad.  Personal Photo.
Chopped tomatoes, onions, and cucumbers. Add olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic for Coban Salad. Personal Photo.
Rice Pilaf.  Personal photo.
Rice Pilaf. Personal photo.

Turkish Meal Staples- Salad and Pilaf

Virtually all Turkish meals include salad and rice pilaf.

Coban Salad

Coban (pronounced Joe-Bon) salad, or shepherd salad, is the salad I encountered most frequently in Turkey, both in restaurants, and in private homes. It is made from chopped tomatoes, onions, and cucumbers. Sometimes chopped parsley is used. The vegetables are dressed with olive oil, fresh lemon juice, salt and minced garlic. I don’t miss shepherd salad, because I never stopped making it!

Rice Pilaf

Rice Pilaf is made similar to Rice-a-Roni. You brown pasta in a pan with butter or olive oil. I usually use Mexican fideo, or orzo pasta. When the pasta is browned, add your rice and water, then cover and cook until water is absorbed. I could eat myself silly with rice pilaf and a big scoop of shepherd salad piled on top! You can see my blog post on shepherd salad and pilaf for more details on cooking rice pilaf.

Bulgar Pilaf

Turkish meals may sometimes have bulgar instead of rice pilaf. Bulgar is from wheat, and is like couscous, though Turks typically use a courser grind of bulgar than is common for couscous. One of my favorite dishes was bulgar pilaf with lentils.

Green beans with potatoes, tomatoes, and meat footballs.  Personal photo.
Green beans with potatoes, tomatoes, and meat footballs. Personal photo.
Eggplant and lamb tava.
Eggplant and lamb tava.


Tava is like a stew. Most restaurants in the Adana area made tava in individual portions in clay dishes in the oven. Tavas are made with fresh tomatoes, onions, peppers, and garlic. You can get chicken, lamb, or shrimp tava, which is usually served with rice pilaf. My favorite was chicken and shrimp tava in Incirlik Village, from “BP Restaurant”, which was complete with the green sign, because it used to be a gas station.

In Turkish homes, there are many kinds of tava, some with meats, and some only vegetables, cooked in a large pot on top of the stove. Some of my favorites were eggplant tava and chicken tava. I also like green bean tava, though technically that is Zeytinyağli Taze Fasulye, and not considered to be tava by most Turks. I make this dish often. It is a family favorite, and we eat it with rice pilaf.

Sarma of stuffed grape leaves.
Sarma of stuffed grape leaves.

Dolma and Sarma


Dolma is a generic term for stuffed vegetables.  Although dolma could be made vegetarian friendly, with rice and spices, most of the dolma that I had was made with a little ground meat added in.  My friend Necmiye educated me that something rolled would be more correctly called sarma. 

Necmiye made tomato, zucchini, bell pepper, eggplant, and potato dolma.  She said the potato dolma was more of a Curdish variation.  The vegetables are hollowed out, and stuffed with the meat and rice mixture.  Necmiye cooked dolma in a Dutch oven on top of the stove, with a heavy salad plate inverted on top of them to keep them upright and weighted down. 

Necmiye also made grape leaf and cabbage sarma.  The rice and meat stuffing was the same, but was rolled into cylinder shapes. 

Dolma and sarma are very high on the short list of my absolute favorite Turkish foods.  I had variations in Egypt and Greece, but like the Turkish the best.  Some cultures make the stuffing with rice, raisins and pine nuts. 


Sigara Borek
Sigara Borek

Börek and Sigara Börek



Sigara Börek

Sigara Börek was very popular, at least in the restaurants near the base.  I think the merchants near base were very astute in figuring out what food and goods we liked, and they provided them. 

Sigara Börek is pastry sheets filled with goat cheese, or meat, or a combination, and fried.  They are similar to spring rolls or lumpia, except they don’t have vegetables.  My favorite was a chicken, ground beef, and shrimp sigara börek from a tiny restaurant near the Air Base’s gates. 



The börek served in most Turkish homes is a layered dish, like lasagna but with layers of philo-like dough.  Goat cheese was the most common filling that I encountered.  Incidentally, cheese in Turkey is always a white goat milk cheese.  I never saw cheddar cheese in Turkish food or markets. 


Lamb and Chicken Shish, Adana Kebap, and Lamb Chops
Lamb and Chicken Shish, Adana Kebap, and Lamb Chops
Lamb Dner
Lamb Dner
Iskender Dner Kebap
Iskender Dner Kebap

Shish Kebap, Döner Kebap, Köfte, and Lamb Chops


Shish kebap, döner kebap, köfte, and lamb chops are popular meat entrées in Turkey.  Lamb is also the most common meat used.  I had had mutton once before moving to Turkey, and was not in the least impressed.  I very much enjoyed lamb in Turkey however!  See my hub on Kebaps for more information including recipe links. 

Kebap is a Turkish form of cooking that essentially means roasted.  Shish Kebap is very popular in Turkey, both in restaurants and at family gatherings.  Lamb shish is the most common, though you might find chicken, or in some areas of Turkey, goat. 

Adana kebap is spiced ground lamb pressed onto a flat skewer. 

Döner Kebap is similar to Greek gyro.  Turkish döner is meat layered on a pole, alternating lean meat with some form of fat so that the meat is self basting.  The meat is rotated on a vertical spit, and the outside is trimmed as it becomes cooked.  The shavings of meat are typically served on squares of pide, and drizzled with melted butter.  My favorite was the Iskender döner kebap, which had tomato sauce and yogurt. 

Köfte is like a large flattened meatball. It is typically made with ground lamb, bread crumbs, onions, and spices.  Köfte is usually grilled. 

Grilled lamb chops are also served in Turkish restaurants, and delicious, but not as common or popular as the kebaps. 


Grilled Fish
Grilled Fish

Fish and Seafood


My favorite restaurant in Izmir, and one of my favorite restaurants on the planet, is the Deniz, or Sea Restaurant on the First Cordon, in view of the Aegean.  I think I blathered on and on about this restaurant in my hub on My Turkish Travels

My favorite entrees were grilled sea bass, or chipura, which was like a sea bream.  They also had the absolute best calamari, bar none. 

One of my team’s favorite restaurants when we traveled to Ankara served a salt crusted fish.  It was prepared in an oblong fish kettle.  The salt was chiseled away, and the fish boned table-side. 

Oh, by the way, small whole fish are always served with the head on.  Turks are fond of the head meat and eyes. 

My Personal Travel Photos

Click thumbnail to view full-size
FethiyeCapadoccia, near AnkaraEphesus, near Izmir
Capadoccia, near Ankara
Capadoccia, near Ankara
Ephesus, near Izmir
Ephesus, near Izmir


Thanks for your support!

If you enjoyed my hub and found it helpful, please consider rating it up, commenting, tweeting, digging, or otherwise showing your hub love! 


Join HubPages

Not a member of HubPages?  Sign up and then you can make comments on hubs, follow your favorite hubbers, &/or write your own hubs. 


Submit a Comment
  • Sun-Girl profile image


    9 years ago from Nigeria

    Nice and quite a wonderful topic you actually shared in here which i so much enjoy reading from


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)