Characteristic Features of Hatay Cuisine

When we look at the characteristic features of Antakya cuisine, we can see that it is influenced by the neighbor cuisines alongside with its specific features and that it also influences these cuisines.

It use all materials that are used in a typical Mediterranean cuisine. For example, legumes and cereals are used often. Olive oil and butter are the main oils used in food. Tail fat, suet and a mix of them are also used in food. For example, it uses suet and butter to achieve crispiness in cookies and tries to save on butter through mixing olive oil and butter (Kaytaz boregi, a pastry filled with meat). I believe that the use of tail fat in Antakya cuisine is probably originated from Central Asian cuisine. Because we can see that the food in these cuisines lives in our cuisine with very similar recipes (Hamis, Mixed Liver, Korma). As it has become home to many cultures, Antakya cuisine has taken the recipes it likes, tailored them to its own taste and flavor and could fit them in itself. Therefore, it has never been closed to different cuisine cultures, on the contrary it has managed be a traditional and innovative cuisine.

Antakya cuisine is a remarkable cuisine together with its desserts, sour food, meat, pastry, stuffed grape leaves, stuffed vegetables, jams, breads, cheese, soups, hot meals and cold meals. One of the most important factors of being a cuisine is the requirement of being an original cuisine with a large number of recipes. The fact that 200 out of over 400 recipes of Antakya cuisine are original recipes and also there are around 40 forgotten recipes shows us that it is a remarkable cuisine. When it is considered that the Ottoman cuisine contains 315 recipes, the significance of Antakya cuisine can be seen. (1)

There is a separation of poor cuisine and rich cuisine in Antakya cuisine, and the same recipes can be made in different ways in these coexisting cuisines. In Antakya cuisine, the traditions bring together the eating and presentation characteristics of the food. It is about which food is eaten or presented with which food. There are around 43 types of food that forms such pairs (You can find more information on the section ‘Pairs in Antakya cuisine’).

It is possible to see the lifestyle in the food recipes of Antakya cuisine. When we look at this cuisine, we can see the daughter in law-mother in law relationship and a patriarchal family structure. Moreover, since the love relationship between women and men are never overt due to conservative family structure, women express their love with their food and presentation. Young girls are under strict food training until they get married. This is the preparation period for kitchen and cooking at young ages, as can be seen in the food called anali kiz (mother-daughter).

In Antakya cuisine, there are 2000 years, 1500 years, 1000 years, 800 years, 500 years, 200 years, 100 years old food and this cuisine can bring the recipes of these food up to today without making any change since their originality is suitable for the gusto and for the ingredients it uses (e.g. Stuffed Kidney 3rd century, Isbangi 11th century, Stuffed Apple 13th century, Chard with Yogurt 15th century, Long Squash Stew 16th century etc.).

Antakya cuisine also serves for those who want to satisfy their need for food through Fast Food, in other words while on the move. It has a considerable number of food types also in this area (Pepper bread, vegetable fritters, bezirgan kebab, mashed pepper, Turkish bagels, ayran).

Other than the food cooked with fresh herbs, Antakya cuisine also knows how to dry the herbs and vegetables, and makes use of them as beverages, food and flavors (This topic will be explained more comprehensively in the section “Dried food in Antakya cuisine’).

The skill of Antakya cuisine in creating taste is praiseworthy. It can create different tastes through using the same ingredient in recipes that are not related with each other. Sumac can be given as an example to that. It can catch different tastes through using sumac in kashkek, onion and roasted pepper.

This cuisine has also found ingredients that it can use in all seasons. Bitter orange juice, Verjuice, Purslane, Terebinth shoot etc.

Antakya cuisine is one of the cuisines that are worth of being examined in terms of cooking. It has used any kind of heat energy and ingredients that emit this heat. It has provided cooking processes through making use of masonry oven, tandoor and iron plate with the Coal, Wood, Brushwood, Electricity, Ember, Cinder Fire, Boiling, Frying and Steam methods.

In Antakya cuisine, ingredient use is in a harmony. They are used as complementary elements in creating taste. E.g. Tahini-Humus, Tahini-Parsley, Strained Yogurt, Walnut-Pepper etc. There is almost no change in the original recipes of the desserts. Pumpkin in syrup and walnuts, Kunafa, Stone kadayif, Blancmange, Cheese halva etc.

It is a cuisine with numerous forgotten food, food poems, mythological food stories, food description mosaics and pots it uses; it makes it possible that the same food is seen in various ways and it reflects different cultures that live next to each other. It is observed that when kibbeh is made in a Christian culture, it is different than the one made in a Muslim community in terms of shape, size and ingredients. It is also observed that the same food can be presented with different ingredients, as in kashkek (see the writing about kashkek), in the Alevi and Sunni communities in Muslim community.

I support Hatay’s application for UNESCO creative cities network.

SÜHEYL BUDAK – Turkey Chefs Federation Honorable member and  ve advisory board member – Click for Autobiography.