Hatay is one of the ancient settlements, which has hosted [many] civilizations starting from 9000 BC up until now. It has a 186 kilometer-long coastal band, the mild climate of Mediterranean region, the first church of Christianity, namely Saint Pierre, the first mosque of Anatolia, namely Habib-i Neccar, and numerous historical heritages. This land that has hosted many different cultures for thousands of years invites us with a very rich cuisine waiting to be discovered.
Hatay cuisine is like a cuisine symphony with unique musical notes and rhythm that is different from any other cuisines in many aspects. If you are inclined to listen, you may catch the special cultural tasty melodies at each and every table from breakfast to dinner and from night-kanafeh to the flavors that reflect the rituals of different religions’ specific days. Mediterranean cuisine culture’s vegetable and olive oil effect is highly strong on Hatay cuisine. In fact, even “olive crumbs”, obtained during olive oil production, are added into leavened dough and turned into delicious “Olive Crumb Bread” ready to be served at table. When you taste this bread, you may find yourself visiting an olive museum that is thousands of years old in Tokaşlı village and hearing the olive tree that Homer talks with: “I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody. I was here before you came. I will still be here after you leave.”
Yogurt, our heritage from Central Asia, has been transformed into something else in Hatay cuisine. It has become an irreplaceable nutrient of breakfast tables and meals as “Salted Yogurt”. Hatay is the gateway of Mesopotamia referred as the homeland of wheat. There are many dishes with wheat recipes in our cuisine, but you may taste a very special form in Hatay called as Aşur, which is cooked with hot pepper, cumin and fall-apart tender meat. Hatay’s meat and kebab culture not only includes shish kebab and barbecue tradition, but also many other cooking techniques such as pot dish and oven roasted kebabs cooked with plenty of vegetables, indicating the reflection of different cultures on Hatay’s cuisine. Musty cottage cheese called “Sürk” is a unique item of the food culture in terms of its fermentation process and dominant taste. Pepper bread and cottage cheese bread traditionally made in tandoori are typical tastes of Hatay.
There are a few cuisines where spices are used diversely and in balance. The most important point on spice use in Hatay cuisine is that spices are not used excessively in every dish. As a result of a fine palatal delight, spices are used diversely and as required. There is a saying in Hatay emphasizing this approach: “We ate a hot [raw] meatball, my dear, I wish you have no day of sorrow.” Food is not only referred in the kitchen, but also in daily language, prayers, proverbs and sayings. Long story short, you may witness the traces of history and culture even in a single example of a table that is set each and every day. When you have a glimpse on this very rich cuisine’s culture, you are bewitched, you embrace its rhythm, and you can never quit.
To me, all special products can be used in a healthy nutrition. These foods deserve to be on the tables of all that cherish gastronomy, not only the ones who know or are familiar with Hatay. Travel and gastronomy lovers should be aware of this ancient heritage of taste, experts should inform them, and they should see and listen the stories on the premises in person. It would be an exciting experience to open the gastronomy door of this magical world that embraces the sense of belonging to Hatay and being a part of this rich and diverse mosaic culture that embraces many different religions from Muslim to Hebrew, Christian, Armenian, Alevist and Sunni.
Hatay cuisine is absolutely a world cuisine. This cuisine culture should be known all around the world as well as Turkey. It should become a part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network in gastronomy category. I support it with all my heart and soul.
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.
As it is known, each region has a different life style and different kind of cooking and eating habits accordingly. Sometimes this is based on conditions and needs of the time. In Antakya cuisine, eating habits are sometimes conveyed to street and street vendors offer food to the public. There are some seasonal foods that are only offered in winters or summers. We may see breakfasts, lunches and mid-afternoon meals offered as street foods.
In general, bagel and buttermilk combination has been offered in the mornings for a long time. This combination is mostly seen in Aprils. It continues throughout the entire summer and disappears through winter. When autumn comes, muhammara [walnut and red pepper paste], zengin [salad], biberli ekmek [pepper bread], öcce [vegetable patty] sales are seen on the stands of street vendors. Maybe you would ask what they are actually doing with muhammara and zengin? The vendor places these two pepper dishes on surface of breads and offers them in wraps. There are regional differences in street foods. While pilaf with chickpeas and fried liver are sold in Istanbul, it is necessary to mention liver kebab prepared hot in a food stand only early in mornings in Antakya. Liver kebab is a breakfast that is generally sought in winters. This type of breakfast, however, is seen in places where tradesmen population is intensive. Another food sold by street vendors is bezirgan kebab, which is a wrap generally consists of boiled eggs and spring onions. An important part of the street vendors consists of dessert and candy sellers. These vendors, however, do not serve for breakfast, but they appear after 10:00 o’clock. These include şam tatlısı [Damascus dessert], züngül, yazın haytalı (bici – bici), şerbetçiler [sherbet sellers] (made of licorice root), cevizli (walnut and sugar mixture), sakızlı (a kind of candy where candy is softened in cold water bath, and then, sesame is put on the candy), Gaz-lil-Benat (cotton candy), toffee apple, ice cream sellers, bagel sellers, sarı bülbül (boiled chickpea). Boiled chickpea is offered by street vendors ready to be served hot in a rectangular glass container of which lid is opened from the top in afternoons. In general, the vendor calls out as “sarı bülbül” [“yellow nightingale”] or “sarı bülbül geldi” [“yellow nightingale is here”] for selling chickpea to the public.
Licorice sherbet, which is also offered during summers at noon and in afternoons, is an indispensible beverage of street vendors. This sherbet that is generally prepared as cooled and offered in a special container with an apparatus, on which glasses are lined up and tied on to the belly of the vendor. The vendor used to make a sound with two nested bowls in his hand. Licorice sherbet has always been one of the most important beverages of Antakya for a long time. In addition, banana (aromatic) sherbet was also sold. As it was a more expensive beverage, it could never replace licorice sherbet.
“Ramadan Halvah” sold in Ramadan is a specific dessert. It is only made in Ramadan are lined up on a tray and sold by street vendors. The main ingredients of halvah are gypsophila, sugar, citric acid and sesame.
Ice cream is another dessert that has a cooling effect and is sold in summers. Handmade ice creams are prepared in the morning. In the mid-afternoons, we hear the voices of ice cream sellers with special stands calling out “salep and lemon”. When we heard their voice, we would understand that we could have vanilla ice cream or lemon ice cream.
An important street food in afternoons is “afternoon bagel”. This kind of bagel, which is also made nowadays, is a crispy bagel -of which top and bottom is roasted- with a soft inner part. This bagel used to be made of dough fermented with chickpea yeast. Chickpea yeast is a kind of custom-made yeast. Afternoon bagel’s odor and taste is also different as the inner part of the bagel does not get dry because of chickpea yeast and its odor is different than any other yeast. Speaking of chickpea yeast, sea biscuit –which does not lose its crispy taste for a long time- (now called “Etimek”) was also made with this yeast. These are materials that are also sold by street vendors.
In autumn, pomegranate fruit appears. Pomegranate juice sales used to continue until orange appeared. Then, orange juice would be sold instead of pomegranate juice. Nowadays, these vendors disappeared.
In winters, roasted chestnut sellers used to sell by sitting in general. Nowadays, roasted chestnut sellers continue to peddle. In summary, Antakya cuisine is also conveyed to the streets and they convey its richness so well that there are specific morning and afternoon foods as well as summer and winter specific foods including desserts and syrup. Salep, bagel, pumpkin dessert and many others…
I SUPPORT HATAY’S GASTRONOMY CANDIDACY TO THE UNESCO CREATIVE CITIES NETWORK.
- Ünal KAHRAMAN – Food Engineer – Project Advisor