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Antiociha is a diner in Asmalımescit, where you can eat delicious foods that will give you some ideas about Antakya cuisine.
I very-well remember an anecdote.
It is called “What would you like in heaven?”
As far as I remember, the engineer was German, the lover was Italian, and the cook was French.
Well, I have no objections to French cooks.
They are best at making proper roast beef and sauce that you will love.
French people knows cooking fish very well as well.
However, I crave for my country’s cuisine.
And one of the first ones that I crave for is Hatay cuisine.
I grew up eating Konya-Central Anatolia dishes. I found out Hatay cuisine later on.
I wish I hadn’t. Sometimes ignorance really is bliss, as you do not know that you are missing.
My stomach rumble even as I write this, as I think about delicious appetizers and meals of Antakya.
Hummus made better than anywhere in Turkey.
And pepper with walnuts, which is one of the most delicious appetizers of the region made of local pepper.
Add the delicious olive oil, which has a stronger taste compared to Edremit-Ayvalık olive oil, and lots of genuine Antakya pomegranate syrup… And you have the best appetizer for raki.
And the same pomegranate and olive oil syrup suits so well to wild thyme salad…
And there is raw meatballs, which peculiar to Antakya and is a lot different than the one in Urfa, and it resembles French steak tartare. There is no tomato paste in it.
And as for starters and main dishes…
Stuffed bulgur burgers that are actually cooked on a sheet with wood fire, containing tail fat as it should.
A meal for kings.
Best paper kebab is found in the butchers of Antakya.
And the splendid vegetables with yogurt, which originate from Seljuk Empire. They are made with salty yogurt.
A spinach with yogurt or shank and zucchini with yogurt to be eaten in the right season will be spectacular.
It you eat them with pounded wheat dish alongside, you’ll be extremely delightful.
And how about an Antakya style ground chicken and wheat, or a white cucumber?
Or some fresh stuffed grape leaves with alive rice, served with lamb chops?
You’ll find the best tray kebab or paper kebab, made of ribs, in the butchers of Antakya. The butcher grinds your meat, lays it on the tray along with vegetables, and cooks it however you like in the bakery across the street.
I won’t even mention kunafah. That’s another story.
I wish I could find these delicious dishes in İstanbul.
Some could be though. But they are just weak copies of the originals.
I would like evaluate Antiociha diner in this sense.
It is the outcome of a nice effort.
There are young people behind it that want to do a proper work. You can tell that they are not all commercial, but they love what they do. They created a warm and natural ambiance. Service is good, and approach to the customer is respectful, but not exaggerated.
They try to do a good wok. Appetizers are fresh and various.
How you can evaluate such a diner is a little about how much you know about cuisines, and what you expect.
Does Antiochia represent Antakya cuisine fully and at the highest level?
No, it does not. And I don’t think they claim to do so.
Let me change the question.
Is this a place that gives you some idea about Antakya cuisine, that could be a good start, and where you can eat a delicious meal?
For instance; roasted salad made of tomatoes, eggplants and garlic, with the sweet smell of Antakya olive oil. Very good.
Appetizers with pepper are very delicious, and I can’t have enough of the salad.
Their hummus is also very good. There certainly are better places in Antakya, but what is here is a lot better than the quality in İstanbul.
But it would be better if they served thyme instead of yogurt with herbs. Unfortunately, their yogurt is ordinary.
And I can’t say that I loved the eggplant with yogurt. You can’t get the smell of embers, and eggplants are too soft. As I said, the yogurt is ordinary (I wonder why diners don’t do anything about it).
However, they hit the bullseye with the roasted pepper appetizers with pomegranate syrup, and with walnuts. They are both very delicious.
Dried crushed peppers are also very tasty.
And they brought boiled cheese with black sesame from Antakya. I think it is more interesting to eat it instead of fat-free cow’s cheese.
Olive salad with thyme also gets my thumbs up. Brined olives are delicious.
You can tell that a woman was involved in cooking. Dishes are light, and contain lost of green herbs. For example, there is garden rocket with walnuts and pomegranate syrup. I could eat it everyday.
And you are served with a pita-like brad with flaked pepper and sauce as appetizer. That is also light and tasty.
It is better than ones in İstanbul, but not as good as ones in Antakya.
My opinion is that starters and main courses are not as attracting as appetizers, and does not give much of an idea about the real potential of Antakya cuisine.
Do not get me wrong. I’m not saying that it’s bad. I’m just saying that they are not special or memorable.
Stuffed meatballs, for instance. They are not bad, but they’ll pale in comparison to a genuine stuffed bulgur burger.
They prepared a wrap. They is also not memorable, but you’ll eat it heartily.
And as the main course, they offer hot beef steak on skewers. Served with roasted tomatoes. This was a disappointment for me, as I crave for a tray kebab or paper kebab. But this meal of beef on skewers, it is well above the İstanbul average. The meat used is of good quality, well-marinates, and was not dried while cooking.
A glass of red vine suits well with it.
This part is important. Antakya cuisine suits very well both with vine and with raki. Even if you eat the best dishes, if you have to drink water with it, something will be missing.
There are a couple of Hatay diners in İstanbul, in Aksaray. But they don’t have drinks. This is a big absence for me.
Antiochia is in Asmalımescit, a small and nice diner, and sells alcoholic drinks.
I really hope that they take things a step further and start making Antakya dishes, which require more effort.
For instance, why not make a different main course for every day of the week? Many diners in the West do it, and people go there to eat a specific dish on a specific day.
Such as tray kebab on Tuesdays, stuffed bulgur burgers on Wednesdays, ground chicken and wheat on Thursdays.
Do it concise yet complete. Do it properly.
I hope we’ll see those days.
REGIONAL CUISINES ARE ENDANGERED
The sad part is that these dishes may not be found even in Antakya.
Diners cut corners.
It is called doing it in commercial style in Turkish. It is interesting, as using commerce and commercialization in the meaning of cutting corners and lowering the quality levels is peculiar to our country and culture.
Those who maintain the traditions and prepare the dishes I mentioned, and many others, properly are the families that respect the dishes more.
And these families are diminishing. Stress due to economical pressures and distorted order, women leaving home to work, and young generations growing up learning different values endanger regional cuisines.
Under these circumstances, while everyone else develop their cuisines and preserve their traditions, we regress.
Who will stop this regression, and how?
Individual efforts are required.