Turkish Food: Simple
Yet varied. Good tasting at
I like the simplicity of Greek food but perhaps due to its uncomplicated nature it’s pretty boring in Greater Vancouver. For the most part, there’s very little differentiating one Greek restaurant from another in the city. The menus and executions of the dishes seem nearly identical.
In an effort to find something similar but more exciting, I’ve started to sample Turkish cuisine. Turkey and Greece have a long history with one another (“This is Sparta!” or if you old like me “Istanbul (not Constantinople)”). As a result there are similarities between the two cultures’ food. However, there seems to a slightly different spice palate used and a greater variety of dishes to try with Turkish cuisine.
Thanks to the Instagram feed of @tfagram
, it turns out there was a hole in wall Turkish restaurant just a short walk away from my home. Saray Turkish Cuisine is a small mom and pop eatery serving a small of menu of hot food and dessert. On my first take-out experience, I got a cheese Pide and the roast lamb plate.
The carbohydrate heavy appetizer was really buttery and cheesy. It was pretty basic and similar to a plain cheese pizza without sauce, as it was baked cheese on bread but it was very enjoyable.
The roast lamb looked unimpressive. It wasn’t pretty – actually it scared me a bit as it looked dull and lifeless. However it was fork tender and tasted fine. It was savoury and had a nice tart aftertaste. The sourness help alleviate the heaviness that red meat can have.
Paired with lamb was long grain plain rice, a simple salad of shredded lettuce, onions, and tomato slices, bread, and 3 dips. Nothing fancy but well prepared.
The bread was not a pita but similar. A single layer of soft and fluffy bread with distinct eyelet shaped holes. The 3 dips were a creamy yoghurt, earthy hummus and tangy tzatziki. Each of the dips were unique, went well with the bread and rice, and tasty.
I enjoyed my meal and decided to grab some more food from Saray; this time dinner and dessert. I got the Adana plate and a selecting of 3 Turkish sweets. This unique kebab is named for the town it originated from. It’s a mixture of lamb and seasoning and Saray forms it into a wavy bar of meat.
It was tender and spiced effectively, although not a specific flavour stood out, to create a satisfying bite. The same basic but well executed sides that came with the roast lamb came with the Adana platter.
The one thing I’m noticing about Turkish cuisine is that there seems to be some variety with the sides you get. The Greek Formula is Greek salad, rice, potato, tzatziki and pita bread.
In contrast the Adana platter from Anatolia Express
offers vibrant hue sides of creamed carrots, and pickled purple cabbage; much more fancy than Saray (but Saray’s Adana kebab was a lot better!).
Although simple, Saray threw a curve ball with their Adana platter – a packet of Sumac. This electric magenta coloured spice is unique to Middle Eastern cuisine and has a sour flavour. It added another flavour dimension to the dish and in my honest opinion made the take-out more photogenic. Sumac you are an Instagram enhancer.
Turkish confections share many similarities between with Greece including the fact both countries claim Baklava as their own. From my research it seems that Turkish recipes emphasize dunking their sweets in simple syrup and while the Greeks prefer honey. Either way, prepare for a sugar rush.
I got two types of Baklava and tulumba. The more recognizable baklava that has soaked phyllo layers sandwiching a filling of nuts, was ultra sweet, nutty and buttery. I found the sweetness overwhelming and insomnia inducing.
The second baklava filled with pistachio and whipping cream was more my style when it came to the level of sweetness. However since the phyllo layers were not dipped in simple syrup, the layers were flaky and dry. However I much prefer this rendition.
The tulumba are ridged oblong fried dough balls dipped in simple syrup – an unadulterated sugar high. The confection was a bit chewy. This combined with the baklavas had me completing more chores in a 3 hour span than what I would do over the entire weekend. Any more sugar I might have pulled off a hummingbird Apu.
Overall I enjoyed the meals I had at Saray. It was a good step into exploring Turkish cuisine which I find more interesting than the staid Greek food we have the in town. I’m definitely looking forward to trying more Turkish cuisine and happy to have Saray in my hood.
Saray Turkish Cuisine
422 Willingdon Avenue
604 563 4131