Turkish breakfast at embassy

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Various dishes served at a Turkish breakfast

A quick quiz for you. The three great cuisines of the world are French, Chinese and … ? The correct answer: Turkish!

The Turkish Embassy in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo, recently held a breakfast meeting, serving participants authentic Turkish cuisine.

Many people may associate Turkish food with the doner kebab — meat cooked on a vertical rotisserie, shaved and then stuffed into pita bread — or the country’s stretchy dondurma ice cream.

Since ancient times, a wide assortment of ethnic groups has passed through Turkey, forming a rich food culture. Turkish cuisine is characterized by an abundance of fruits and vegetables as well as copious amounts of olive oil and yogurt.

In 2014, more than 50,000 people gathered to breakfast together in the eastern Turkish city of Van, and the event was recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records. The Turkish government has declared 2022 “the year of gastronomy” and is hosting promotional events around the world.

Breakfast is called kahvalti in Turkish, and the spread at the embassy breakfast included various kinds of cheese, jam and honey along with menemen (scrambled eggs packed with vegetables), an assortment of bread and salad.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A tulip-shaped tea glass

Turkish Ambassador to Japan Korkut Gungen explained that the type of tea glass used is called a bardak and that its shape resembles a tulip, a symbol of Turkey.

According to Gungen, most Turks are Muslims, but they drink alcohol such as beer, wine and raki, a distinctively fragrant Turkish liquor that turns cloudy when mixed with water.

Then there is the yogurt-based beverage ayran, a mixture of yogurt, mint, salt and water. It has a refreshing taste that goes well with any food.

And one can’t forget the coffee. Turkish coffee has been registered on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list as “Turkish coffee culture and tradition.” Coffee powder is boiled with water and sugar on the stove in a milk pan-like pot called a cezve.

When you’ve finished your coffee, you can enjoy a go at coffee fortune-telling, in which you lay a saucer on top of your cup and flip them both over to look at the shape the coffee dregs form and thereby read your fortune.

“We liken them to birds or roads,” Gungen said with a smile.

Coffee fortune-telling is more like a communication tool than actual fortune-telling. Spending time with close friends over a meal or a cup of coffee may be the most appealing aspect of Turkish cuisine.