Category Archives: Turkish Riviera

What is the “Mediterranean Diet”?

The past few years popular magazines and science journals alike have been abuzz with articles about a new fad called the “Mediterranean Diet” (If you’ve been out of the loop, see the Mayo clinic or the New York Times: “The Island Where People Forget to Die“, “Mediterranean Diet Shown to Ward Off Heart Attack and Stroke“, “When Diet Meets Delicious“, “Mediterranean Diet is Good for Your DNA“). But the Mefuterranean is a huge region encompassing a variety of culinary cultures – most of which we don’t often associate with “heart healthy”. So…

IMG_0570What is the Mediterranean Diet?

Simply put, the “Mediterranean Diet” is less a diet, per se, than a lifelong way of eating that emphasizes fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, lean protein and healthy fats. There’s nothing very complicated about the diet: eat lots of foods high in fiber and other nutrients like local vegetables and legumes; consume healthy fats like olives, almonds and olive oil; substitute fruit for other sweets; emphasize low-cholesterol sources of protein like chicken and fish over red meat; avoid additives and preservatives; and enjoy the occasional glass of red wine. For more information delving into specifics, see this post on health.com.

Why Is It Good for Me?

fresh oranges dalyan

A fresh fruit stand on the highway outside Dalyan

The Mediterranean Diet probably isn’t (as some have claimed) a cure-all.  But it does promote overall well-being by providing your body with full nutrients and decreasing your intake of disease-causing foods such as refined sugar and artery-clogging saturated fats. Combined with regular exercise, studies have shown the Mediterranean diet to lower cholesterol and blood pressure, reduce the risk of diabetes, obesity and heart disease while promoting longer living.  Other studies have shown the Mediterranean diet to lead to a reduced risk of dying from cancer or cardiovascular disease as well as the risk of developing Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. (References here, here, here and here)

Following the Mediterranean Diet in Turkey

Turkish fruit sellers

Village women selling figs and olives outside Didim

When we conjure images of Turkish cuisine, what do we see?  Probably heavy red meats like shish kebabs and doner, plenty of bread, a fair amount of full-fat dairy and tantalizing sweets like baklava and dondurma.  But how a tourist tastes a new country is not necessarily representative of the way most residents eat day-in-and-day-out or the ingredients readily available in the grocery store. Whether stocking up your own kitchen or eating out, nutrient-dense whole foods in Turkey abound. Turkey is full of fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as locally sourced, GMO-free products at reasonable prices.  While you can pick up your groceries at the local Carrefoure, most Turks in both town and city do their shopping at the local bazaars.  Many Turkish people tend to eat seasonally, with an emphasis on in-season local produce.  Due to the mild coastal climate and long growing seasons, this translates into consuming a great variety of different foods. Unless you live in a small town in the Anatolian hinterlands, it’s easy to find fresh produce and staples of the Mediterranean diet year-round.  Turkey’s produce is officially GMO-free, and there are a growing number of organic and free-range farms.  Compared to the west, it’s much less expensive to stock your fridge with locally-grown, additive-free fresh food. Here’s what you’ll probably see families eating in Turkey

Turkish breakfast

Part of a typical Turkish breakfast: tea, olives, salad, local honeys and jams, fresh cheese, and eggs on their way!

Breakfast: A typical Turkish breakfast includes a complete spread: jams, cheeses, eggs, cucumbers, tomatoes, olives and bread.  Most restaurants will also have omelets and menemen, scrambled eggs with tomatoes and green peppers.

Lunch: A traditional lunch might include a bowl of hearty lentil soup coupled with salad, mezeler (cold vegetable dishes with olive oil), cucumber and tomatoe salad, and crusty bread.  For a little more protein, go for fresh grilled fish or menemen.

Dinner: Dinner is often the day’s biggest meal, shared with friends or family. Dinner will often start with a light soup, followed by salad, mezeler, a starch or grain, and a source of protein. Grains like bulgar and barley, often thought of as ‘health foods’ in the west, are here common fare (see more on grains used in Turkish cooking here).

Dessert and Tea: Every meal and almost every visit in Turkey will be accompanied by a cup of black tea.  If you are visiting someone’s house as a guest, your tea will be accompanied by small dishes of cakes, dried fruits, and nuts.  Instead of sweets after dinner, many Turkish people drink tea and nibble on nuts and dried fruit, or bring out a plate of cut fruit.

Drinks: While raki is the Turkish national drink, there are plenty of vineyards producing local vintages as well. Moderate amounts of red wine are supposed to be good for your heart and overall health.

Going for Healthier Options

Like most countries in the west, Turkey does have a high obesity rate (currently 16.5% for men 29.4% for women).  It’s obvious that being surrounded by an abundance of healthy food doesn’t automatically make one healthier.  So here are a few minor changes you can make to follow a healthy and whole diet in Turkey:

  • Skip the sugar in your tea. The average adult should consume less than 60 grams of sugar in a day.  One sugar cube has 12 grams of sugar.  If you drink as much tea as the average Turk, that’s a lot of extra sugar.  Ask for a slice of lemon instead.
  • Revel in the fresh fish! IMG_1323Fish is an integral part of almost every restaurant’s menu; for those traveling to Istanbul or the Aegean, fresh fish is a must.  Most restaurants have daily dinner specials for 12-25 lira including meze (appetizers), salad, and the catch of the day.  Our favorite fish is çupra (gilt head sea bream) for it’s tender and flavorful white flesh. Eat with a side salad and a slice of lemon to bring out the fish’s full flavors.
  • Go for low fat or fat-free dairy. Dairy forms a central staple of Turkish cuisine – spreads of soft and hard cheese at breakfast, salty ayran, handchurned yogurt, and the sweet cream kaymak.  Thankfully, most dairy products are also available in reduced fat or no-fat form.  Look for the pink cups of ayran, or dairy labels that read yarım yağlı (half fat), az yağlı (low-fat) or yağsız (fat free).
  • Pass on the Kofte and Adana Kebabs.  These are high in fatty meat and kofte are cooked in oil.  If you’re hankering after red meat, go for Simit kebab (cooked with bulgar), Şiş kebab with vegetables,  Buğu kebabı or Testi kebab. 
  • Switch out the white bread.  Most Turkish bakeries have options with higher fiber, like whole wheat (tam buğday ekmek) and cracked wheat/whole meal (kepekli ekmek).
  • Ask for servis.  This means your fish or kofte will come on a plate with salad, instead of sandwiched in half a loaf of bread.  At more causal joints you may have to pay an extra lira for servis 
  • Go for almonds and fresh and dried fruit at tea. We know those sweets piled on trays at tea look tempting; reach instead for something more sustaining, like almonds, dried apricots and dates.
  • Quench your thirst with fresh juice instead of coke. Fresh fruit stands abound in
    Juice in ankara

    A juice stand in downtown Ankara

    both metropolises and up and down the coasts (and at every town in between) Even in the dead of winter downtown Ankara has dozens of stalls making fresh pressed carrot, orange, grapefruit and pomegranate juice for as little as 1.5 lira a cup. Most malls have fresh fruit juice stands as well.  If you like the strong flavor, şalgam, a salty beet-red drink made from fermented purple carrots, turnip and bulgar, is a refreshing alternative to soft drinks.  If you over-indulge in raki, you may find a glass of şalgam being imposed upon you as a [supposed] cure for hangovers.

Little Bazaars; Fresh Produce

First, take a virtual walk through two of Turkey’s outdoor bazaars with this beatifully crafted and illustrated traveler’s post: Refueling at Fethiye Markets.  Check out these bazaars over the summer for some fresh, locally-grown and low-priced produce:

Bodrum: The food bazaar is held in a different location every day of the week; Thursday is market day in Yalikova; Friday the food market is held in the Bodrum Market (pazar); if you want a trip back in time, Monday is  market day at the little town of Guvercinlik, 20 km north of Bodrum. See here for a full schedule. IMG_0940

Didim/Altinkum: If you have a car, head out to Akkoy and scoop up produce sold by the roadside straight from the fields.  Figs, olives, and preserves are all produced locally and sold at rock-bottom prices.  The Saturday Market has produce (along with everything else from clothing to household items).  If you want to get away from the summer tourists, you can also drive to Söke for an authentic bazaar experience. 

Fethiye: Farmer’s markets take place in different locations on different days; Tuesdays and Fridays are in the town center. Turkey’s for Life has a great bunch of posts about the Friday Market, Patlangıç Market, Çalış Market, and more. Interested in learning more about the push to put local produce on hotel tables?  Read about the Taste of Fethiye project here!  Taste of Fethiye also prints a Fethiye Village Driving Route to take you and your taste buds on a self-guided local culinary tour (PDF: Turkey_driving_route_booklet_opt).

Want fresh fish? Head to the Fethiye Fresh Fish Market.  This Fethiye Times post includes market information as well as English-Turkish names for dozens of varieties of local seafood.

Kusadasi: Find the bazaar on Tuesday, Wednesday or Friday. Tuesday markets are located on the street by the cemetery; Wednesday and Friday markets are on the same street, but opposite the main dolmus (minibus) stop at the city center. Food is fresh from the sea and the farms.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under City Sights, Community, Exploring, Shopping, Turkish Cuisine, Turkish Culture, Turkish Riviera

Turkey’s Best Beach Food

Turkish Cuisine is most known for its fragrant, nutty desserts, succulent meats, and lavish breakfast platter.  But what do people eat when they’re hitting up the beach? Obviously not hotdogs and cotton candy.

Turkey’s many beaches have an abundance of food on offer, from the universally popular stuffed mussels to more unusual creations like melon icecream bowls. You’re likely to buy your beach food from one of three places: open-air cafes selling popular dishes all day, usually located just back from the beach; mobile food carts and village locals selling hand-cooked goods and cold drinks from baskets; and seasonal cafes set up on the sand.

Spinach Gözleme

Gözleme

Gözleme is the standby dish of Turkish beach-goers, delicious for breakfast, lunch, snack or even dinner.  Gözleme is made by rolling out thin sheets of dough, stuffing the dough with various fresh ingredients (traditional varieties include spinach, spinach and white cheese, yellow cheese, and cheese and potatoes), and baking it for a few minutes in a tandoor oven.  You will often see people carrying plastic tubs full of ready-made gözleme on the beach, and cafes selling oven-hot gözleme to order ring almost every watering hole.  Average price: 3-7 Lira.

Gözleme tent at Kaputaş Plaji

Gözleme tent at Kaputaş Plaji

Papery, savory gözleme is the perfect follow-up to an afternoon swim, best enjoyed from a shaded tent where you can get a little respite from the sun.

016c96a8e714d77e3a479fc341148c13d30401a438

Fresh Vegetables and Ayran

Almost every outdoor cafe will serve up a side of fresh vegetables, or a simple mixed sheperd’s salad (Çoban Salatası).  Garden-fresh cucumbers and sun-ripened tomatoes are perfect when accompanied by a glass of cold, salty Ayran, especially after a swim (or sweating in the sun).

Midye

Ever seen a man walking around with a cloth-covered dish? He’s probably selling Midye – steamed mussels stuffed with mixed pilaf and eaten with a squeeze of fresh lemon.

Sari Kardesler Midye Stand, Bodrum

Sari Kardesler Midye Stand, Bodrum

Each town has their “midye barons”, the most famous probably being Bodrum’s Sarı Kardeşler Midyecilik, so well-known they even have their own facebook page. PriceL 0.5-1 Lira/mussel

Kavun Dondurma – Melon Bowl Ice Cream

If you’ve ever traveled to Turkey – anywhere in Turkey – you’ve probably noticed how popular (and prevalent) ice cream is.  Of course the tourists go for the blocks of ‘Turkish Ice Cream’ sold by men in red Ottoman caps.  But even beyond Istanbul’s most crowded thoroughfares, ice cream is everywhere, usually for sale in bright glass cares featuring twenty to firty flavors, from raspberry to blackberry to strawberry to chocolate to fudge to hazelnut to walnut to pistachio to caramel to…well, you get it.

But Turkey’s beaches offer something unique: ice cream scooped into a melon bowl.  The melons used are not as sweet or sugary as cantaloupe, and at least make your dessert choice seem a little healthier.  Price: 5 Lira

IMG_1312

If you do want to skip the ice cream, and just go for the fruit, several beaches have stands selling cactus fruits ( hailed – without much scientific backing – as “Nature’s Viagra”) for around 2 Lira.  But beware – make sure yours is completely skinned before handling it yourself, or you could get cacti spikes embedded in your skin (trust me on this one).

*Really* Fresh Juice

And if you’d rather avoid the prickles, most beaches (along with almost every street in most cities) will have a nearby cafe or stand selling fresh-pressed orange juice. Many places will also make grapefruit juice, pomegranate juice, carrot juice, and mixed juice for about 1.5-3 lira a cup, fresh-squeezed while you wait.

There are also plenty of fresh fruit and vegetable stands (and fresh fruit juice stands) selling local organic produce by the side of the road.

There are also plenty of fresh fruit and vegetable stands (and fresh fruit juice stands) selling local organic produce by the side of the road.

süt mısır…delivery bicycle?

Steamed Corn (“süt mısır”) is also a popular snack, both in town and on the beach.  Look for small stands with closed stainless steel containers covered in white cloth or… a corncicle. Popular toppings include vinegar, butter, salt, pepper, hot pepper, lemon juice, and pomegranate sauce. Price: 1.5-4 Lira

Rakı Balık

Rakı Balık

If you’re more than a little peckish, and fruit and corn just won’t cut it, despair not! Turkey’s most famous beach food is of course fish!  A quick dinner can be made of balık ekmek (Fish sandwich, literally “fish bread”, see the video below), but fresh fish is often best  grilled and served with a squeeze of lemon, a tart side salad, and a glass of raki.  The dinner is so popular that it’s simply known as “rakı balık” – raki and fish. A trip along Turkey’s coast cannot be said complete without a dinner of rakı balık, preferably on a terrace as the sun sets over the sea.

2 Comments

Filed under Beaches, Day Trips, Turkish Cuisine, Turkish Culture, Turkish Riviera

A Veteran’s Take on Retirement in Turkey

Below is a selection from very thorough and measured assessment of retiring in Turkey written by Colin Guest, a British man who has lived in the country for over two decades.  You can read the full (rather lengthy) in Retirement and Good Living.  Even though this is a fairly recent review, several Turkish laws that he mentioned have since changed – make sure to check the most recent health insurance, residence permit and property purchasing laws before making any plans!

The article is quite extensive, so here’s the summary of his thoughts:

In general, I think Turkey is a good place to retire. What with beautiful weather, and living costs being quite reasonable, one can enjoy a relaxing and healthy lifestyle here. Also, Turkish people are well known for being very hospitable and friendly. If you happen to have a problem, there is usually someone who will help you out. It is also quite safe to walk around here. As for crime, apart from once catching someone trying to pick my pocket, I have never had any problems whilst living here.

Retirement in Turkey

Saturday, September 20th, 2014 Colin Guest

Retire in TurkeyAs a retired Englishman, one who has lived in Turkey for over 25 years, I have no hesitation in recommending it as a place to retire. Down on the Mediterranean Coast, where I lived until getting remarried in 2012, there is an average of 300+ days of sunshine a year. This compared to living in the UK where sunshine is at a premium, is reason alone to retire here. However, I must point out that normally, during July and August, the temperatures can be very high. At these times, it is advisable to think about taking a holiday to somewhere cooler.

As for buying or renting property here, costs I think are quite reasonable compared to some other countries. As an example, one can rent a good-sized 3-bedroom apartment in the city of Antalya for around £280 ($456) per month. Smaller apartments are of course much cheaper. These prices, however, can vary considerably; depending on which area you choose to live. In Istanbul for instance, housing costs are far higher than in other areas of Turkey. Buying property here is very easy. Although you do not require using an Avukat (lawyer) to buy a property, I highly recommend you use one. Just think for a minute, would you buy a property in England (or the US) without using a solicitor. The answer is a definite NO! Therefore, before buying a property, use an Avukat. If possible, use one who is recommended by someone you know who purchased a property.

One thing to be aware of about buying property here is the inheritance law. This unlike in the UK is somewhat different. In the event of your death, if you have children, they are automatically entitled to a share of any property that is in your name….Retire in Turkey

Medical care here in Turkey is very good. In fact, patients come to Turkey to have operations, unlike in the UK; there are no waiting lists here. Also, costs for operations are quite reasonable compared to the UK. I have had two operations here, and was well satisfied with both the operations and aftercare received. There are many first class hospitals in Turkey, fitted with the latest technology and staffed by English speaking doctors. SGK….  is a Turkish health organization, which you can join as long as you do not receive a pension from England. The monthly costs for this is around 285 TL (£81, $132). As a member of SGK you are entitled to receive free health care in Government hospitals, as well as obtaining prescription medicines at greatly reduced costs…

Transport here is both cheap and efficient, with most buses air-conditioned. As an example of costs, a ticket from the city of Antalya to Kemer, a distance of approximately 50km, is around £2 ($3.25). Apart from buses, Antalya has a metro system, which is inexpensive to use. In Istanbul, one has a wide range of available transportation. There are buses, metro lines and ferries. You can also use a Dolmus, which are basically mini buses that carry around 10 persons. These are both a cheap and efficient way of getting around to various places. All taxis here are fitted with meters….

There are many new shopping centers throughout the country. You can now buy most things except pork, which is only available in a few places. When shopping outside of the major shopping centers, you can try to barter down the cost. In many places this is expected, especially in tourist areas and open markets. Some of the best buys in Turkey include gold & silver jewelry, which is of excellent quality and design. Leather is also of high quality and of the latest fashion. Turkish carpets are known worldwide for being of high quality. However, when buying one, you should always barter down the cost.

There are many water sports available if you decide to live on the Mediterranean or Aegean Coast. There are also many excellent marinas, both in the large cities and hidden away in numerous well sheltered bays. For the golfer, there are over 12 top quality golf courses in Belek designed by a world known professional golfers. This is approximately a 30 minutes’ drive East down the coast from Antalya International airport. There is also a course in Bodrum, with three courses in Istanbul. Films are available in English, in most cinemas throughout Turkey. By using a satellite TV system, you are able to view English films and several International News channels.

Retire in TurkeyIf you are over 65, and want to get married to a Turkish person, the process is quite involved and requires various forms and signatures.

A word of warning. If you are thinking of working here, you must have a work permit. If you are caught working without one, you will be deported. Also, never go into business without first consulting an Avukat (lawyer). I myself have not had a problem re this, although my late wife and some friends lost money by not consulting an Avukat, before parting with their money.

In general, I think Turkey is a good place to retire. What with beautiful weather, and living costs being quite reasonable, one can enjoy a relaxing and healthy lifestyle here. Also, Turkish people are well known for being very hospitable and friendly. If you happen to have a problem, there is usually someone who will help you out. It is also quite safe to walk around here. As for crime, apart from once catching someone trying to pick my pocket, I have never had any problems whilst living here.

You can read more about the author on Author’s Den and buy Colin’s full e-book here

1 Comment

Filed under Finance, Health Insurance, Legal Affairs, Practicalities, Purchasing Property, Retiring Abroad, Shopping, Transportation, Turkish Riviera

Traditional Turkish Breakfast at Akköy

Every year when we visit Onur in Didim we make a trip (or two, or three…) to nearby Akköy for Turkish breakfast.  Turkish breakfast is one of the culinary delights of Turkey – as simple as it is extravagant, as scrumptious and savory as it is satisfying.

Turkish breakfast

Half the Akkoy spread: fries, yellow cheese, honey, pepper, fresh salad, homemade butter, locally-sourced fig jam, cherry preserves, local briny green olives, eggplant with tomato sauce, white (yogurt) cheese, pepper paste, black olives, tahini, feta cheese and gozleme

The Turkish breakfast can be a simple affair – fresh crusty bread, a few jams and spreads, cheese, olives, sliced seasonal vegetables and eggs – or it can be an elaborate feast that spans three hours, with places of sausage, clotted cream and honey, rolled and steamed pastries, garlic sausage and pepper, and, of course, tea.  The traditional Turkish breakfast is accompanied by a cup of black tea and followed by strong black Turkish coffee made in a single-serving copper pot.

IMG_1164.JPG

Time permitting, Onur brings all of his clients to a traditional Turkish breakfast at Akkoy – by the first whiff they’re hooked; by the last bite they know there’s no return to cold cereal and buttered toast. The owner knows him and seas us right away, on a cushioned platform with a low table, where we read the papers and listen to the rustle of late summer leaves until our breakfast begins arriving.

IMG_1167.JPGWhile Turkish breakfast is available all over Turkey – from fast-food joints that offer a simple 7 Lira (1.8 GBP, 2.8 USD) breakfast plate to lavish displays (and here) at top-end restaurants, the fare restaurants dotting small towns along the Mediterranean somehow tastes better.  Maybe it’s the brisk salt air, maybe its the sun’s warmth still radiating inside the food fresh-picked.  Maybe it’s the sound of eggs sizzling in the open-air kitchen where the owner’s whole extended family lends a hand.  Maybe it’s the chickens pecking at the ground in the back gardens. Maybe it’s knowing that all our food is locally sourced, straight from field to kitchen to plate.  Whatever it is, Akkoy is always worth the twenty-minute trip, and the 15 Lira bill certainly doesn’t hit our pockets too hard. We leave lazy and sinking into the day before an afternoon swim.

IMG_1168.JPGAkkoy itself is an interesting place for exploration.  But 20 minutes from the boardwalk and downtown Didim and 10 minutes from the sea, Akkoy still retains the characteristics of a sleepy farm village.
IMG_1159.JPG

IMG_1161.JPG

White-washed houses line the cobbled streets, women take a break from the fields to sell fresh green figs, homemade packed jars of olives, and pickled peppers on tables by the road, chatting the day away.

IMG_1158.JPG

Older men sit at the tables spilling out from cafes, reading the paper, playing backgammon, and stirring up town gossip. On the other side of the street, an Istanbuli artist has set up a cafe and art gallery away from the crowds of Bodrum down the bay. IMG_1156.JPGAnd yet, twenty minutes after leaving the remains of our breakfast feast, we’re back in downtown Didim, with a Burger King and Carrefoure, Chinese takeaway, and a dozen beaches of bikini-clad beach-goers.

01fc1f65c7962a8537e580c57f052da8363dfec684…Along with a few more secluded coves

1 Comment

Filed under Day Trips, Exploring, Turkish Cuisine, Turkish Culture, Turkish Riviera, Weekend Excursions