The Unvegan

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A Little Dip at the Salty Sow
Arizona Taco Fest 2017
Chomping Down on Chompie’s
All the Meats at Bootleggers BBQ

‘Turkish’

A Little Iskender at Daphne Cafe

Really the best kind of yogurt.
Really the best kind of yogurt.

Turkish food isn’t exactly the type of food you can find anywhere. Yet, miraculously Pittsburgh isn’t lacking in that department. One of these spots is Daphne Cafe in Shadyside. We arrived on a snowy winter day and sadly found the place empty. Then again, it was also 3 in the afternoon, so not quite prime time.

Minor Asia at Anatolian Kitchen

Oh hey Turkey.
Oh hey Turkey.

I’m not sure what it is about my two business school trips, but both have somehow led me to eat Turkish food, which I love but certainly eat rarely. First I went to Cafe Turko in Seattle and this time it was Anatolian Kitchen in Palo Alto. Based on my experience, the menu seemed pretty authentic. Of course, that is just the opinion of a man who has been to Turkey once, but in my mind that was enough.

Turkish Delight at Cafe Turko

Turk meat.
Turk meat.

Genuine Turkish food isn’t exactly easy to find. Sure, other Middle Eastern food seems to be everywhere, but it’s not often you come across pide, or the word “kebab.” Cafe Turko in Seattle’s Fremont area though, is one of those places. With a menu that is nearly unpronounceable to an American, I knew I had found a good place. Of course, it didn’t hurt that I was with a Turk who vouched for the authenticity of many of the dishes.

Mantee, not Manatee

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Yes, I would like meat in my hummos.

When my buddy recommended heading to a place called Mantee in Studio City, I was really excited to eat a sea cow and hoped the manatees were farm-raised (because we all know they are endangered in the wild). But he quickly corrected me, saying that the restaurant was lacking that all-important second “a” and was actually Mediterranean. And one look at the menu showed this was not your typical Mediterranean. There were no schwarma wraps to be seen here and instead items like that were replaced by unique Lebanese, Turkish and Armenian delights.

Turkish to go at Sofra Kabab Express

No veggies in this doner.
No veggies in this doner.

About a year ago, a new Turkish restaurant opened down the street from me in Palms. I was overjoyed at this and especially happy when I saw that they were open late on weekends. Unfortunately, I went pretty soon after they opened and was kind of disappointed with the results. Lucky for them, this was before I started a meat blog, so when I finally got around to paying them another visit recently, it was my first chance to give them an unvegan review. The restaurant is called Sofra Kabab Express and although “express” is typically applied to fast food restaurants in airports, this is nothing like one of those, even encouraging people to hang around and smoke hookah (nargile in Turkish).

Turkish Food Week, Part V: Cigarette Bread, Meatballs and Pizza

For my final day of Turkish Food Week, I’d like to wrap up with a few more interesting dishes I encountered on my journey. We’ll return to my regular unvegan lifestyle next week!

Not as unhealthy as real cigarettes.
Not as unhealthy as real cigarettes.

Cigarette bread is a mysterious food that was first served to me at the Ban Ban Cave Restaurant in Cappadocia. Considering how many cigarettes Turkish people smoke everyday, I wouldn’t have been surprised if someone told me cigarette bread was just a new way they found to ingest tobacco. For all I knew, it could have been bread wrapped around an actual cigarette. I bit in with immense curiosity and found it to just a thin shell of bread, wrapped around ricotta cheese and fried. This is probably only slightly healthier than actual cigarettes. It quickly became one of my favorite dishes in Turkey.

Turkish Food Week, Part IV: Orient Restaurant

Steak from Oriental in Cappadocia
Steak from Oriental in Cappadocia

In the frozen wasteland of Cappadocia, the man running my cave hotel recommended a restaurant close by, called Orient. It was a short trek, but froth with difficulties like ice and snow. After a few slips and close brushes with icy death, I made it inside.

I checked out the menu, remembering that the guy at my cave had recommended the steak. After a short glance, I found the “Minute Steak.” The name wasn’t terribly specific and I wondered what it could possibly mean. Did it take a minute to cook? A minute to eat? Maybe it was minute in the sense of being small? Perhaps it was Turkey’s version of Minute Maid? My curiosity got the best of me and I ordered.

Turkish Food Week, Part III: Doy Doy

A fantastic-looking pile of Doy Doy meats.
A fantastic-looking pile of Doy Doy meats.

Before I left for Turkey, a friend of mine told me I had to go to a restaurant called Doy Doy in Istanbul. Since he hadn’t been to Turkey in a couple years, I took him seriously. It’s not often that someone remembers the name of a restaurant they went to in a foreign country while traveling the world, even one with a name so memorable as Doy Doy.

I was told that I could find Doy Doy behind the Blue Mosque, which isn’t exactly a small building. In fact, it’s hard just to tell what the front of the mosque is, let alone the back. I encircled the building before I found a cobblestone street that I hoped would lead me to Doy Doy. I rounded a corner, and there in bright yellow stood a building with a sign reading Doy Doy. I finally made it, but would it live up to the expectations?

Turkish Food Week, Part II: Kebaps

Where I come from, we have a very limited view of what we call “kebabs.” For starters, we spell them k-e-b-a-b-s and assume that is the only way they can be spelled. Believing that the Turks just couldn’t spell the word, I laughed my way through all of the restaurants in Turkey that said k-e-b-a-p-s. Eventually, I realized that it was just another spelling of kebabs. I guess the restaurants got the last laugh.

Spelling, though, is not the only difference in perception of kebabs that I have with Turkey. I have also always been under the impression that kebaps are pretty much just foods grilled on sticks. Again, Turkey proved me wrong…twice!

A kebap. From pottery?!
A kebap. From pottery?!

The first strange kebap I had was the “Pottery Kebap.” This was in the Uranus Cave Restaurant in Cappadocia, which was a stop on my guided tour. Before delving into this mysterious kebap, I’d like to go off on an unvegan tangent. Anyone who says it’s difficult to travel as a vegetarian is a bold-faced liar. In all my traveling, on all the tours I’ve been on, the guide always makes sure to ask if anyone is a vegetarian. This was no different in Turkey. Before arriving at the cave, my guide asked about vegetarians, but made no effort to accommodate unvegans. As such, I was stuck praying that the meal I was about to get would be fit for an unvegan such as myself.

Turkish Food Week, Part I: Pide

Having just returned from a vacation in Turkey, I have decided to do a series of posts regarding my unvegan experiences abroad. Today’s review is about “pide” (pronounced pee-day), also called Turkish Pizza.

Maybe they should call this the "Turkish Calzone"
Maybe they should call this the “Turkish Calzone”

Eating something called Turkish Pizza really seems like a misnomer to me. I’m not sure if it is Turkey’s take on pizza, or perhaps they found that calling it Turkish Pizza makes it more approachable for visitors who may not have ever heard of “pide”. Either way, my first pide looked nothing at all like pizza. I got it at the Karadeniz Aile Pide & Kebap Sofrasi in the Sultanahmet district of Istanbul. It was called the pide with spicy meat pieces and the waiter told me the meat was beef. When it came, it looked more like a calzone than a pizza, and true to it’s word, it was full of meat pieces. The pieces, however, were not spicy, as I think they meant to write “spiced meat pieces.” Regardless, it was delicious and made me want more.