These Turkish Delights Don’t Look Delightful

A menu of seemingly repellent but actually delicious Turkish foods

Turkish food is often irresistible. There’s a lot of variety, too. A fusion of Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Balkan and Central Asian cuisines, the cuisine bears the mark of the country’s past, the Ottoman Empire.

The western part of Turkey is known for lighter, Mediterranean fare: fish and mezze on tapas-style small plates. The dishes in the country’s Black Sea region are closer to Balkan and Slavic cuisine, while food in the east, known for its kebabs and heavy desserts, has a Middle Eastern flavor.

But some Turkish food seems, well, gross. The country boasts a wide selection of dishes that scare foreigners, even though they can be absolutely delicious. Here is a quick taste for readers with brave palates.


(Vocativ/Yusuf Sayman)

Kokoreç (Ko-ko-retch): One of the country’s most popular fast foods, it’s basically lamb intestines served in a bun along with thyme, chilies and tomatoes. You can make it by washing the intestines inside out and marinating them in a bowl of milk for a day. You then wrap the intestine around a long skewer and roast it horizontally on a burner. This dish works well with beer and, if you close your eyes, tastes sublime.

(Vocativ/Yusuf Sayman)

Paça (pacha) soup: This is a widely consumed delicacy even though it’s little more than goat’s hooves (some people use sheep). Here’s how you make it: First, get the hooves. Then take the toes out, removing the hair sacs from in between them and wash thoroughly. Next, put the hooves in a pot with water, add lots of garlic, onion and a cup of vinegar. Boil it all on a slow fire until the hooves have a chewy consistency. Serve with garlic and vinegar sauce and you have a delightful snack. Don’t worry, it doesn’t smell like feet.

(Vocativ/Yusuf Sayman)

Brain salad: No, this isn’t a reference to that racist scene in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Brain salad is well-known in Turkey, but found only in specialized restaurants. It is, however, easy to prepare. You take a calf’s brain (some people prefer lamb) and remove the membrane. Put the brain in a pot with water and let it simmer for 15 minutes. When it’s done, serve it on a plate with lettuce and tomatoes. Dress it with olive oil and lemon juice, then season with spices of your preference. Warning: This isn’t a light lunch.

(Vocativ/Yusuf Sayman)

Kelle (Kel-leh): I’ve never tried this one, but it’s easy to find in Turkish butcher shops. It’s also easy to make. You boil the head in water. Some people take the eyes out, some don’t, but the tongue is seen as a delicacy. Next, put it in the oven and cook for two hours until it’s nicely roasted. No ketchup required.

(Vocativ/Yusuf Sayman)

Koç Yumurtasi (Kotch You-moor-ta-sa): Literally, this means “ram eggs.” But by “eggs,” I mean “testicles.” Take four balls, wash them thoroughly, slice them in two, season with salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil and grill them. Serve with garlic, vinegar and mustard dressing. This dish has too much testosterone for my taste, but some consider it a real treat.

(Vocativ/Yusuf Sayman)

Işkembe (Ish-kem-beh)Stomach, or tripe, is one of the main ingredients in Turkish cuisine. You can find it in most restaurants. Most eat it in soup with garlic and vinegaran ideal cure for a hangoverbut others enjoy it fried. As with most Turkish foods, this delight comes in two flavors: sheep and calf.

(flickr/Garrett Ziegler)

Tavuk Gögsü (ta-vuk gu-sue): This one translates to “chicken breast,” but it’s probably unlike the chicken breast you grew up with (or the pink slime you eat a McDonald’s). That’s because it’s a dessert chicken. The breast is boiled, torn to shreds and mixed with white pudding. The texture is dense, but you don’t taste the chicken at all. I highly recommend it.

Respond Now
  • Everything listed was absolutely horrifying to LOOK AT and disgusting. Eating animals is just plain wrong.

  • Cultures all over the world have variations on these very same themes.I’ll bet many recognize one or two from there own heritage, recent or not. :)


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