The Magic of Turkey

Amrita Prasad
Friday, 5 October 2018

We chat up chef Muzaffer from Hyatt Regency Istanbul, who is in the city to present a food festival called Merhaba Turkiye 

It is difficult to sum up Turkish cuisine in just one word, because it’s so diverse and rich. If you happen to visit this vast peninsula that boasts of beautiful minarets, historical sights, magnificent architecture, ancient traditions, and miss out on their delicious food, it is nothing less than a sin. 

While there is still time to plan your next or first visit to Turkey, Hyatt Regency Pune has brought the delights from Turkey right here in Pune. At their ongoing food festival called Merhaba Turkiye, chef Muzaffer, who has been flown in from Hyatt Regency Istanbul, is giving you a glimpse of the Turkish food and culture through the specially crafted menu. The festival, which is open till October 14, is something that you wouldn’t like to miss.

In the Turkish cuisine, the variety of dishes, the technique used in cooking, the right balance of meat and vegetables — all these indicate intricacy and love for staying close to one’s roots and culture.

“Some of the signature dishes that I’m creating at the festival include Turkish Style Hummus (made with yoghurt instead of tahini and sesame seed paste), Shakshuka (a dish of eggs poached in a sauce of tomatoes, chilli peppers and onions, commonly spiced with cumin, paprika and cayenne pepper), Turkish Mezze (a platter of small dishes often served at the beginning of multi-course meals, kebabs, especially the Doner Kebab (made of meat cooked on a vertical rotisserie), Turkish dessert Tulumba (a fried batter soaked in syrup) and the quintessential Turkish ice cream,” says Muzaffar adding that while designing the menu for the festival, he decided that every delicacy he wanted to serve had to be authentic Turkish.

Those with an appetite for tea and coffee, can indulge in Turkish Mint Tea and Turkish Coffee which have garnered global attention. The festival menu comprises hot and cold starters, main cuisine and desserts.  

Essentially, Turkish cuisine doesn’t have any spice which could be too overwhelming. “Cinnamon, sumac and cumin, za’atar are predominantly used in cooking. We don’t use chillies in our food preparation,” says Muzaffar adding that yoghurt is an essential ingredient in Turkish cooking. “We use a lot of it while preparing food,” he adds. 

Turks consume a lot of fatty meat to make kebabs and grilled items, especially in Istanbul. However, due to the lack of its availability in India, the chef has been using combinations of meats to get the desired texture, flavour and taste. 

“Although we eat a lot of meat, we equally love vegetables and lentils. With every meat dish, we eat a dish made of vegetables like brinjals, artichoke, zucchini and so on. We love our meat but we balance it with vegetables and use a lot of yoghurt and dry fruits in our dishes,” he adds.
Essentially, Turkish people opt for charcoal grills to cook minced and bite-sized meat pieces, however bigger chunks are braised and cooked in ovens. “Vegetables are broiled and then cooked in olive oil. Onion is one vegetable we can’t do without,” he adds. 

Ask him which desserts has he created for the patrons and he instantly names Baklava — the sweet pastry made of layers of filo filled with chopped nuts and sweetened and held together with syrup or honey. It is synonymous with Turkey and the customers must try it, he recommends.   

Merhaba Turkiye is underway at The Café, Hyatt Regency Pune, Viman Nagar till October 14 for lunch and dinner

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