If you’re anything like me — someone who travels to eat — I’m guessing travel wish list is filled with top culinary hotspots. Maybe you’re dreaming of making a gastronomic pilgrimage to Naples in search of the perfect pizza or feasting on flavour-packed street food in Bangkok.
Countries like Italy and Thailand will make all of your wildest culinary dreams come true, but I’m here to tell you why you need to take your taste buds on a trip to three more fascinating (and completely underrated) foodie destinations: Turkey, Georgia, and Azerbaijan.
Each of these countries has its own deliciously distinct cuisine, and if you visit them all in one go, you’ll find yourself in the ultimate foodie heaven.
If you’ve let classic, mainstream destinations shape your travels up to this point, now’s your chance to do something different! Lucky for you, we’re teaming up with Fez Travel to cover all the reasons why you need to consider Turkey, Georgia, and Azerbaijan for your next holiday.
With landscapes that range from towering mountains to idyllic coastlines and vibrant cities, Turkey is a place that truly has it all. It’s tough to decide where to travel within this bewitching country, but one place you certainly can’t miss is Istanbul — and thankfully, it’s incredibly easy to work up an appetite in this sprawling metropolis.
Start by scoping out the city’s most magnificent architectural masterpieces — Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque — and then head underground to explore the Basilica Cistern, a breathtaking subterranean structure that dates back to 532.
After all that sightseeing you’ll be more than ready to tuck into the country’s fresh and flavoursome dishes!
Why you’ll love Turkish cuisine
When you think of Turkish food, your mind probably conjures an image of kebabs or baklava, but this country’s cuisine goes far beyond charcoal-grilled meats and decadent sweets.
Given its east-meets-west location at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, it’s no surprise that Turkish cuisine is incredibly diverse. Whenever you tuck into a meal here, you’ll notice a combination of flavours and influences from several neighbouring regions, including the Middle East, Central Asia, and the Balkans.
Three dishes you need to try in Turkey
Manti is almost like a Turkish version of ravioli — and it’s just as delicious as its much-loved Italian counterpart. Consisting of tiny beef-stuffed dumplings drizzled with garlicky yogurt and topped with melted butter and sumac, this dish seamlessly blends a whole host of contrasting flavours and textures.
The combination of melt-in-your-mouth dumplings, creamy yogurt sauce, and aromatic spices is divine and surprisingly irresistible.
2. Turkish breakfast
Forget bagels and cereal — Turkey takes breakfast to a whole new level. A typical kahvalti (AKA Turkish breakfast) spread typically includes a smorgasbord of small sharing dishes that are all delicious in their own right.
While the food may vary depending by region, there are a few staples that almost always make the cut: beyaz peynir (a white sheep’s milk cheese), simit (doughy, sesame-seed-coated rings), and menemen (scrambled eggs with bell peppers, tomatoes, and onions), along with lashings of fresh butter, honey, jams, and preserves.
At first glance, lahmacun looks a bit like Turkish-style pizza, but it’s actually flatbread topped with a layer of minced meat, tomatoes, onions, and flavour-packed herbs like parsley and cumin. Before you eat it, remember to top it with salad and a squeeze of lemon (both of which are served on the side), roll it up like a burrito, and enjoy!