Ramadan a magical time for the Muslim world. Travelers looking for a truly authentic Muslim cultural experience know that Ramadan is the month to soak in traditions and seasonal cultural happenings, including succulent food. Spending time is Turkey during Ramadan is a top choice for cultural travelers.
In Turkey, Ramadan, known locally as Ramazan, is considered a season of peace. A time for family and friends to get together and spend quality time, enjoying the traditions of the season and specialized cuisine.
So if you find yourself in Istanbul this Ramazan season, be sure to enjoy a home cooked Iftar meal, and spend long periods eating a wide array of delicious food, while talking and family socializing. And since this Ramazan falls in the summer, travelers will experience very pleasant and mild weather.
When the cannon strikes to announce Maghrib, the fasting would usually break their fast with water and a few Medjool dates, the traditional way. After a few minutes, red lentil soup, which is like the national soup of Turkey, with a twist of lemon juice, leads the menu of dishes to come.
The soup is usually accompanied by a piece of Pide bread, a Turkish flatbread prepared traditionally during Ramazan. Pide bread is merged with numerous toppings and baked, usually in a stone oven.
Along with the fresh Pide bread, the Iftar table would be adorned with small plates containing black and green olives, Turkish white cheese, fresh and aged kaşar cheese, spiced beef slices, known as pastırma and a plate of peeled, sliced tomatoes and cucumbers.
Cold dishes, like Turkish-style artichoke bottoms called Zeytinyağlı Enginar, which can be served as an alternative to salads, with light flavors, enough seasoning and fresh dill, always a Ramazan favourite.
After a short break, you will be presented with an array of main courses that are usually shared. These include highly popular dishes such as Karnıyarık, a homestyle featuring eggplant and ground beef. The meat is browned with tomatoes, onions and garlic before being stuffed into the eggplant and baked to perfection.
Another favourite is ‘Kuzu Tandır’, the most beloved lamb dish in Turkey. The name Tandır comes from the ancient cooking technique where the meat is cooked in a special pit in the ground that, after smoldering wood is added to the bottom of the pit and sealed shut, acts like a natural oven. The lamb is suspended in the pit by hooks over the hot coals for hours on end.
The meal comes to an end with a selection of classic Turkish desserts and Turkish coffee or tea. Turkish ‘Kazandibi’ dessert, which means ‘bottom of the pan’ is a milk-based pudding that is cooked especially to stick to the bottom of the pan to create a caramelized layer that is scraped off the face of the pan in long, wide strips. The ‘Kazandibi’ is the folded into portions with the darkened side up to make a roll.
Istanbul is also very well known for its group, outdoor Iftar experiences during Ramazan. For example, the Hippodrome in Sultanahmet would be set up with food stalls for people to buy food from to break their fast, or they bring their own food from home and break their fast and picnic in the Square.
The area would be packed from Iftar time into the late evening. Despite being very crowded, the experience is wonderful and the food is very traditional and authentic. Streets and mosques are illumined with festive lights and as the sun sets and darkness comes down on the city, the atmosphere takes on a festive ambiance, with families and friends coming together to break their fast and soak in their surroundings.
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