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What foods should I ask for from Turkey?

  • snix Feb 14, 2009 09:20 PM
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My sis is going to Turkey this summer to visit her bf's family, I wanted to send her with some cash and a list of foods to bring back. I am fairly adventurous with food, but not sure what to request other than cured meats, hard cheeses, and some spices.... any advice would be appreciated. Also I have not traveled a great deal and am unfamiliar with the guidelines of bringing foods into the US.

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  1. Urfa peppers and pomegranate molasses. And rugs and a Turkish coffee pot and jewelry and copper pots. Not saying I'm familiar with the ag importation rules, though.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Mawrter

      The Urfa peppers and molasses sound good, however the jewelry and copper pots will probably blow my budget...thanks kim

    2. Turkey is no stranger to tourism and they package all kinds of things that your sister can bring back. She will undoubtedly visit the spice market in Istanbul and/or local markets wherever she goes. Just about everywhere you go they sell nifty assortments of spices prepackaged and tons of Turkish delight. All these things vary in quality, but your sister's Bf's family will surely be able to help her make her selections. Actually I thought the best Turkish delight was for sale in the Istanbul airport, and the prices were not particularly high!

      1. You cannot bring cured meats into the US, so you'll have to skip those.

        1. Meats and cheeses can be tricky, in fact all food potentially. The rules are different for every country/region and they change all the time. People on this board can tell you what they have brought back before from Turkey, but that is no guarantee that your sister will be allowed to bring in the same products on the day of her return. And any kind of food has to be declared, so make sure your sister is OK with dealing with CBP agents at the airport and having her luggage searched. (It's usually no big deal, as long as you've declared everything, and you don't have live pigeons hidden in your trouser legs).

          Also, a lot of the good stuff is difficult to transport (rakı, pastes and syrups in glass jars, a giant platter of baklava-type desserts), so again, it depends on how much your sister loves you…

          Do you have any Turkish shops where you live? Because you can probably get a lot of ingredients there already. Then we can try to give you some ideas for the more unusual stuff.

          4 Replies
          1. re: DeppityDawg

            Ever since I moved to a tiny village with limited food and drink offerings, I've had friends bring back raki. (I used to be able to buy in in stores in NYC, but that's another life *sigh*.) It's a pain and not a pain depending: one can just pick it (raki) up in the duty free. And as a person who has transported bottles before, it's a matter of using socks and plastic bags...

            1. re: Lizard

              tell her to use bubble wrap, and empty, clean hard-cardboard "cans" (with plastic lids) that once held planter's nuts.... large and small -- great for packing glass jars!

            2. re: DeppityDawg

              Alas, no Turkish stores near or not so near. I've come to realize that living in Small Town, USA does have some drawbacks.

              1. re: snix

                http://www.kalustyans.com/ <-- Paula Wolfert recommends this source for Turkish spices (& other things) in many of her cookbooks. HTH.

            3. a friend brought me back some spices from Turkey one year, and after some months in the cupboard I had a very nasty infestation of mealy bugs - so beware!

              saffron is good, also turkish coffee and teas.

              1. Caroline needs to answer this. If I went back I'd waste no time eating as many kabobs and shwarma as I could find. I'd see how much ekmet (big round sourdough bread) I could stuff down my gullet. But as far as sending stuff home? Maybe some pistachios (much better tasting than the California stuff - although smaller). The philo dough type pastries that are available as fancy sealed and boxed items ready to ship or carry, and maybe some prepared candies like Rahat Locoum (Turkish Delight) - especially the rosewater and other traditional ones that are harder to find here. But I'll tell you the truth - LIberty Orchards makes really great locoum and paklava and kourabia in Washington state - all mail orderable on the web. All the standard canned and bagged Mediterranean foods are good (olives, nut mixes, stuffed eggplants, peppers and cabbage), but you can get all that here these days in any number of middle eastern shops. You could always ask for a spice/pepper grinder - the solid brass ones like the Frug always used. They're not that expensive.

                2 Replies
                1. re: applehome

                  Pistachios are at the top of my list, I found out how much better the Turkish ones were after being introduced to the bf earlier last year... of course I have to hide them from my 5 year old when I receive an order, I believe he could eat his weight in them. The grinder idea is good, I had not thought of that. Thanks

                  1. re: snix

                    pistachios!!!! we had a friend bring them back once and they were HUGE and ADDICTIVE. have your sister get more than you think you'll want -- you will still want more! i'd dedicate a suitcase! ;-).

                2. I have heard some rumors that Turks make amazing dried vegetables...can anyone speak to that?

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Snackish

                    I don't know about "amazing"… depends on how good your recipe is! Here's one, with a photo, for stuffed vegetables using dried eggplant and pepper shells:
                    http://www.kultur.gov.tr/EN/BelgeGost...

                    1. re: DeppityDawg

                      Taffy

                  2. I had some of the best fresh marinated anchovies I've ever eaten in Istanbul. I don't know whether they would be good for export, though, as they'd need to be kept refrigerated.

                    1. Unsulfured Turkish apricots. Somehow the ones I got there are sweeter and more luscious than the ones I have been able to buy here. Also humungous, fat pistachios from Gazantiep. Gulluoglu baklava is really good.

                      You can get iranian saffron at a really good price which is not available here as far as I know. Also, I found a really good deal on Iranian caviar in one place. Way cheaper than any good caviar I have seen in the US. They gave it to me with an ice pack thing that kept it cold through the flight home. But that is more of a pain to transport.

                      I did manage to smuggle some pastirma (cured beef covered in paprika and garlic) through customs, but that is your sis's call.

                      1. There's really not a whole lot of Turkish food or goods you can't get now via the web in this country and no one has to lug it for you. You can get raki and good Turkish wines on the web. But I do have a special place in my heart for the lokum from Haci Bekir's shop in Istanbul.
                        http://tinyurl.com/dksx2d
                        My favorite flavors are rose, pistachio, hazelnut, and mastic. The first time I went there, I was overtaken by this feeling of being washed over by time. The shop was founded only a year after the U.S. successfully declared independence from England. But by Istanbul standards,, that's a nebwy. There are mail order websites that offer Haci Bekir lokum. Oh, and it's pronounced "HADji behKIHR" Or something close to that.

                        Turkish pistachios are really excellent and world famous. They're worth hand carrying back because I don't know of any place to get them in the U.S., and as far as I know there is only one small pistachio grove in New Mexico that has pistachio's that come even close to Turkish, and they are drive up and shop in person sales only.

                        Turkish apricots are also great if you can go there yourself and eat the fresh ones. The dried are good as well, but you can buy those all over the U.S.

                        If you do like Turkish coffee (I love it) then I highly recommend that you have your friend pick you up a traditional old fashioned copper coffee grinder and an ibrik. Ibriks are those small copper pots you brew the coffee in. But again, you can also buy both on line and save your friend the trouble of shlepping them back for you.

                        Don't know how much you're interested in having your friend spend for you, but some of the exceptional bargains to be found in Turkey (*IF* you'r good at bargaining, which is a critical skill in Turkey) are hand loomed carpets; incredibly supple and luxurious leathers, including some hand washable suedes in colors that are simply amazing; hand made gold jewelry, often in 22K or 24K; hand painted Kutahya ware pottery and tiles; and great hand made copper ware. But of these, the only things that are really difficult to find either in shops or on line in the U.S. are the leather, some types of copper ware, and some original design gold jewelry.

                        But wait! If you like Earl Grey tea, it was copied from traditional old Turkish tea grown in Turkey and treated with oil of bergamot. My favorite is Cay Kurumu brand of tomurcuk kokulu cay, none of which is written in proper Turkish since I can't do the seriphs on the cees as needed. Anyway, it is truly great tea and only a couple of bucks per can in Turkey. To my great regret I developed an allergy to bergamot a couple of years ago or I'd be begging you to ask your friend to bring some back for me too...

                        Yup. I think I'd ask for some Haci Bekir lokum and some Cay Kurumu! Whatever you get, enjoy!

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Caroline1

                          Haci Becir lokum is indeed fabulous. Turkish marrons glacés (kestanye sekeri) are also wonderful and vastly cheaper than French ones. They're top of my most-wanted list when my colleagues return to TR.

                        2. Lokum. Get any flavor you like. I like passionfruit if they have it.

                          Turkish extra virgin olive oil is lovely. Ask for some. You'll see.

                          1. Agree with lokum (Turkish Delight) and spices. Also, sahlep.

                            ~TDQ