Phases of Turkish Cuisine – Ottoman Cuisine

In the Ottoman period, during the first sultan’s time, more basic cuisine was encountered compared to the Seljuq’s. In Sultan Murat the second’s time, Austria’s ambassador, De La Brukiyer, told that the Sultan and some people ate rice pilaf with meat accompanied with music by a special instruments goup, then drank something in special cups filled from a container, its interior wasn’t seen and was situated on a level too high to easily see inside them.

Mehmet the Conqueror offered only burani ( a vegetable dish with garlic-yogurt) and helva, at a meeting held with statesmen in the palace in Istanbul. The variety of dishes increased to twenty-three in Yavız Sultan Selim’s time. The Sultan was looking at all the dishes and choosing only one to eat.

Melmet the Conqueror defined the special government people acceptance ceremony systems of empire, and table rules with their own protocol in his famous written law document in the palace which he had constructed after he had conquered Istanbul in 1453 and was completed in 1478. Here he told how the ministers, minister of finance, and other palace related members would eat and, besides he stated that he would not eat with anybody else except his family by this special article “Cenab-t Şerifim ile kımesne taam yemek kammum değıldır, meğer kı ehlı ıyalden ola. Esdad-ı ızamım vizerasryla yermi, ben refetmişimdir” (Old Turkish).

The kitchen in the new palace was composed of four domes. “Kushane kitchen” was the most important section and here, dishes were prepared in small pans and little portions were served to the Sultan. Dishes for the sultan’s mother, sons, and privilaged people from the Harem, were cooked in ‘has’ kitchen. Dishes were prepared in the Harem kitchen, kapıagasi kitchen, Divan-u Humayun kitchen, and in the kitchens for other palace personnel according to their rank.

The person responsible for the palace kitchens was kilerci basi, (pantry chief) this was a triple headed team who ran the kitchen work as the executive chef of each seperate kitchen and kitchen emin. (supply chief) who arranged the materials for each kitchen.

It is understood that the classification seen in Mevlevi places in the 13th century and which improved in Mehmet the Conqueror’s time, from the personnel in the palace kitchen to include; bread makers, dessert makers, helva makers, pickle makers and yogurt makers.

The largest developing period of Turkish cuisine is in the Ottoman period. In this period; Turkish cuisine improved in the specialization of the chefs triangle of the palace, mansion and other cooks and created the Classical Turkish Cuisine, that ıs, Istanbul cuisine. Both in the palace, and in mansions the cooks drive to perform the best and the effort to create developed into a contest-like atmosphere, this is one of the important factos playing a key role ın cuisine development. Besides these factors, the transfer of the best quality foodstuffs from all over the empire to Istanbul, and the prevention of selling poor quality goods; satisfying the improvement in the cuisine were striking the eye.

Turks, who broke off and came from the nomadic culture in central Asia, as well as having obtained some things from the cuisines of the countries in which they had stayed also enriched the cuisine with the specıal features they brought them. In rememberance of the civilizations established in Anatolia before them. But the most important aspect of Turkish cuisine is to bring enlightment by eating of the produced food in their own structure just like the way bees make honey from flowers.

Accordıng to findings; the first cookbooks were encountered in the Ottoman period. Besides some dictionaries giving recipes and a few medical books the first cookbook is Tabh-i Etimme estimated that Sirvani had translated from the Kıtabut-Tabih from Arabic in the 15th century. Agidiye Risale was prepared by the grandson of the head of the religious order, Pasmakcizade Abdullah Efendi in the 18th century and Yemek Risale by an unknown writer. These are the writeen works which call attention. According to the findings, Melceu’t Tabbahin prepared by Mehmet Kamil in 1884 is the first cookbook published by stone press. After this work, various cookbooks have been published till the Republic period.

Nevin Halıcı; From Sini to Tray, USAŞ, istanbul 1999 (p.8)


Is there a difference between Ottoman cuisine and Turkish cuisine?

There are significant differences, even though modern Turkish cuisine has many of its origins in Ottoman cuisine.

During the Ottoman Empire, the sultans ate relatively rich foods with a Persian influence, and much more use of fruits (pomegranates, apricots, prunes) in their meat dishes. There were many types of pilafs (also relying on dried fruits), and a heavier use of game (quail, pigeon, rabbit.) Sweets were very important.

Modern Turkish cuisine uses more fresh vegetables than traditional Ottoman cuisine (salads, stews) and is well known for its ‘’meze’’ culture – many small tasty dishes prior to the main meal. The introduction of many greens from the Aegean and Mediterranean regions has also resulted in many new dishes, as well as the diversity of recipes from the Black Sea region. Sweets are still important in modern Turkish cooking, but not as rich a part of the menu as they were doing the Ottoman years.