When I reached Hatay for my short visit, the city was under the influence of the most powerful snowy weather in 12 years. There was no transportation, and the locals were out on the streets with the joy of seeing snow after so many years. It was impossible to do very much sightseeing in the city, so the best option seemed to be let myself enjoy the hot ambiance of the restaurants and discover the local delicacies. Though I missed the opportunity of seeing the touristic attractions of Hatay, I enjoyed the delicacies to their full extent.
I decided to start my tour of culinary delicacies with the most famous desert in Antakya cuisine: kunefe. When I asked for advice from friends, everyone’s first choice was the same: Kral. Kunefe which is totally different from the ones that are served in the rest of the country. I thought that must be the real thing! But I also tried an even a better one.
My other stop for delicacies was at Hatay Sofrası. It is an absolute must see to truly understand and feel Antakya. The friendly staff meet you, and help you to choose from the various delicious options and learn the differences between them and the techniques which go into making them. With the enthusiasm of my first visit I ordered all the local dishes one after another.
- Humus, mashed chickpeas blended with tahini, lemon juice, salt, cimmun and olive oil.
- Baba Ghanoush, cooked eggplant mixed with pomegranate syrup.
- Asur, made of wheat and meat
- Muammara made of walnuts and pepper
- Oruk, (steak tartar a la turca in Antakya style) made of walnuts, meat, bulgur
- Kaytaz Burek, minced meat of Lahmacun and pomegranate syrup
- Yogurt Ası, with bulgur, salty yoghurt, meat and chickpeas
- Paper Kebab with lamb meat
- Kunefe: Deserves 10 points. It’s out of this world, especially with sundurme cheese.
- Walnut and olive desserts: Don’t judge it by the ingredients, the seed of the olive is taken out and pistachio is added. I have never seen walnut in this form and it’s heavenly.
Before leaving Hatay Sofrası, you can buy olive oil, walnut jam and soap for your loved ones as a souvenir.
It was very natural that every civilization that had resided on this land to add something belonging to them to the Antakya cuisine. For example Asir is a heritage of Hitit civilization. The appetizers have the influence of Syria and Lebanon. Because of the occupation by France for a short time and 400 year rule of the Ottoman Empire, there are both influences of the French and Ottoman cuisines. In Antakya cuisine, local ingredients like different kinds of spices with pomegranate syrup, salty yoghurt (yoghurt made from from goat milk with salt), pepper paste, su zeyti (high quality olive oil), zahter (a kind of thyme), and mildewed skim-milk cheese are used.
Bulgur wheat which has a very important role in Antakya cuisine, has a wide range of uses, from varieties of pilaf to steak tartar a la turca. Antakya cuisine is also very rich in cheese varieties: goat cheese, “sunme” cheese, cara cheese, skim-milk cheese (cokelek), kunefe cheese without salt, braided cheese etc. Pomegranate syrup is irreplaceable in all the food and salads of Antakya. Produced in traditional ways with much effort, su zeyti, the local olive oil is very valuable in the area and adds a special taste to the salads and the food.
Here is a special announcement for gourmets! Mostly known for its religious and cultural attributes Hatay also deserves attention for its cuisine!