In Turkey, when you find what you like, don’t go further looking for something else. It’s the rule # 1 for surviving in Turkey but forget sometimes and remind myself again. It’s a challenge place to be if you are a cheese fanatic like me. One of the questions often asked by expats or even Turkish foodies is where and how to buy good cheese.
So here is a quick guide on Turkish cheese. Most popular cheese, Kaşar, which is like mozzarella, therefore great for grilling, isn’t in the photos as you can’t go wrong with any type of it. Kaşar cheese also holds a strong memory for me because there was a discussion about the origin of the word, Kasar, as so many surrounding countries have cheese named in a similar word. Kasseri in Greek, Käse in German, Kashkaval in many Balkan countries and Casiocavallo in Italian…. so it makes you wonder where it began, doesn’t it?
As for beyaz peynir, which is like feta cheese, I find it too salty and I prefer Köy peynir, village cheese, which is less salty. Or you can ask for ones from Çannakale, which I find moderately salted. Perhaps I am viased since Mr,O is from Çannakale. 🙂
I was buying only the cheeses that I’d tried and liked ever since I learned the rules but recently my try-something-new gene sent me off on a cheese shopping spree, which led me to buying the two worst cheese ever.
What a disaster! How can this level of salty cheese be even allowed to be made? I was so dumbstruck and even Mr.O wouldn’t touch it and we tried to give them away to friends but everyone refused to take them. So apparently, these cheeses are to be avoided and it’s Trakya Eski Kasar….you wouldn’t have a clue about it but I thought I’d mention it anyway. Don’t ever buy Eski Kasar cheese in Turkey without tasting or consulting people who know where to buy it. Eski Kasar, meaning aged cheese and traditionally made with sheep or goat milk, is meant to be like aged cheddar or Italian Pecorino but in a bad way. So from now on, I’ll stick to Kars Eski Kasar, if I ever buy Eski Kasar again. (Update: if you still crave aged semi-hard cheese, look for Lokumlu Eski Kasar, which is less salty and a bit like Tomme de Brebis, French sheep cheese in the Savoie region.)
As I love cheese and can gnaw away the whole block or wedge in one sitting with no sweat, salty cheese is really frustrating because I can’t eat as much as I’d like to, though it’s healthy for the pocket. I have to think what I should do with the cheese, which is not suitable for normal consumption. Probably in cooking, but I’m afraid that the strong cheese smell might ruin any dishes I make, but I feel bad to throw it away.
Anyway, the one I buy regularly and Mr.O has also fallen in love with is this Kecheese. It used to be unsalted but now it’s less salted and better. I eat it fresh but also grill as I would do with haloumi, and this goat cheese is less salty than haloumi,which is another advantage.
When I’m eating this cheese, I sometimes feel like I’m eating tofu; the look, the taste, the method, and the protein. Tofu isn’t widely available in supermarkets here yet, and I don’t miss it because I stop eating soy products after discovering the health risks of soy beans. I don’t want to be among the crowd of food faddism. When someone says soy products are healthy and reduces the risk of breast cancer, people suddenly switch their daily menus to things based on soy milk, soy bread, tofu, and so on. But according to the information I have, soy beans are only safe and healthy when fermented, and we consume enough of soy or soy byproducts without even knowing as they are sneakily put in many foods we eat except me because I don’t buy any processed food products.
While writing this post, I got curious if I can try making tofu but then I punched myself on the head, saying there’s so much natural food to eat around without trying to find things that don’t grow in the soil where I live. The best tip for health is always to eat what is around you and in season.
So voila, this is one I cooked on a lazy evening by throwing whatever I found in the fridge into the pan to make an East- meet-the-West kind of dish. It’s got eggplants, onions and mushrooms as a base, and then the cheese goes in along with the Korean green plum (maesil, or çağla badem in Turkish) pickles, which is the base of Korean cuisine as is pomegranate extract in Turkish cuisine. It has a bit of lamb pieces but you can keep it meatless if you wish.
I gave this an Indian flavour by adding turmeric, garlic, cumin seeds, and a bit of curry and chilli powder as it happened the texture of the cheese reminded me of Indian paneer. Isn’t it fascinating to discover origins of culinary words through history, oh, rather to discover history through food origins. The Turkish and Indian word for cheese are similar, peynir and paneer, coming from the Persian word. But what they do with it is so different and it really excites me. I had an Indian flatmate in Sydney and she would make paneer on demand with ease as part of preparation to make the famous spinach paneer curry.
I liked the combination of the flavours so much that I bought a bag of these green plums to use for cooking some time but I haven’t got around to it as I got sick. What else can I do with these besides eating them raw with salt like the Turks?
My recipe has no origin or ‘style‘ but no style is a style. It’s just a mixture of random items from the fridge but my subconscious knows what to and not to put together, which helps a lot. In the word where food photography has the same importance as fashion photography with fancy equipments and rules, now all food photos in magazines and cookbooks tend to look similar. The contents or the photos? This is the question that I continuously ask myself but I got to do more often lately as my mind is still reeling from the book I finished reading a few days ago. What is beauty? What is perfection? Can it be defined? Some people like Instigram and some don’t, for instance, Mr.O, he hates instigram, saying it doesn’t look natural. However, I like it when it’s done on right subjects.
Anyway, do you see the wine in the cheese photo? Barudi Syrah 2010? I tried it for the first time when I first came here in 2012. I had a good memory of the bottle so I bought it again when I saw it on sale at the supermarket. But what an another disaster! The 2011 was undrinkable!!!!! I really warn you not to buy this bottle. It’s not wine; it’s an ethanol with a hint of fruit. I wonder why the price dropped by more than half. Well, it’s another good lesson on top of the bad cheese experience. Well, c’est la vie! Mashallah!
If you’re interested in Korean food or Korean green plum syrup, go visit Kimchimari.