Food

Ottoman cuisine: Edirne’s historical, lesser-known food perfections

Özge Sengelen

If you ever visit Edirne, you will not be able to get enough of the dishes of this city, which was once the capital of the Ottoman Empire

Today, I will take you to the kitchen of a city that is a masterpiece in itself with its natural and historical beauty that once hosted the Ottoman Empire. It is home to the Selimiye Mosque, which Mimar Sinan called “my masterpiece,” the Ottoman Sultan Bayezid II Complex, the historical Meriç Bridge, and in short, a whole history. After this ambitious introduction, you can guess that a city with such deep-rooted history, of course, must have deep-rooted and delicious cuisine. I will tell you about dishes whose names I can hardly remember, but whose flavor I will never forget.

Now it’s time to talk about the Edirne delicacies that emerged from imperial Ottoman kitchens, which beckon to those who have never been to the city and make those who have not been there for a long time feel nostalgic.

Mutancana

Would you ever think that a good flavor would result from combining fruit and meat? You have to decide for yourself, as Mutancana is just such a dish. This traditional flavor, from among the Ottoman palace cuisines, is also known as the favorite dish of Sultan Mehmed II.

This palace dish, born from the combination of sweet, sour and salty aromas, is one of the traditional dishes of Edirne. Mutancana, which was mostly made with lamb or venison in the past, is also made with chicken today.

This meal is prepared by adding roasted meat to many ingredients such as figs, raisins, plums, apricots, almonds, honey and walnuts. If you go to Edirne, you should definitely try this historical dish.

Traditional Turkish lamb meat saute called mutancana. (Shutterstock Photo)
Traditional Turkish lamb meat saute called mutancana. (Shutterstock Photo)

Mamzana

Mamzana, which is known for its appetite-stimulating effect, may seem simple at first, but it can even serve as a main dish for me. This delicious recipe, made with eggplant, red pepper flakes, tomatoes, peppers, parsley, garlic and yogurt, actually takes its place on the table as a salad. It results from a combination of roasted eggplant and red peppers with other raw ingredients. This salad is crowned by drizzling garlic yogurt and red pepper flakes sauteed in butter or olive oil over the top. It has assumed a very special place in Edirne cuisine with its presentation and flavor.

Pürdele

This dish, also called stuffed eggs, is made with “chubritsa,” a highly aromatic type of thyme, but as an alternative, mountain thyme or mint can be used. When I first heard about pürdele, which is made by removing the yolks of boiled eggs, frying them with mulberry and stuffing them back into the egg whites, it seemed quite interesting to me. I have not tried this dish, which is eaten by pouring a sauce made with red pepper flakes, onions and water over the stuffed eggs, in Edirne, but I am quite curious. I’m thinking of trying it myself at home one day. I have already given the recipe to those who want to try it like me. Good luck to everyone in advance!

Levzine

One of the desserts that have won chefs’ hearts in Thracian cuisine is halva. Especially in Edirne cuisine, there is no one who has not heard of the fame of halva. Edirne’s famous traditional Levzine halva is also said to be one of the favorite desserts of the Ottoman palace cuisine.

It is said that this dessert, which is called Helva-i Levzine in Ottoman archives, was first encountered at the banquet dinner in Edirne Palace during the reign of Ottoman Sultan Suleiman I.

Today, Levzine, also known as honey almond halva, is a dessert made with almonds, honey and water. This traditional dessert that will make your mouth water is a flavor that I recommend you try in Edirne.

Deva-i misk halva

Now, I will tell you about a halva that is also a dessert that emerged from imperial Ottoman palace kitchens and, according to rumors, healed the sick daughter of the sultan. According to the rumor, perhaps this is the reason why its name is “deva-i misk.”

Deva-i misk, which was loved very much by Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II who even distributed it free of charge to the public at Bayezid Hospital, has assumed this name due to its healing (deva) feature and the musky aroma it contains. Since the musk in halva is made from a substance secreted by deer, it is a luxury and an expensive ingredient that is difficult to find. In the Ottoman period, musk was added to sherbets to add aroma, as well as used in halva. In fact, the saying “mis gibi kokuyor” (it smells like “mis,” or sweet) originates from this word. In time, the letter “k” was dropped from the word “misk” and became “mis.”

I can say that this halva, which has a lot of stories attached to it and is made with musk and 41 different kinds of spices, is very difficult to find today. This halva, which you can find in some confectionery shops in Edirne, is also distributed free of charge to the public at the annual Kırkpınar Wrestling Festival in Edirne. It contains sugar, egg whites, honey, cinnamon, musk, ginger, cloves, allspice, nigella sativa, mastic gum, saffron, ginseng, pollen, lemon and many other spices that I can’t count. It is added to the nutrition program of wrestlers during the festival to help boost their energy.

Traditional Turkish lamb meat saute called mutancana. (Shutterstock Photo)
Traditional Turkish lamb meat saute called mutancana. (Shutterstock Photo)

Edirne fried liver

After these dishes and desserts, I did not want to end this article without mentioning the Edirne fried liver. This dish is the symbol of Edirne and marks the city on the Turkish flavor map.

If you are one of those who says, “Liver is liver everywhere, what’s the difference,” it means you haven’t tasted Edirne liver. As someone who doesn’t normally like liver, I can say that I can only eat liver in Edirne. I claim that it is a flavor that can change the mind of even those who do not like it. In this dish, the meat is cut like a thin piece of paper and therefore also called “leaf liver.” The slices are then dipped in flour and fried in substantial amounts of hot oil in the pan. It is served with dried and fried Karaağaç red hot peppers, unique to Edirne, along with those finely chopped lightly crispy liver pieces extracted from the hot oil. Every time I eat liver in Edirne, I can’t help but eat these red peppers that are almost like red crispy cookies. It is not in vain that these two flavors are paired. They create a wonderful feast of flavor when combined.

Edirne cuisine carries traces of history like Edirne itself, with its dishes blending sweet and salty together. I highly recommend you to visit Edirne, try these wonderful flavors, take a historical trip and finally crown this trip with a Turkish coffee on the banks of the Meriç River.

Courtesy: Dailysabah