In praise of…menemen

So which Turkish dish should I pick for the post proper of my blog? Surely a guide to Turkish kebap in all its succulent variants? Or perhaps a love-letter to meze would be more fitting since it inspired the name of this blog? Better yet, I could start with a right proper culinary bang and kick off with a piece about Ottoman cuisine and banquets?

Actually no, although I’m sure that all of those will feature on this blog very soon. Instead I’m setting my sights on a much humbler Turkish dish but one I can never quite get my fill of. And I’ve just eaten it for breakfast.

In the grand scheme of all things foodie, Turkey is not necessarily known for its breakfasts.  Sweet treats, yes, meaty masterpieces absolutely, but breakfast? Not so much. This is a pity because I happen to think that Turkish breakfasts are delightful. For starters, there’s the selection of regional cheeses, wonderful  fluffy warm bread, juicy olives and homemade honey, all of which I’ll no doubt be writing about on these very pages, but more than anything else, there’s menemen.

Piping hot menemen two seconds before I devoured it like a rabid dog

Menemen – alternatively known as melemen – comes from the Izmir region and I think that the laid-back Aegean ethos has been cooked right into this delicious dish. That’s because menemen is at its very best when it is prepared at a leisurely pace. Peeled tomatoes and chopped onions, peppers and parsley are left to cook slowly in their own juices in a huge pot over a wood fire. Only when everything is sufficiently soft does the cook stir the beaten eggs, allowing the mixture to take on the fresh flavours and juices of all the ingredients. If you fancy having a go yourself, here’s a great menemen recipe from Zerrin over at Give Recipe.

My Turkish friends  find it strange that of all the diverse eating delights on offer in Turkey I still claim what is essentially scrambled egg with ‘A’ levels as my favourite Turkish dish. But I can’t help it – it’s just so good. It’s just one of those fabulous dishes that is more than the sum of its parts. Of course,  it does have at its heart  fresh Turkish ingredients: plump, juicy tomatoes or the bitter green peppers with just the right amount of zing.The inclusion of fresh parsley, roughly-chopped onions and sometimes cheese makes it even more moreish. I’ve also had menemen with garlic cloves which was another enjoyable experience (less so for my companion, regrettably). But  more than anything,  I think the key to good menemen is its texture. The perfect menemen somehow manages to be juicy, gooey, creamy, part-solid, part-runny all at once. It’s filling and satisfying.  Perfect for mopping up with fresh crusty bread straight from the oven.

Finding your own preferred type of menemen is a case of playing a delicious game of trial and error because every Turkish eatery (and indeed, home) has its own take on it. In my local neighbourhood of Kadıköy one of my favourite breakfast places would have to be the Moda Iskelesiwhere you can eat menemen right by the Marmara Sea. The Caferağa area in Kadıköy is also crammed with cafés serving decent menemen, and it was in fact in one such café that I enjoyed mine this morning.

So while other perhaps more sophisticated types prefer to nibble croissants daintily, I’ll always be the one messily launching into a piping hot serving of menemen. Heaven!

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