You might know Türkiye/Turkey best for its döner kebabs, baklava, and dried fruit. But did you also know that breakfast, called kahvaltı (kah-val-TUH) is the most important meal in the country?
In my experience, most Turkish hotels will offer some combination of raw vegetables, breads, cheeses, cold cuts, and sweet spreads like honey and jam. Everything tastes fresh, there’s variety, even at the most humble of lodgings, and you can be sure that tea comes a flowin’.
The likely origin to the extravagance of the serpme kahvaltı, or “spreading breakfast,” stems from Ottoman times. The minions of sultans would feast on a variety of small plates after their morning prayers, but before taking coffee. It’s not a coincidence that the modern Turkish word for breakfast, kahvaltı, translates as under, or before coffee.
Nowadays, the breakfast spreads that truly shine have a smattering of dishes from throughout the country. Olives and fresh herbs would be the exemplars of the Aegean Sea, spicy peppers from the southeastern part of the country, and hazelnuts and tea from near Trabzon, a city which hugs the Black Sea. Plus, two of my favorite condiments, tahin pekmez, or a blend sesame tahini and grape molasses, and kaymak, or water buffalo clotted cream, were discovered only through a random serpme kahvaltı at a suburban Ankara hotel.
However, if you’ve just got a short stay in Istanbul — even a long layover — why not check out Van Kahvaltı Evi for a primer on Turkish breakfast and hospitality? They’ve got two branches, the main one in Cihangir, near Taksim, and another in Nişantaşı, both on the European side of Istanbul.
The name of the restaurant, Van Kahvaltı Evi, translates as home of the Van breakfast, referring to the eastern Turkish city of Van, renowned for its morning fare.
Where is your favorite breakfast?