Kids food in Turkey. Worried about what the little ones will eat when you come to Turkey? Don’t! Here’s 12 kid approved Turkish dishes that’s sure to get the thumbs up!
As a rep I often heard guests say they hadn’t been to the Turkish restaurants or tried the local food because they “have kids”. “Why?” I would ask a astounded, “because they won’t eat anything!” normally came the reply.
I do appreciate heading to an authentic restaurant abroad can be a bit daunting, especially if the diners are majority local and the menu in a different language with dishes that sound strange. I know kids often demand home style grub when they are hungry (rest assured there’s more than enough chips and spag-bol basics available here), but that’s no reason to avoid local style restaurants, lokantas or the local street food. Lot’s of the Turkish dishes are very kid friendly and beat your fast food or burger joints hands down – you just need to know what to look for.
Here are a few pointers of kid approved Turkish dishes with additional tips on how to convince the fussy little ones to eat them.
Scrumptious Turkish meatballs (tell the kids little burgers). Just as kids in the US and UK love burgers, kids of all ages in Turkey love kofte. This has to be the safest bet on most menus for kids. Delicately spiced and tasty lamb or beef patties either fried, BBQ’ed or grilled to perfection and normally served up in a restaurant with chips, Turkish rice and salad. Kofte is available everywhere in Turkey. If you are self catering, they are one of the few things you can buy frozen in the supermarkets here. If you’re near a butcher chances are they make their own. And if you are in a Turkish restaurant or lokanta, there are probably a few different types of kofte on the menu. Give them a whirl, chances are the kids will approve.
2.Pide (Turkish Boat Shaped Pizza)
I’m guessing most kids love pizza, and if thin and crispy is a preference, Pide will get a swift thumbs up. Long, thin, boat shaped pizzas topped with anything you fancy, or traditionally with either spiced mincemeat (kiyma), or yellow cheese (kasar) and spicy sausage (sucuk). Remarkably cheap in local restaurants, they are usually cooked in a traditional ‘pide’ stone oven and served simply, chopped into easy to handle strips, with a little green salad on the side. If pizza is a go to dish at home, be sure to try Turkish pide on your travels as you may come away preferring them to their Italian counterparts.
3.Lahmacun (Round Spicy Pizza)
An alternative to Pide served at all Turkish pizza restaurants is Lahmacun. These will appeal to those that like things mildly spiced and tasty, with a tiny kick. Think extremely thin (almost tortilla thin) round pizzas with a very thin layer of mince meat topping. There’s an art to eating Lahmacun, think rolling a fajita – take your lahmacun (normally 2 or three are ordered per adult), put a strip of the accompanying salad stuff down the centre, squeeze over a little fresh lemon and roll. Eat with your hands and move onto the next. Lahmacun is one of the cheapest and tastiest dishes found in local restaurants.
4.Manti (Turkish Ravioli)
Do your kids like ravioli or stuffed pasta shapes/tortellini? If so, they will probably like manti. These tasty little lamb or beef filled dumplings come in a variety of shapes (triangles, knots, rounds) and taste a lot like ravioli without the tomato sauce. These tasty little pillows are surprisingly addictive. They are boiled then served up with a little butter and natural yogurt on top. If in a restaurant, ask for them plain with yogurt on the side if it’s not to the kids taste. My friends kids just dip them in tomato sauce so it tastes more like the ravioli from home. At home we buy the readymade manti from the supermarket and make our own tomato sauce – very tasty too! Hopefully manti will be a hit if you have a little Italian food connoisseur!
5.Chicken or Lamb Shish Kebab and Pilav
If the kids like grilled chicken or meaty morcels, a grilled shish kebab is a good choice and healthy to boot. Skewered meat, sometimes marinated (ask), BBQ’ed or grilled and served up with Pilav (Turkish rice), bread and salad. Take the meat from the skewer and mix it in with the rice. Traditional pilav is a mix of rice and pasta bits. Grain shaped pasta (orzo) is fried in butter until golden, then the rice stirred in and it all boiled up until done. Sometimes stock is used to give the dish more flavour but either way, it’s a great alternative to plain old boiled rice. Grilled chicken and Turkish rice is one of my boy’s favourite dishes and an adult helping in most restaurants is more than enough to feed the pair of them.
True Turkish doner tastes a world apart from the majority you find in the greasy spoons and chip shops back home. Your average Turkish kebab man takes pride in his doner, often making the kebab himself from scratch. Be it lamb or chicken, thin slices are expertly cut from a revolving spit and served up as wraps, in half breads or pide bread with a choice of fresh salad, yogurt and chilli sauce. Some kebab houses even cook their meat over coals or wood to give it a unique, utterly delicious flavour. If your kids like a top-notch chicken or lamb sandwich, this staple Turkish street food is hard to beat.
7.Fishy Bread (Balik Ekmek)
This is for all those that like a fish-finger sandwich! Many seaside resorts or harbourside cafes in Turkey feature ‘Balik Ekmek’on their menus, it’s a popular street food and a Turks equivalent to a fish-finger butty. Fillets of white fish are grilled then served simply in bread with a little sauce and salad. You could ask for it plain with a little ketchup, or a lot of restaurants will do a side order of chips or plate it up if you prefer. Result – the ultimate fishy sandwich!
Oh how my family and all those that visit love borek – there’s just so many types to choose from that there’s a borek out there to suit everyone! You will spot specialist borek shops open from early morning as Turks often eat it for breakfast. Failing that patisseries and larger supermarkets sell it on their bakery counters. Think cheese, potato or mince filled pasties or pastries. Popular options of a morning are crispy puff pastry filled borek, roll borek cut into bite sized pieces and ‘su’ (water) borek which is more like a wetter filo pastry lasagna with layers of white cheese. As starters in restaurants kids are likely to love cheese filled ‘sigara’ borek, crispy cigarette shaped filo rolls with a mild cheese filling. My boys had these as some of their first finger foods – and they still demand them today!
Turkish pancakes (gozleme) are another of my boys favourite dishes and we often have them for lunch after a trip to the local open-air market, or in one of the little village restaurants in Kayakoy. They are cheap, tasty and ideal for the kids. Don’t think French crepes here, they are not made with a batter but with a simple dough (yufka) that is rolled very thin into rounds and cooked on a special circular hot plate. Traditionally they are savoury, filled with white cheese (lor) and herbs, mince-meat and onion, or mashed potato. You can now get sweet fillings too; chocolate spread, lemon and sugar or banana and honey in many of the tourist areas if you prefer. There is a definite art to making these, if you can, take the kids over to the women normally sat cross-legged rolling the dough and cooking them, it’s fascinating to watch. Gozleme is normally served simply, cut into strips and served with salad or pickles on the side. I’m sure they will be a hit with the kids, if you ask for them crispy, they also make great finger food for the very young explorers.
Simit’s were my kids teething rings! You often see men traipsing the streets with a stack of Simit stacked precariously on their heads. These cheap, filling, sesame sprinkled rounds could be likened most to a bagel. You find them everywhere and they are a very traditional snack for all ages. Eat them plain, chop them up for breakfast spread with a little cream cheese, or head to a special Simit shop and have them warm with a layer of yellow cheese and tomato in the centre. Simits are a great snack for the kids and yourself at any time.
The Turks love soup (corba). Most restaurants will have at least a daily special and it’s normally accompanied by lovely fresh bread or pide. Although there are some very strange soups available in local restaurants (tripe, sheeps brain etc.), with the kids you are probably better sticking to the basics. Turks are famed for their ‘mecimek corba’ (lentil soup), ‘ezogelin’ (spicy lentil soup), domates (tomato) and ‘tavuk’ (chicken). All are freshly made and a great choice for the little ones.
I’m pretty sure most people approve of a good toastie. Here in Turkey it is a popular breakfast and lunchtime snack and you see little cafes simply selling nothing but freshly squeezed fruit juice and toasties! Toasties here tend to come in two forms, with yellow cheese (kasarli), or ‘karisik’ which means ‘mixed’ normally meaning with a mix of yellow cheese and spicy sausage (sucuk). The toasts here tend to be more like paninis, but tasty, cheap and certainly kid approved – try it!
Well, there you have it – 12 kid approved foods in Turkey. Hopefully this little lot will have persuaded you to venture forth and try something other than the offerings in BK and McD’s! Can you think of any kid friendly Turkish foods I’ve missed? Do comment and let me know and please Like and Share if you know someone heading here with kids.
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