Tips on how to prep an expat pantry in Türkiye

Leyla Yvonne Ergil

MUĞLA: Many an expat will concur that conjuring up some of our favorite comfort foods from home is one of the best ways to beat the homesick blues, especially during the holiday season as the end of the year approaches

If you are wondering where to get that whole turkey to roast, the veggies you miss, foreign sauces, cheeses and good substitutes, then check out these tips to help foreigners fill up the fridge with favorite signature ingredients that we miss and love.

Feeding the soul for holidays

With the traditional Thanksgiving holiday celebrated in the United States and other locations in the world coming up just around the corner on this Thursday, Nov. 24, coupled with Christmas a month later and New Year’s Eve the week after, the next month and beyond can be a busy time spent preparing these special days’ customary meals. The first question that comes to mind for many a foreigner at this time, is where to find a whole or, even better, a roasted turkey for indoor celebrations. Well, don’t fret as you can preorder a whole turkey from local butchers and larger grocery markets like Migros and Carrefour.

Of course, alongside a roasted turkey comes the custom of serving up cranberry sauce, which sourcing here in Türkiye is certainly a taller order. Cranberry is called “turna yemişi” in Turkish, although it can be mistakenly translated for several other berries such as “kızılcık,” which is cornelian cherry, and “yaban mersini,” which is blueberry. While dried cranberries are regularly available, the fresh cranberries needed for the signature sauce that accompanies turkey are difficult to find. Large supplier shops such as Metro will be your best bet while purchasing a can of cranberry sauce is nearly impossible. Otherwise, Ikea, which you can either visit or order from online, regularly stocks lingonberry jam which is a condiment served alongside Swedish meatballs, Norwegian pancakes and potato pancakes.

Similarly, sweet potatoes and yams can also be confused for one another in translations and are also difficult to access reliably, although large grocery stores, gourmet shops such as Macrocenter and restaurant suppliers such as Metro occasionally stock them in the winter months. If you see them, I would say buy them because there is no guarantee they will still be on offer the next day. There are also several farms selling a wide variety of harder-to-source vegetables, pecans, sauces, condiments and staples such as condensed milk that you can easily order online.

There is a wide range of produce items that are now available in Türkiye that were not a few decades ago. It used to be difficult to find avocados, broccoli and even brussels sprouts in the old days. Now, we can easily find several beloved ingredients such as blueberries, fennel, asparagus, bok choy, bean sprouts and even cilantro… sometimes.

Cheesecake cream cheese conundrum

I would venture to state that one of the largest debates in any expat group based in Türkiye on Facebook has to do with the issue of finding the right cream cheese to make a cheesecake here in Türkiye. While there is a “krem peynir” sold in Türkiye, it can vary from being more like a salty thicker spreadable cheese, versus the milder and more aerated cream cheese we are accustomed to using. Philadelphia cream cheese is occasionally available but immensely expensive compared to Turkish substitutes. Now everyone seems to have their preference to substitute cream cheese here in Türkiye and they admittedly vary greatly, I have noticed that it is some version of labor that tends to win the cake. I am going to go off the beaten path however and suggest the Migros brand “taze krem peynir,” which means fresh cream cheese, as a solid substitution option in my humble opinion. Another tip about Migros’ dairy brand is that their butter, which is salted, is divine. Pınar on the other hand, the brand that brought us the sliced Turkish cheddar and more recently gouda cheese options, also has an “ekşi krema,” which is the only brand I know of that produces sour cream in Türkiye. For the crust, “Eti Burçak” is an affordable variation of digestive biscuits, which are also now widely available, while Taç is a classic Turkish cracker that most resembles a Ritz cracker, should you crave one.

Where’s the beef

Some steak lovers may be disappointed by the beef selection on offer here in Türkiye, however, the wide availability of lamb makes up for it. The beef here is just not as tender as it is in the U.S., but if you absolutely must have a slice of beef then bon filet is the way to go.

Chocolates to give thanks for

The wide array of foreign comfort food products available in Türkiye, especially in the sweets department has increased significantly over the past decade. It used to be that many an expat would pine away for biscuits such as Oreos or digestives covered in chocolate, now these brands as well as After Eights, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Malteser and Godiva are all easy to source from many grocery shops, but in a pinch, Macrocenter is your best bet for finding them regularly.

Courtesy: Dailysabah