During my visit to Izmir, Smyrni, Smyrna, I visited the Topcu Restaurant which is located very near the Constitution Square of the City.
Once seated, I was greeted by a young waiter, who had on his tray a delicacy I had not tasted before. Almost by default, I accepted it and then tried it, knowing nothing about it.
I quote from Wikipedia:
“Çiğ köfte (Chee kufta) means ‘raw meatball’. It can also be written as one word, çiğköfte. It is a favorite Turkish snack and a specialty of southeastern Turkey.
Bulgur is kneaded with chopped onions and water until it gets soft. Then tomato and pepper paste, spices and very finely ground beef are added. This absolutely fatless raw mincemeat is treated with spices while kneading the mixture, which is said to “cook” the meat. Lastly, green onions, fresh mint and parsley are mixed in.
One spice that is associated with çiğ köfte, is isot, a very dark, almost blackish paprika, prepared in a special manner, and which is considered as indispensable for an authentically local preparation of çiğ köfte (and also of lahmacun). Although, isot is famous as the special dried pepper that is locally produced by farmers of Şanlıurfa, in fact, it is a general word used for pepper in Şanlıurfa.”
The plate of chee kufta came with fresh unseasoned lettuce leafs. I figured that the two should go together, and I was right. A totally refreshing combination, the lettuce fights off the spice and violent thrust of the chee kufta, that is of isor. Luckily I had on my table a nice glass of raki, and I must confess that I was in heaven. The trio of chee kufta, lettuce leafs and ice cold raki is a must!!!
For the main course I tried the lamb shish kebab. Absolutely delicious!!!! The meat was tender and juicy, and slightly marinated in herbs and vinegar. I immediately started wondering why we do not have a similar dish in Greece. I will certainly try it in the near future.
I quote from Clifford A Wright’s “On Shish Kebabs”:
“Who has never heard of shish kebab? In Turkish, shish kebab, literally means “gobbets of meat roasted on a spit or skewers.” Probably the most famous preparation for grilled lamb, there seems to be countless recipes. It is said that shish kebab was born over the open field fires of the soldiers of the Turkic tribes that first invaded Anatolia, who used their swords to grill meat, as they pushed west from their homelands in Central Asia. Given the obvious simplicity of spit-roasting meat over a fire, I suspect its genesis is earlier. There is iconographical evidence of Byzantine Greeks cooking shish kebabs. But surely the descriptions of skewering strips of meat for broiling in Homer’s Odyssey must count for an early shish kebab.”
The lamb was accompanied by a fresh green salad dressed in vinegar and olive oil. the freshness of the ingredients was unbelievable!!!! My attention was especially drawn to the ultra thin slices of raw beetroot, which I looove!!!! Crisp, subtle, a delight that cannot be replicated. A lesson on how the simplest ingredient can transform a simple dish as if by magic.
Overall, a wonderful experience, partucularly as it introduced Çiğ köfte (Chee kufta) in my gastronomic life.