No longer in the background: Alanya’s traditional kitchen

For decades,the promotion of Alanya as a touristic destination was focused on facets like sun, sea and fun . Other special aspects of this beautiful seaside resort retreated into the background. For example, Alanya’s traditional kitchen. Did you know that this region has a very rich assortment of its own, local dishes? They are now taking their place into the spotlight, thanks to the efforts of the Alanya Municipality.

The Turkish kitchen is as Turkey itself, very diverse. Every region has its special dishes. Some are very famous like Kebab from the Adana province. Or the many olive oil recipes originating from the Aegean part of the country. However, there are also parts of Turkey whose dishes are not so famous or just not known at all.

The kitchen of Alanya used to be of this latter category. “Until some years ago, the regional kitchen of Alanya was only something people who were born and raised here had heard of”, says Sevda Erdoğmus. She is a food engineer and head of the Directorate of Environmental Protection and Control (Çevre Koruma ve Kontrol Müdürlüğü) in the Alanya Municipality. Her department has many tasks, among which checking the quality and hygiene of all the places in Alanya where food is being sold or offered. Now they are also in charge of developing and promoting Alanya’s regional kitchen.

Pushed into the background

“The unfamiliarity with Alanya’s own dishes is easy to explain. When tourism started to grow in Alanya, the locals first rented out their rooms. After that, they began to build hotels, restaurants and discos. They presented this seaside resort as the perfect destination for sun, sea and fun. Something the visitors were also looking to find. But by building an image like that, other unique aspects of Alanya were pushed into the background. For example, we forgot to show the tourists that our region is also a paradise for growing so many different fruits and vegetables. That we have fisheries, beekeeping and livestock. And we forgot to tell that from this fresh, local produce we prepare delicious food. Dishes from recipes that have survived generations.”

The ‘Forgotten’ kitchen

Some years ago, on initiation by the municipality, Sevda Erdoğmuş’ department started to detect and document recipes from this ‘forgotten kitchen’ of Alanya. These recipes were usually being transferred mouth to mouth from mother to daughter. Therefore they needed to find women with their roots firmly anchored in this region. “We found those women”, explains Erdoğmuş, “but we also discovered that there was no clear, professional data. When we talked about the ingredients, for example, they told us we needed to use a ‘handful’ of this and a ‘pinch’ of that… So after collecting the recipes, we prepared all the dishes with chefs and wrote down the measurements. We published a book containing all those recipes.”

Characteristics

You would probably think that Alanya’s traditional kitchen doesn’t differ so much from the general Mediterranean kitchen. However, that is not entirely correct. Of course many similar ingredients are used. Like fish, plenty of vegetables and olive oil. But here also the mountains played a significant role. “In general, the locals lived down by the sea during the winter months. But when spring arrived, they took their cattle and migrated into the mountains. Their food needed to be nutritious and calorie rich to give enough energy for the long hike up. Think: beans, chick peas and potatoes. Also, the life in the mountains was different than life by the sea. There was no olive oil available, so they used butter instead. Therefore, in Alanya’s traditional kitchen butter is a common ingredient. And while in the rest of Turkey goat meat is rarely eaten, you find it in a lot of our traditional recipes.”

Memories to take home

At this moment, there are a few restaurants in Alanya that serve traditional dishes. “Alanya’s kitchen will probably never be a high culinary experience”, says Sevda Erdoğmuş. “But that’s also not necessary. We believe that it is important for locals to realize they can be proud of their heritage. And besides that, we want everybody who visits Alanya to know our region offers more than sun and sea. We want them to try one of our local dishes. And whether it is their taste or not, at least it is a different memory of Alanya they can take home with them.”

Useful information:

Did you know that Alanya joined Culinary Heritage Europe ? It’s goal is to promote regional food and the small-scale food sector in rural areas throughout Europe.

Official website for Culinary Heritage Alanya: Mutfak Mirası Alanya 

There are several restaurants in Alanya where you can find traditional Alanya dishes. For example:

Photos by: Alanya Municipality

 

 

 

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