Istanbul Travel Guide

Ottoman Cuisine

  • Ottoman Cuisine

  • The kitchen of Topkapi Palace under successive sultans grew to a staff of over 4,000

  • The Ottoman Kitchen

  • Matbah-ı Amire

The center of Ottoman cuisine was İstanbul. Ottoman cuisine consists of a mixture of ingredients from Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Middle East, and is one of the world’s three largest cuisines. Hünkar Beğendi, for example, is an important dish that has been representing the fine and detailed Ottoman cuisine until the present day. At the dinner table in the Palace, soups, various types of rice, and meat dishes were absolutely essential.

Istanbul was the center of Ottoman cuisine
At the beginning of 15th century, Istanbul became the center of Ottoman cuisine. The nomadic heritage, influence of the Arabic and Persian cultures, and conquest of the Byzantine empire, conspired like a layered borek to form the strata of Ottoman cuisine.

During the golden age of Suleyman, the kitchen of Topkapi Palace under successive sultans grew to a staff of over 4,000. Selected chefs brouhgt to Istanbul to work for the kitchens of Topkapi Palace. Whole villages became known for a specialized type of chef. For decades the city of Bolu has sponsored a national chef competition for professionals throughout the country.

Matbah-ı Amire
The name of palace cuisine was Matbah-ı Amire in Ottoman Period. Matbah-ı Amire was formed two parts including large and small parts. Foods were prepared for court, council meals and ceremonies in the large kitchen. About four and five million people were full from this kitchen and there were parts in this kitchen such as; Valide Sultan, Kızlarağası, Kapıağası, and Kilercibaşı Matbah. Sultan’s private foods were cooked in the small kitchen and it was referred as Matbah-I Hümayun.

Except from habitual foods in Matbah-ı Amire, dinner was given 10-15 thousand soldiers in the day of payment. Baklava was prepared for ten thousand janissaries in the 15th day of Ramadan. 600 plate soup, saffron and rice dessert and rice were prepared in the day of council. One part of Matbah-I Amire is called as Helvahane. All kinds of desserts, jams, syrups, putties and scented soaps were made here.

The most delicate parts of palace cuisine

  • Rice instead of bulghur, sugar instead of honey and pekmez, and white yeast cake instead of brown bread and pastry were consumed in the palace cuisine.
  • Compete and sorbet was drunk instead of water in Ottoman Cuisine.
  • Mutton and lamb were preferred.
  • The most favourite vegetable is aubergine.
  • Bean, potato, turkey, cacao, corn and some kinds of zucchini were found in Ottoman cuisine after the discovery of America, after the 15th century.
  • Cinnamon was used in 19th century in palace cuisine, while meat and fish were cooked.
  • Saucepan dishes flavoured with sour grape, lemon juice, dib roman, onion and spices.
  • Dishes are cooked with clarified butter.
  • Tomato is found in Ottoman Cuisine in the late 18th century as a wild. After it is inoculated, it had its present-shape. Its firs shape was cherry tomatoes.  While tomato was green, it was consumed. Stuffing, soup and olive oil dishes were made from tomato. When it turned red, it was junked.
  • Grilled meat on skewers were not made with iron skewers as in today. Laurel branch and aubergine stalk were used instead of skewer. With temperature, their aromas mixed to meat.
  • Stuffed vine leaves was made with horse chestnut leaves, cydonia vulgaris and bean leaves in Ottoman Cuisine.
  • Onion egg was the most favourite dish of Sultan Abdulhamid II. Whoever made onion egg, he award her.
  • A great skill was necessary for making and cooking onion egg. Cooking onion egg took three and a half hours.