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Ottoman Palace Cuisine with Asitane

Posted in Turkey
Ottoman Palace Cuisine with Asitane

When I first moved to London, I would find it crazy to that walking even to the grocery store meant passing buildings that were hundreds of years old, great battles were fought in major square the people oh so casually saunter pass to get to work, and historic monuments were actual gifts to governing people of towns, cities and countries.

Walking the streets of Istanbul brought on no less shock. To think that the Romans, Byzantines, Ottomans, and key viziers walked these streets, built a kingdom, bartered to establish an economy was mind boggling for me. I was curious to know how much of The Silk Roads influenced the daily life and what modern day Turkey is today, so naturally I wanted to experience the gastronomy.

Much like my time in Marrakech and in Spain, I wanted to experience food in a whole different way. Food, a universal necessity, tells so much about a community and history. So when Asitane asked me to visit on my trip to Istanbul, I was curious to see what they had to offer…

Ottoman Palace Cuisine with Asitane
Ottoman Palace Cuisine with Asitane
Ottoman Palace Cuisine with Asitane
Ottoman Palace Cuisine with Asitane

What I Wore

kimono c/o NEXT jeans c/o BAUKJEN flats ZARA earrings c/o NEXT shop the BOUTIQUE

Asitane, since its inception, has been more than a restaurant. It has been a cultural institution for celebrating the fine art and gastronomy of the Ottoman empire embracing dishes that are not practiced or eaten today. The family own restaurant started off primarily as a space to wine and dine their clients and guests now brings in young chefs and diners from all around the world to experience the grand cuisine that dates back from 1453 to the 1600s. Utilizing techniques and ingredients and much academic zeal, Asitane has curated a seasonal menu in which we got a taster of… Please note that each dish is explained based on my experience alone and the number indicated are from the year or century it comes from.

Ottoman Palace Cuisine with Asitane
Ottoman Palace Cuisine with Asitane
Ottoman Palace Cuisine with Asitane

Soups

Wine - Obviously, not bottled from the Ottoman Empire. But with Turkish grapes, blended with some cabernet grapes, we were able to indulge in our sensory with a new {to me} regional wine.

Almond Soup (1539) - A light almond broth, with a milky texture, flavored with grated nutmeg and pomegranate seeds.

“Terine Soup” with Chestnuts (1469) - a winter soup with chestnuts, tangy at the initial taste with dried yoghurt, and delicately seasoned with mint.

You’ll notice that so many dishes mix fruits with heartier vegetables and meats. Ingredients like oregano, mint and cinnamon were used frequently to season foods too.

Cold Appetizers

Ottoman Hums (1469) - Crushed chickpeas pureed with currants, pine nuts and cinnamon.

“Lor” Cheese Blend (1898) - Fresh cottage cheese mixed with scallions, parsley, green peppers, tomatoes and seasoned with rosemary and paprika

Gerdaniyye - Lamb chuck slowly braised with aromatic vegetables and herbs, blended with lamb brains, served with sour black plum extract

Stuffed Vine Leaf with Sour Cherries - Grape leaf stuffed with blend of sour cherries, rice, onions, pine nuts with black pepper and cinnamon.

Stuffed Calamari with Shrimps - Oven baked whole calamari, stuffed with a blend of rice, pine nuts and currants flavored with cinnamon and fresh mint

Ottoman Palace Cuisine with Asitane
Ottoman Palace Cuisine with Asitane
Ottoman Palace Cuisine with Asitane

Warm Appetizers

Liver Köfte (1695) - Fried liver rissoles flavored with cinnamon and cloves served with red onions sautéed in pomegranate molasses.

Cevgani Mücver (1898) - Deep fried patties of minced meat, rice and chopped onions blend

Tatar Pastry (1898) - Fried phyllo pastry with meat and onions filling, served on a bed of strained yoghurt

Ottoman Palace Cuisine with Asitane
Ottoman Palace Cuisine with Asitane
Ottoman Palace Cuisine with Asitane
Ottoman Palace Cuisine with Asitane

Main Courses

Stuffed Melon (1539) - Cored melon stuffed with blend of minced meat, rice, herbs, almonds, currants; and baked in the oven.

Baby Goat Kebab (XV c.) - Oven roasted baby goat kebab served with fragrant rice pilaf with herbs.

Mutanjene (1539) - Lamb stew cooked with apricots, Rezaki raisins and almonds.

The mains demonstrated that the Ottomans enjoyed stuffing ingredients and slow cooking. Each technique encapsulated flavors ever so delicately to bring dynamic flavors. Each bite initially started with the sweetness of the fruit ingredients, then moved onto the nutiness of the other ingredients and finished off with the marination of the herbs/spices and main ingredients.

There’s something to be noted here that the fruit’s sweetness worked perfectly against the pungent and raw earthiness of the meats they’re paired with.

Ottoman Palace Cuisine with Asitane
Ottoman Palace Cuisine with Asitane

Dessert

Honey Halva ( XV. c.) - Roasted flour halva with honey, “Antep” pistachios and poppy seeds and seemed to be associated with strong medicinal properties

Levzine (1539) - almond halva

Helatiye - Milk pudding infused with mastic, served with almonds, pistachios, fruit and light rose syrup.

Sembuse (1650) - Walnut and almond dessert with musk

Kadayif (1828) - Fried flat pancake soaked in light orange syrup and milk

Ottoman Palace Cuisine with Asitane
Ottoman Palace Cuisine with Asitane

Today, Asitane works as a non-profit. Channeling and giving back to the research of Ottoman Empire cuisine and training chefs. What is fascinating is that Asitane has gone the extra mile to go far and wide to discover recipes, ingredients and techniques. My recipe sheets didn’t even detail methods, the chefs weren’t sure what to base dishes off of and compare it to. So what we are seeing are pieces of facts coming together from every corner of the former Ottoman Empire to put together each dish. It’s hard to come by something like this in London, so the experience was truly remarkable to have!