Thanks to its geography, Turkey enjoys a rich culinary culture, says a Hungarian chef who is introducing Turkish cuisine to the world with food tours of Istanbul.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency during her latest tour of Istanbul with a group of about 20 Hungarians, Agnes Toth told Anadolu Agency about her admiration for Turkish cuisine and her love of Istanbul, the historic Ottoman capital and Turkey’s commercial capital.
Toth who has been a culture and tourism ambassador between Turkey and Hungary for 15 years, said: “By virtue of its geography, Turkey has an incredibly rich culinary culture.”
Telling how she first came to Turkey as a tourist 15 years ago, Toth said: “I loved Turkish culture and language, and I decided to advance myself in these areas.”
After honing Turkish recipes that she started to learn while picking up the Turkish tongue, with frequent visits to Istanbul, Toth continues to get training from Turkish chiefs on the local cuisine.
Explaining that she started to learn Turkish through private lessons and worked as cultural coordinator for three years after the Yunus Emre Institute (YEE) opened a branch in Hungary’s capital Budapest, Toth said: “In this process, I organized programs on Turkish culture and cuisine. I’ve done a lot of work both at the YEE and as a volunteer. After leaving the YEE, I started to write a blog about Turkish cuisine.”
Similarities and differences
She added that at that time there were no good Turkish restaurants in Budapest and Hungarians knew little about Turkish cuisine besides meat doners and baklava dessert, she said.
“I used to be constantly asked where to get good Turkish food in Budapest. Since there were no good Turkish restaurants to recommend in Budapest, I started to bring Hungarians to Turkey,” she said.
She added: “At the same time, I frequently visited Turkey, took cooking classes, benefited from YouTube, met many Turkish chefs. They also really helped me a lot. I’ve improved myself a lot over the last 15 years.”
Pointing out that Turkish and Hungarian cultures have similarities as well as differences, Toth also highlighted some features that make Turkish cuisine rich.
“Each region is incredibly rich and different from each other,” she explained.
“The Aegean region and southeast are different from each other and have their own characteristics. That’s why I can find anything in Turkey.”
She cited “meat, rich home cooking, and the use of spices in the east, light meals, dishes with olive oil and vegetables in the Aegean region. Everyone can find something to fit their taste. Although Hungarian cuisine is rich, it’s not as rich as Turkish cuisine.”
“We also don’t have an appetizer (mezze) culture. Here, the dishes are served at the table and dished up. This is something new for Hungarians,” she said.
Adding that the similarities between Hungary and Turkey date back to the Ottoman era, Toth said that the use of eggplant and red pepper was inherited from that period.
Voicing her love for Istanbul Toth said: “Istanbul is like a summary of Turkey. We can find minorities, different religions and languages. It shows both its modern and traditional face.”
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