After returning to sunny West Philadelphia and working on adjusting back from a semester abroad in Istanbul, Turkey, I’ve started to become reflective. What about my experience in Turkey was so profoundly different from life at Penn? It could have been the language – Turkish is unlike any language I’ve ever studied, and is definitely hard to get a grip on (don’t worry though; I managed to work out the most important words - names of foods, fruits, vegetables, etc. and became proficient in ordering in restaurants). Was it life on two continents? (Istanbul straddles both Europe and Asia, and is divided by a narrow body of water called the Bosporus Straight that connects the Black Sea to the Marmara Sea.) Was it the traffic? No, alas, it was the food.
With influences from the Mediterranean diet, Middle Eastern cuisine, European tastes and some uniquely Turkish delicacies, Turkish culture is obsessed with food, and much of their culture is defined by their dishes. Turkish cuisine boasts a heavy emphasis on meat, fish, bread, olive oil, and sugary, nutty delights, and is sprinkled with distinctive spices and tastes from near and far.
Today I am bringing you a classical Turkish dessert: muhallebi, or milk pudding. I found a wonderful pudding establishment in the heart of Sultanahmet, the historical district of Istanbul. After exploring the jaw dropping beauty of the Harem of the old Ottoman sultans and ogling their jewels in the treasury of the Topkapi Palace, I stopped for a quick break at a cafe that had the most beautiful and exotic looking puddings lining the windows. Hoşgeldiniz, or Welcome to Turkey!
Top layer: Dark chocolate pudding with garnish Bottom layer: Classic Turkish milk pudding
Top layer: Pistachio pudding with garnish
Bottom layer: Dark chocolate pudding
Top layer: Fruit pudding with orange zest and figs, and garnished with ground walnuts, pistachios, coconut, and sprinkles. Bottom layer: Milk chocolate pudding
I found a recipe here for classic muhallebi - try it on your own or get yourself a plane ticket to Istanbul!
If you are interested in an easy but excellent pudding recipe (not Turkish), I would highly recommend checking out this one.