Food14 October 2020
Quince, celery, apple, cabbage, zucchini varieties, bell peppers, eggplant, artichokes, melons, mussels, fish… One of the dishes in which the Turkish cuisine, which has developed thanks to the interaction with different societies, reveals its cultural richness is dolma. In addition to the usual vegetables, many different fruits and fish are used in stuffing recipes.
If we talk about the name of dolma, which is one of the most important recipes of Turkish cuisine, it is dolmeh in Persian, dolmathes in Greek, and mehshi in Arabic. The fact that the origin of the word is Turkish indicates that the dolma culture spread from the Balkans to North Africa with the Ottoman Empire. Regardless of their ethnic origins, dolma gained its most glorious time during the Ottoman period. In fact, it wouldn't be wrong to say that the stuffing hasn't developed and changed much since that day.
It is thought that the first dolma recipes emerged with the drying of vegetables or the growing of wine grapes, and these recipes date back thousands of years, much older than the Ottoman Empire. It is known that the Turks used vegetables such as zucchini and eggplant for stuffing when they lived in Central Asia. Afterwards, the Ottomans, who became acquainted with other stuffing recipes in Iran, the Caucasus and Anatolia, started to develop their stuffing techniques by adding these recipes to their own culinary culture. Plain meat stuffing, which is referred to as "mülebbes dolma" in the cookbooks of the Ottoman period, is quite similar to today's recipe for stuffing with meat. The tradition of cooking, where the raw material is rice and the interior material is leaves and carved vegetables, becomes much more sophisticated with the development of Ottoman culinary culture. Developed techniques have been tested on new materials for centuries. Therefore, it is striking that there are almost all kinds of main ingredients in stuffing recipes.
The meeting of Turkish cuisine with pepper and tomato, which comes to mind today when it comes to stuffing, took place much more recently, at the beginning of the 19th century. According to researcher Deniz Gürsoy, tomato first entered Turkish cuisine during the reign of Sultan Abdülmecit (1839-1861). The tomato, which entered the Ottoman cuisine as a wild fruit, becomes the vegetable we know today by grafting. The Ottomans, who consumed the tomato as green when they first met it, soon started to make their stuffing and olive oil dishes. At that time, when tomatoes were thrown away when they turned red, bell pepper, whose homeland was South America, became one of the vegetables that entered Turkish cuisine.
When we look at the past 4-5 centuries of Turkish cuisine, we see that almost all vegetables are used in stuffing recipes. Moreover, vegetables such as quince, melon and apples were also indispensable ingredients of stuffing recipes. Until the beginning of the 20th century, the use of fruits in stuffing recipes was very popular. Of course, making stuffed fruits seems like a strange idea to us today. Stuffed melon, which is now forgotten but a very fashionable dish until the end of the 19th century, is an interesting example of the use of the fruit. In the stuffed melon made from immature melons, the lid is opened from the stem side of the fruit and the inside is cleaned. The stuffing is stuffed with onions, minced meat, rice, dried mint, pine nuts and raisins roasted in a separate pot. In summary, the recipe for stuffed melon is not much different from any stuffed meat. It is sure to be a simpler recipe than it seems; So is it suitable for today's taste? That's hard to answer. On the other hand, the change in our palate, from stuffed quince and melon to stuffed peppers, is quite striking.
We can come across the most popular types of dolma in various tastes and appearances and in different applications in every region of our country. Stuffed stuffed meats, which are prepared after great efforts, are consumed at the table with pleasure. For this reason, stuffing, which is one of the most delicious dishes of Turkish cuisine, always takes the lead on the tables.
We started with stuffing, let's continue with other stars of Anatolian cuisine. In our 5 Stars of Anatolian Cuisine article, you can read about Aegean and Black Sea cuisine, Gaziantep, our capital of gastronomy, the legendary dishes of Hatay, the city of civilizations, and Şanlıurfa, which reflects the characteristic features of Southeastern Anatolian cuisine.