Іçli köfte literally means ‘a meatball with something inside’. The word içli is also poetic language for ‘deeply felt’, and I’ve seen this translated on Turkish tourist menus as ‘sentimental meatballs’.
Tarsus is a historic city in south-central Turkey, in the middle of the wheat and cotton belt. It was where Cleopatra met Mark Antony. Biblical scholars know it as the home of Saul who became Saint Paul. No doubt he ate these dumplings, which are known as kibbeh on the Arab peninsula.
Tarsus has many citizens of Arab descent, who moved to the area in the nineteenth century and introduced this dish, using the wheat of the area. Their version is different from the standard form because it is boiled instead of fried, so it’s healthier.