Where the Turks Came From

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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The earliest settled Turkish culture of note was that of the Uyghurs, who established their kingdom in the mid-8th century in what is now Xinjiang. The Uyghurs were under the strong cultural influence of China, and it is most likely during the period of their flourishing that mantı (see mantou) entered the diet of the Turks. A kind of dumpling still eaten with enthusiasm by virtually all the Turkish peoples, this dish may derive its name from the Chinese. It should not be thought, however, that culinary influences flowed in only one direction. The delight taken in stuffing not only pasta but also intestines and vegetables is so widespread and constant a feature in Turkish cuisine (see, for example, dolma) that it would be difficult to regard it as a mere borrowing. On the contrary the presence of stuffed dishes in the cuisine of N. China may well be a symptom of Turkish influence, although it is possible that the transmission took place in the era of Mongol dominion, some six centuries later.