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Classic Turkish Cooking

By Ghillie Basan

Published 1995

  • About
Rice would have been brought to Turkey from China, via India and Persia, by the migrating Turkic-speaking tribes. Although rice can now be found on every table it was not initially a staple of the Turkish diet, as the price was prohibitive. For centuries it was only eaten by the wealthy, who transformed it into a celebratory dish while the poor continued to live off wheat.

During the Ottoman period elaborate rice dishes were served at banquets and feasts, which often ended with a large platter of plain rice served with a bowl of stewed dried fruits, hoşaf, to clean the palate. Inferior rice was flavoured with spices, currants and pine nuts, and stuffed into vegetables; cooked with milk and sugar; baked into a heavy, moist bread; or soaked in water and ground to a pulp to form sübye, the basis of all traditional milk puddings. And the black slaves of the Ottoman courts were given the task of cooking aside, a mound of boiled rice which was lightly compressed and hollowed out to create a well in which a stew of meat, peppers and okra was served.