Turkish Food of the Week #3: Çiğ Köfte
To many people, the name of this week’s Turkish food may not sound very appetizing. Translated into English, çiğ köfte (pronounced: chee kuf-teh) literally means, “raw meatballs.” As a 10-year vegetarian, I would be the first one to run away from this food. However, this “raw meatball” dish is-usually-100% vegan.
A dish from Eastern Turkey, çiğ köfte is traditionally a spread consisting of uncooked lamb or beef, bulgur wheat, tomato and pepper paste and spices. In recent years, making it with raw meat has been banned. You can still find the raw meat version around Turkey, especially in traditional neighborhoods and restaurants, but it is very rare. Now, çiğ köfte is typically prepared with bulgur wheat, tomato and pepper paste and spices, thus making it a 100% vegan treat.
One of the most common ways to eat çiğ köfte is by spreading it on a lettuce leaf and adding lemon. However, you’ll often find çiğ köfte served in a thin wrap with lettuce, tomato, lemon, spicy sauce, and maybe some mint or arugula. Pair it with some ayran,a refreshing yogurt and salt drink that I am very fond of, and you have the perfect combination of savory and spicy.
You can find çiğ köfte all over Istanbul and other cities in Turkey. It is typically sold in small restaurants that only sell çiğ köfte, or very little else. At no more than 4TL (approximately $1.86 or 1,41 EUR at time of publishing) for a çiğ köfte wrap, this is a cheap, healthy and delicious Turkish snack for vegans and non-vegans alike!