Culinary Capital: Delhi has a new love affair with Turkish cuisine

Pide, baklava, kisir and Urfa are no longer exactly foreign names in Delhi’s food lexicon. Just as gelato and polenta or gyoza and onigiri from Italy and Japan entered food terminology a decade or so ago, authentic Turkish dishes are now making their presence felt on menus in the national capital. Not only that, the city’s love of all things light, healthy, and delicious has spawned a number of signature Turkish restaurants, and some trace back to chefs from Turkey who have come to live up to their promise of authenticity.

Sharad Madan, co-founder of the Khubani restaurant, which opened in Aerocity earlier this year and has devoted a large section to Turkish cuisine, said, “The relevance of Turkish cuisine to the Indian palette and flavors makes it more acceptable. It started being made in India about 20 years ago, but has become popular in the last three years.”

Sharad Madan, the co-founder of the Khubani restaurant, which opened in Aerocity earlier this year, devoted a large section to Turkish dishes.
Chef Onur from Turkey, who directs the kitchens of Ophelia in Chanakyapuri and Cozy Box in One Golden Mile, says, “Turkish cuisine has many similarities with north Indian cuisine, which is why it is appreciated by the people of Delhi.” In fact, he says it touches exactly the same taste buds as North Indian food, adding that Ophelia has grown in popularity in the last five years since they launched it. To pair the cocktails with Turkish food, Ophelia also looked forward to a Turkish bartender.
Chef Onur from Turkey, who directs the kitchens of Ophelia in Chanakyapuri and Cozy Box in One Golden Mile

Chef Sagar Bajaj of Diablo, a Middle Eastern restaurant in Mehrauli, says that Turkish dishes are naturally healthy and atmospheric, while their smoky flavors are perfectly suited to the Indian palate. Although its roots have been in India since the 11th century, the cuisine has now become commercially popular.
Pita Breads by Rizq

Bajaj says Turkish food is rich in flavor but mild in spices, making it the perfect comfort food to eat out. However, she adds, “To maintain its authenticity, it is important to learn local Turkish cooking techniques, use local products, and keep the natural flavors intact.”

To meet the authenticity rate, restaurants are flowing with expert chefs from Turkey. For example, Madan says that the chef at Khubani is an eighth generation Ottoman cuisine expert. “All the dishes she cooks are based on 400-year-old recipes,” she says. “Adana kebab (shredded lamb kebab) is among the favorite Turkish dishes in India.”

Nawras Mustafa Ayoubi, executive chef at the newly opened RizQ in the Defense Colony, was born in Syria and has tried Turkish dishes in restaurants around the world.
Nawras Mustafa Ayoubi, executive chef at the newly opened RizQ in the Defense Colony, was born in Syria and has tried Turkish dishes in restaurants around the world. “Mediterranean cuisine is becoming very popular all over the world because people find healthy yet delicious options there. Starting in the early 2000s, it’s gaining popularity as more and more people start to explore Greece, Turkey, Egypt and their food.” Ayoubi says that at RizQ they also import ingredients and use authentic cooking and serving techniques from Turkish cuisine to maintain their superiority. Among the world’s most famous Turkish dishes, he says, are Doner shawarma, Ali Nazik kebab, Qawarma (confined canned from chopped meat) and all kinds of kafta (in Turkey, every region has its own kafta dish).
Turkish kebabs from Rizq

Chef Onur said, “As Adana kebab and urfa are now top favourites, there are many options in Delhi that those who love Turkish cuisine have yet to explore. The way the butter chicken-loving Delhiite takes on flavors will soon replace or equate to Chinese or Italian food in Delhi.