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History, Types & Why People Like It
Some know it as ‘kofta’, others as ‘köfte’ and some prefer the term meatball. However, whatever name you have for it, the legendary Turkish köfte is one and only. Moreover, it is a traditional dish that has been the staple of Turkey since ancient years.
What Is Turkish köfte?
The Turkish köfte is a middle Eastern and South Asian meatball or dumpling. The actual word has derived from the Persian word ‘kūfta’ which means “to beat” or “to grind” or simply “meatball”. In its simplest form, the Turkish köfte consists of balls or fingers of minced or ground meat that is usually beef or lamb, mixed with some spices and onions.
Today, we are unveiling all the secrets behind Turkish köfte’s, including their origins, types etc. The meat is often mixed with many other ingredients such as vegetables, eggs, rice or bulgur - and comes in many different types. It can be grilled, fried, steamed, poached, baked or marinated - but the Turkish köfte’s natural form is grilled.
According to a study done by a private food company in 2005 in Turkey, there are more than 291 different kinds of Turkish köfte (kofta) in the country, where this food is most popular. But where does this specialty date back to?
History Of Turkish Köfte (Köfta)
The truth is, grilling meat on a stick started way back in Persian times as the simplest, most basic and ancient types of preparing food. The little pieces of meat were easier to grill and took less time than cooking an entire animal on a large joint. Being small and soft, the Turkish köfte was easy to hold in the fingers over an open fire.
In newer history, some people believe that the earliest forms of meatballs originally come from Iran. However, there is no doubt that the Turks got their hands on köfte on time and influenced them in the best way possible. The diversity was also increased and the dish became what we are talking about today - the ‘original Turkish köfte’.
The Turkish köfte has been changed and influenced by many different people over the years. Originally, it is a recipe that includes a meatball that is rolled in the form of an orange and then glazed with egg yolk and sometimes saffron. The method was even taken to the West with the Turkish civilization, evolving in many different types and forms.
No matter where you are in Turkey, there is no way you can avoid the traditional Turkish köfte a.k.a. The Turkish meatballs that come in all shades and shapes. There are hundreds of variants based on the ingredients, preparation and the shape.
Types Of Turkish köfte (Sis Köftesi, Izgara Köftesi etc.)
As we mentioned above, there is a large diversity when it comes to the Turkish köfte as a specialty. Basically, the diversity comes from many sources such as the minced meat (lamb or calf), the onion (grated or chopped), the cooking style (fried, grilled or baked), the variety and preferences in spices. Also, there are types of Turkish köfte based on the amount of oil or butter used for frying and ones that are based on the amount of fat that the meat has.
So, some of the most common Turkish köfte dishes include:
- Kuru köfte: Kuru refers to dry because the köfte has no dressing or sauce and comes in a kneaded and pan fried form. It is basically minced meat, egg, onion and bread crumbs, with some spices and köfte bahari (spices for meatballs).
- Dalyan köfte: Very similar to the kuru köfte and rolled as a big loaf with carrots, hard boiled eggs and peas in the center. The recipe is baked in oven and served in slices.
- İzmir köftesi: Deriving from the region of Izmir, this is basically the kuru köfte reinvented with potatoes and tomato sauce in a pot put on the stove or in the oven.
- Cig köfte: The Turkish cig köfte is another popular type that comes with fatless minced meat that is kneaded with some grinded wheat, as well as onion, tomato, red pepper paste and spices like cumin, paprika, mint, cinnamon or coriander. This type of köfte is raw which is why it is usually ordered as a starter.
- Sis köfte: Similar to the sis kebab, the sis köfte is wrapped around a skewer and grilled (the original type of grilling is on a charcoal fire).
- Harput köftesi: Small balls of kneaded and minced meat, combining onion, parsley, pepper and sweet basil that are cooked in a sauce of butter, water, tomato as well as red pepper paste.
- İzgara köfte: Similar meatball to the kuru köfte, the Izgara type comes without eggs and is grilled.
- İcli köfte: Combining roasted minced meat, walnuts and onions as well as coating of wheat, flour, egg and red pepper paste. This type of Turkish köfte looks like a big egg and is mostly fired (it can also be roasted).
- Mercimek köftesi (V): Red lentil and grinded wheat balls kneaded with onion, parsley and tomato paste - and usually served with lettuce or rocket salad.
- İnegol köftesi: Balls of thoroughly kneaded minced meat, onion, pepper and prepare on the grill.
- Sulu köfte: Popular soup-like dish which includes small balls of kneaded meat, ginded wheat or rice, onion as well as parsley cooked in butter and tomato paste.
- Eksili köfte: Eksili type is also known as terbiyeli which is prepared just like sulu kofte with only one small difference which is the additional sour taste.
As you can see from the above mentioned types, the Turkish köfte takes many forms and combines many ingredients. The variety is what made the dish popular over the years and what remains (along with kebab) as one of the most popular Turkish dishes in the world.