Eating Gluten Free in Turkey

So exactly how easy is it to eat gluten free in Turkey? Would every meal
come accompanied with a side of couscous, bread or even flour coated frozen
chips?

About a month before our trip to Turkey I’d been to a Middle Eastern
restaurant in London. Although during that meal I had avoided the obvious
gluten-containing elements of the meze (like bread and filled filo pastry
parcels), foolishly I hadn’t checked the ingredients of the stuffed vine
leaves (assuming it was rice) or the gravy to my main course lamb stew. I
know, very schoolgirl error, and it’s no surprise that I ended up being
glutened. Having spent several weeks recovering from that episode, I was
none too keen to get ill again so I stayed away from shared meze plates
where I could not see individual components. I ordered separate dishes of
hummus with salad or had simple vegetable dish with it. Hummus wasn’t quite
the same without bread but at least I didn’t totally miss out!

So how easy was it to eat gluten free in Turkey? It was actually much
easier than I had feared before my trip. Rice, not couscous, appeared to be
the accompanying carb of choice for most main meals. Restaurants were able
to accommodate cooking gluten free (with the help of Coeliac Travel cards).
Almost all the meals I ate came served with plain boiled rice and grilled
vegetables in varying degrees of fanciness. As for the meat, I was quite
surprised by how flavoursome the lamb was. At home I don’t eat much red
meat so it was quite a treat! One item to watch out for which I hadn’t come
across before was orzo. It was essentially small grains of wheat pasta made
in rice shapes. I did look quite like rice, especially over dinner when the
sun had set and a couple of glasses of the delicious local Lal rose wine
has been consumed!

Here are some ideas of widely available menu choices which can be cooked
gluten free for your holiday in Turkey:

Chicken shish kebab
Lamb shish kebab
Grilled lamb chops
Grilled fish – try the “Akya” / silverfish – absolutely delicious grilled

Lamb shish kebab

Prawn kebab

Baked banana with flaked almonds (yum!)

The only real drawback with eating out in Turkey was that menu choices were
often quite limited for me. Although this wasn’t a massive problem in the scheme of things when you see the photos above of what was on offer! On our last night we went to an up-market place located right on the harbour front of the town we were staying in for what promised to be a very special meal.

The restaurant had a very extensive menu packed full of Turkish specialties to choose from and I was looking forward to a great meal. I selected a 1st, 2nd and 3rd choice from the menu’s main courses (just in case!) of dishes I thought should be safe to eat but it turned out none of them could be cooked for me. This was a big disappointment, my 3 top choices looked amazing. The waiter offered me plain grilled fish but in the end I settled on a fillet steak which came with boiled vegetables. Not very Turkish for the last night of our holiday
and I was totally underwhelmed by my meal. On the positive side, I felt the restaurant took my gluten intolerance seriously and the waiters came to check with me several times on what I could / couldn’t eat which was very reassuring at least.

When I look back on the week, the stand-out meal was probably one of the
most simple. A grilled Akya (silverfish) fillet, chunky like a
thick tuna steak which came served with homemade thick hand cut chips and salad.
Not only was it delicious, but the story of how the fish got to my plate was
somewhat unusual. A few minutes after I’d placed my order with the waiter,
a white van from the local fish market pulled up outside our restaurant. Out
jumped a man carrying a piece of fish wrapped in newspaper and delivered it
to the kitchen. The restaurant was pretty empty and soon after the fish’s
delivery and the smell of fish grilling soon filled the air so I’m sure it was my
little Akya! Sadly, it tasted so good I didn’t have time to take a photo of
it. You’ll have to take a trip to Turkey to experience it yourself!

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6 Comments

  1. Lyndsay0
    September 2, 2010 / 8:59 pm

    Thank you so much for posting this!
    I am going to Turkey soon and was worrying what I would be able to eat there – this has helped a lot!

  2. Gluten Free Mrs D
    September 2, 2010 / 9:15 pm

    Hi Lyndsay0, thanks for the feedback. Whereabouts in Turkey are you off to? I'm sure you'll have a wonderful time, it's great country.

    Really recommend you download the Turkish language travel cards (link in my post above) before your trip. I've been to Turkey, France, Italy and Switzerland in the last couple of months and each time they've saved me from eating gluten. Can't recommend them highly enough. In Turkey, specifically, I felt the waiters sometimes said "yes, yes" when I explained what I could / couldn't eat but I wasn't always totally convinced they fully understood. The Coeliac Travel cards reinforced what I was saying, but in Turkish language.

  3. pauline
    March 11, 2012 / 2:55 pm

    hi thanks am going o turkey next year and was so worried that they wouldnt give right awnser as i am newbe were do i get card from also can you take your own gf bread

    • March 11, 2012 / 6:24 pm

      Hello, you’ll have a fantastic holiday in Turkey!

      I download my translation cards from the Celiac Travel website. They have cards in lots of different languages.

      I do tend to take gluten free bread with me, normally the Dietary Specials Brown Ciabatta rolls. I also take rice cakes ( which are very light in your luggage) as well as some crisp breads. I found it easy to find houmus and other gluten free dips in Turkey so definitely a food idea to take things which you can use as dips.

      Hope you have brilliant time!

  4. Denise Alves
    September 18, 2012 / 3:06 pm

    Thank you so much for your post… I am heading Turkey for honeymoon and I was getting anxious because of the food issues. I loved the travel cards, I am taking this with me!!!!!

    • September 18, 2012 / 5:42 pm

      I hope you have a wonderful honeymoon and absolutely fantastic wedding day, how exciting!

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