The Turkish pancake cooked on the street
The woman sits on the ground smiling at me… she knows I have already made up my mind. The man keeps talking loudly and fast… he’s too preoccupied with his spiel to notice that I’ve taken a step forward.
It’s hard to resist the lure of the gozleme in Turkey. It’s cheap, it’s quick and it’s tasty. It might even be good for you – I’m not sure, I tried not to think about that as I moved closer to have my second of the day.
She reaches towards her ingredients, the woman on the ground, as I nod and ask for a gozleme with spinach and cheese. The scattering of flour across the table and her clothes shows she’s a professional. Only someone comfortable with their work would leave their studio in such a state.
She chats with her friends, all also sitting cross-legged on the ground, as she begins. One of the best things about the ‘Turkish pancake’, as it’s colloquially known, is that you get to watch it be cooked right in front of your eyes.
Here’s how it’s done… and, as you’ll see, it’s really simple.
The woman pulls out a mound of dough she’s keeping in an airtight container. It’s a mixture of plain flour and wholemeal flour that has been kneaded with water and a small amount of salt the night before. The best dough is left overnight before being used in a gozleme.
She puts it onto a board and attacks it with a rolling pin. Back and forth she moves the wooden stick, wrapping the sticky dough around it, before peeling it back off. She flicks flour over the top, bringing the mixture to the right consistency.
Over half the dough, in the shape of a semi-circle, she drops on a pile of chopped spinach and spreads it out. Then, using her fingers, she breaks small chunks of feta cheese over the top of the spinach. Oh, and don’t forget a bit of oil.
The large hot plate sizzles next to her. It’s round, convex, and looks like the top of an enormous metallic mushroom. She throws the rolled out dough over it and the smell of cooking bread wafts up.
Folding, turning, flipping. She traps the fillings inside the pancake and cooks both sides until they are slightly brown. With the heat coming off the plate, it doesn’t take long.
And then it’s done. The hot packet of tastiness is complete and she wraps it up into a cylinder and puts it into a paper bag. The man then presents it to me. The cooking here is the woman’s job – the transaction is left to the male.
One of the reasons the gozleme is so popular in Turkey, one of the reason why I love them so much, is that the fillings offer so much variety. There’s the sweet – chocolate, fruit… and the savoury – vegetables, meat. For every time of the day there is an option, a reason to be drawn back to the pancake-makers of the country. And for only a dollar or two, it’s one of the best deals around.
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