Today I decided on a whim (and sadly, without sunscreen) to ride my bicycle to Delran, New Jersey. I already knew of the well-stocked Turkish shops and restaurants that exist there. I had a craving for lahmacun and it was time for a return visit. From Germantown, the trip took just over an hour.
So far, from what I’ve seen, Queen Village Market is the best selection of specialty foods from Turkey in Philadelphia. Cross the bridge however, and you can stumble in to an area of shops and restaurants where Turkish is the primary language and specialties from Turkey are abundant.
I started at Efes International Market (“Efes” is the Turkish name for Ephesus, the historical city near present-day İzmir). As usual, all of my explored markets can be found on my map. This market is well stocked with standard dry ingredients and preserves. You can find Uluğdağ sodas in large quantities, sausages, cheeses, coffee, tea, preserves. Red pepper paste, and dried foodstuffs. Breads are freshly baked into giant poofy loaves, like you might find in Eastern Turkey, and there is also a substantial meat market. There are also locally prepared Turkish sweets: baklava, talumba, among others.
There is also a “cafe” menu. I was shocked to find kokoreç (popular in the Balkans, Greece, and Turkey, this is roasted or fried inside parts of goat or sheep–intestines, hearts, lungs, and other things–spiced and made into a delicious sandwich). Unfortunately they were out of needed ingredients today. Bummer. I bought some Turkish pine nuts and some tarhana soup mix. I knew there was a nearby bakery that also does lahmacun (aka “Turkish Pizza”–of course this became popular in Turkey after its popularity in the east, aka “Arabic Pizza”), and opted to go there next.
There is also a mantı restaurant! I have yet to try it.
Ebru Bakery has a variety of items for sale. Of note you can find fresh simit, pastries and breads with various fillings: beef, olives, feta cheese. They also have a place to sit down and enjoy pide or lahmacun. The staff is very welcoming, but they have very limited English. Fortunately for me, I was a liberal arts major and studied Turkish in college. The lahmacun was pretty tasty. Wasn’t the best I’ve ever eaten, but it was very nice for three bucks a piece after an hour on the bicycle.
Great lahmacun restaurants in Turkey are an absolute joy. Again, wood-fire ovens are best. A very thin dough is prepared with a thin topping of ground meat and spices. It is baked for a short time on high heat, and the result is a fully cooked topping with a pliable yet crunchy base. It is served often with onions, lettuce, and lemon. Pile on the cold veg, and roll it into a pizza-burrito.
One item that I have not yet seen for sale in Philadelphia (due in part to limitations with the state monopoly of liquors that can be legally sold) is rakı. Rakı is a popular liquor in Turkey, anise-flavored and very similar to ouzo in Greece. It is often served with a pair of glasses, one for water, and one for rakı mixed with cold water and/or ice. When you mix this clear spirit with water or ice, it becomes cloudy. Hence the nickname “lion’s milk”. See figure 2. Rakı can be found at Joe Canal’s in Delran.
Drinking rakı also requires–according to my friends who apparently are authorities–a variety of meze for accompaniment. At the very least there should be some white cheese on the table (similar to feta). Other classic pairs would be cantaloupe melon, stuffed grape or cabbage leaves (dolma), babaganoush, etc.
Finally, I learned about another Turkish market in Delran, after speaking with a girl at the bakery: Four Seasons Farmer’s Market. This market, next to “Ricky’s Army & Navy Store”–complete with field cannon in the parking lot–is a pleasure. There is an excellent variety of non-perishable items, great fridge/freezer section, a fresh vegetable section, and a deli counter that does döner sandwiches. There is also a nice selection of cheeses and sweet pastries.
Another notable highlight is they also seem to specialize in Croatian items. There are several non-perishables, cheeses, sausages from Croatia that catch my eye.
From the freezer section, check this out: instant künüfe, to be prepared at home (hopefully it will last my long journey home). Künüfe is a really interesting pastry enjoyed in Turkey and the Middle East, made from finely shredded dough, filled with a fresh unsalted mozzarella-like cheese, it is baked, and finally drenched with syrup. In Turkey it is amazing. We’ll see how this one turns out…