Traditional Food Culture



Village women preparing traditional Flat Bread and 'Chechil' Cheese

Ayten İlingi from Cakmak Village preparing 'Mantı' (traditional ravioli)

The rich regional food culture in the Kars Province is representative of the many ethnic groups that have inhabited the region over millennia, each adding new tastes and skills to local customs. The climate is harsh with long Siberian-like winters, and the region is known for animal husbandry. As animals graze on the rich local flora, the quality of meat and milk is considered excellent, and villagers make an array of delicious cheeses. Kars has a reputation for including large portions of meat in the daily diet. Nevertheless, most of the traditional dishes are based on local grains, pulses, wild greens and fruits. Dairy products add flavor, fat and protein.

With our expert, Turkish food writer and columnist
Tijen Inaltong, we visited many village women and cooked with them. We shared the delicious preparations and talked about the different ways they prepared food on regular and special feast days. This information is now being compiled into a book. Below, in an extract from the drafted book, Ayten Ilingi from Cakmak Village shares her childhood memories on how her mother prepared and cooked traditional freeze dried gooze and the accompanying Emmer Pilaf:

“In the old days, they would wait until October-November so that the goose “ate snow”, before they ate it, the meat would taste better then. But nowadays, with global warming, the snow comes much later, therefore people would have to wait until December. Many families raise geese in villages near Kars. Each one owns around 20 to 40 geese. They hatch in April and are raised by the women or children until they are ready to be eaten. When the time comes, they are slaughtered, their feathers are plucked, and their insides cleaned. They are then washed and left to drain.  Once all the water is drained they are rubbed with rock salt. They are salted really well inside the chest and under the wings, so that they do not putrefy and smell bad. The geese are then lined up in a tightly closed wooden trunk burried in snow. They stay in the truck for a week, then are hung on a high place from their feet, and let to dry for another week.  Once dried, they are placed again in the trunk and kept in a safe place, usually outside of the house, for the whole winter. '' When my mother wanted to cook goose, she would clean the snow from the top of the trunk, then take a goose from inside” says Ayten. “She would then chop the goose, let it sit in water for 15 minutes to get rid of the salt, then wash it twice. The chunks were then placed in a pot, just about covered with water, then cooked. Rice, Bulghur but especially Emmer pilaf was made with the remaining broth. This pilaf was cooked in copper pots in the old days. Once the pilaf is cooked, it was placed on the plate and then the goose meat was placed next to it and eaten this way.”

“My mother also made manti [a type of ravioli] from goose meat. She would then cut the meat into fine pieces when the meat was still frozen. She said it was easier to cut this way. When she rolled out and cut the dough into bite size pieces, she would put the meat into the dough pieces, carefully close them, then place them in boiling water. Once cooked she would serve them with heated clarified butter (ghee) poured over them. She would add pepper to the oil for those who liked hot spice. Goose manti is not eaten with garlic yogurt, like other mantis.”

“Nowadays, those who live in the city cannot raise geese themselves, they buy it at the market live and cut it. There is a geese market in Kars in the winter and villagers bring them live to the market. [We learned from another village woman that one goose cost around $35] The gizzard and the intestines of the goose are also eaten. Some roast the gizzard others cook it with potatoes. The traditional way of cooking goose is to cook it whole hanged in the tandoor oven. The Emmer pilaf is then placed in a pot under it and cooked with the oil dripping from the meat, which is the most delicious and preferred way to eat goose in Kars region”.