Surrounded by the sea on three sides, Turkiye has been blessed with an abundance of fish. Although fish is not considered a main source of food for Turks, the people living near the seas, especially those in the Black Sea region, are very creative in their kitchens when it comes to the sea dweller.
Turkiye’s national fish
Hamsi, or Anatolian anchovies, could be considered Turkiye’s national fish. Abundant in the Black Sea, especially during the winter, it is more than a simple sea creature for the people of the Black Sea region. Locals have become very attached to all things hamsi related and, as a result, the fish has become a significant part of life in the region. Poems and songs have been written about hamsi. Bards from the north even travelled around Anatolia singing songs about the glorious fish. In fact, an entire cuisine has been devoted to hamsi in northern Turkiye, and the locals use it in almost every dish.
The silver, delicious beauty in all of its 12-to-15-centimetre glory is the tiny king of Turkish dinner tables. During the winter months, when the Black Sea is crawling with hamsi, this shiny little fish is quite a bargain.
There is a saying among native Black Sea people, “Foreigners eat hamsi without bones, but the people of the Black Sea eat it whole”. Indeed, most people eat hamsi without removing its bones, pan-fried whole.
Frying is the easiest way to prepare hamsi. Wash the hamsi and cover them with either regular flour or cornflour. Place them in a large well-oiled pan and fry for a couple of minutes on each side.
Hamsi with rice
Turks have always respected their past, and this is also the case when it comes to hamsi. This incredible fish was once the king of the Ottoman imperial kitchen, as well. Sultans preferred to eat it with a special kind of “pilav”, a dish made with rice. Although it is not as easy as the fried hamsi, Turks still cherish this tradition in their homes.
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