What’s the Turquoise Riviera?
The Turquoise Riviera (also known as the Turkish Riviera or the turquoise coast) is the name generally given to the stretch of beautiful waters encompassing the provinces of Antalya, Muğla and the southern Aegean of Izmir.
In short, it's a region of breathtaking natural beauty, with a warm climate, warm sea, mountainous scenery, gorgeous beaches, thousands of kilometers of coves and shorelines to explore, and much more - not to mention the inland waterfalls and forests and hiking trails and more.
The history of the region is equally breathtaking, with hundreds (yes, hundreds) of ancient cities, harbors, tombs, and two of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Many of the great myths of Greek mythology took place along this riviera in addition to being the birthplace of figures like Santa Clause (Saint Nicholas) and more.
This is a region that has a lot going for it, and has had a lot going for it for a number of years. The cuisine reflects that, and as much as the fresh produce and fresh fish are incredible in their own right, here are a few local dishes to try that you’ll only find in this region, many of which have been passed down over centuries.
Piyaz With Tahini
Piyaz is a delicious white bean salad that you'll find all over Turkey. Traditionally, it's made with white beans (navy beans), onions, tomatoes, peppers and olive oil all mixed together. But along the Turquoise Riviera there's a different style.
Piyaz along the Mediterranean coast is similar, it still features the same ingredients of white beans, onion, tomatoes, peppers and olive oil. But it adds hard-boiled eggs and douses the lot in a runny tahini dressing that is light and mixes with the juices of the the tomatoes and olive oil to create a dish that tastes entirely different but is truly excellent.
Stuffed Zucchini Flowers
Turkish cuisine is all about making "dolma" or "stuffed" foods out of everything, but stuffed zucchini flowers represent some of the lightest, most attractive-looking foods in all of Turkish cuisine. The dish is most common in the spring and summer when the flower itself is freshest and grows all along the Turquoise Riviera. It truly is light, with the flowers themselves delicate and the spices used light and refreshing. It's usually stuffed with rice, mixed with pine nuts and herbs and spices and perhaps some dried currants to give it a touch of sweetness as well for the perfect summer appetizer.
This rice dish is particularly well known in Kuşadası, made with chickpeas as well as meat, shallots, garlic, and tomatoes before being spiced and cooked in olive oil. The oil from the meats as well as the juices of the tomatoes blend together and get soaked up into the rice, so the dish itself is filling and scrumptious.
While kebabs are usually associated with the Southeast of Turkey, Çökertme kebab hails from the small village of Çökertme in the Milas district of Muğla province. It's a tasty treat made using marinated strips of veal that are served with healthy dollops of garlic yogurt and a tomato sauce. It's popular all over Bodrum and Marmaris in Muğla and is a must-try when you're traveling along this part of the Turquoise Riviera.
Octopus Stew – Ahtapot Yahni
Octopus is a popular seafood in the coastal restaurants along the coast of Muğla between Bodrum and Fethiye. It's often made into a light salad, grilled, fried, or stewed in this traditional dish. Octopus is stewed in a pot with spices, herbs, sometimes capers and olives and cooked well together so that the octopus becomes unbelievably tender and takes on the flavor of the broth it's cooked in. It's a wonderful way to cook and the flavor is unlike just about any other form of Octopus.
Karaville (Snail Stew)
This stew is local pretty much only to the Datça peninsula. It's a fall dish, made when snails first pop their heads out after the first rain following the summer. The snails are washed in salt water and cooked with red pepper, tomatoes and seasoned with garlic and lemon. Locals believe the dish to be exceptionally healthy and even to cure various ailments.