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A Guide to Aegean Meze

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By: Erhan Kostepen

A Guide to Aegean Meze

Whether you’ve personally experienced it, or it is on your bucket list of must-tastes, you’ve likely heard something of Meze. Mezes are most commonly associated with the Aegean region. If you are about to embark on a voyage of discovery into the world of mezes, you need the right guide. That’s what I tried to aim for when putting together this article. I look forward to welcoming you at Doya and try for yourself.

Importance of Food in Turkish and Greek Culture

In Turkey and Greece, food is considered a social event and the mezes are what bring people together. We always say that the key ingredient is conversation, which you will know if you have ever tried to get a word in around a busy and lively Turkish or Greek family dinner table! 

The one ingredient I like to add is love. Love is put into all my food. At Doya, I can guarantee you will always find dishes that have been prepared with love. 

Due to the country’s location, as a crossroads between the Mediterranean and the Far-East, Aegean cuisine is famous for beautiful ingredients and exciting flavors. So, what do mezes entail? 

Understanding Meze Culture

Rather than being quick appetizers, mezes are designed to be savored among friends and family, with drinks, particularly Raki, the infamous sweet and usually anise-flavored alcoholic beverage.

When mezes are served up, you take small amounts from each of the plates you like (or like the look of, if it is new to you) and put them on your own plate to enjoy them. Although they can be served as dishes in their own right, in Turkey and Greece, mezes are normally served as a starter to a meat or fish main. 

Don’t worry though, we are not going to judge if you order everything at the same time. We just want you to enjoy it. We want to you to be able to try many different flavors!

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What To Expect From Mezes?

If you have never tried mezes before, you may be looking for a bit more detail into what they contain. Although compared to Spanish Tapas at times, the big difference is that while tapas are designed to be eaten at the bar, sitting on a stool or standing up, meze is a sit-down at the table and savor the flavors. 

There is a wide variety of different types of mezes, with some being served cold and others being served hot. If you were visiting Turkey, for instance, it would depend on what region and what tastes and flavors were preferred there as to which appetizers appeared in mezes. 

“My plan with Doya is to reflect that variety by offering flavors and dishes from different regions, switching up the menu from time to time and by offering seasonal dishes, available for a limited time only”.

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My Idea of the Perfect Meze

My idea for the perfect mezes table is to have a diverse and exciting variety. For example, I would recommend not to have too many garlicky and spicy appetizers on the same serving. While a good bit of spice and garlic are definitely okay, I prefer to include a lot of soft, soothing, and natural choices too. It is all about natural flavors, and the maintaining or complementing the integrity of a beautiful ingredient.

For instance, I would always serve a spicy meze like an Acili Ezme (consisting of ripened heirloom tomatoes crushed with hot red peppers, onions, and spices) alongside a soothing yogurt-based meze like a Haidari (a refreshing mixture of yogurt and dried mint).

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Texture Is Just As Important

That’s not to say everything should be mashed, mushy, or pastes. I personally appreciate a bit of crunch and texture. The hot mezes, rather than the cold ones, are where you are most likely to get that crunch from.

Although I am going to go into greater detail about this vital ingredient in a future post, it’s important to note that no meze table is complete without eggplant… 

Variety is the Spice of Life With Meze

When you eat meze, you are not supposed to fill you up, it is designed to give you a nice variety of different flavors. You take a bit of this, a bit of that, and then sip some Raki and then a few bites of something else. Perhaps next you might order a whole grilled fish or any of our authentic meat dishes straight from the coal fired grill. All with some wood-fired bread, we bake ours freshly at Doya and I am extremely proud of it.

So, why don’t you come along and give it a try for yourself? Bring along your family and friends for the authentic taste of the Aegean region.

Erhan Kostepen is the Executive Chef and co-owner of Doya