A Memorable Breakfast: The Allure of Turkish Scrambled Eggs

During a winter getaway at the Çırağan Palace Kempinski hotel in Istanbul, I had the pleasure of indulging in what turned out to be the most unforgettable breakfast of my life. Renowned for its gastronomic delights, Turkey did not disappoint, and this meal elevated my breakfast experiences to new heights. Seated in an opulent dining room adorned with Ottoman-era elegance, I found myself surrounded by a group of writers and chefs eager to savor the famed Turkish breakfast.

Turkish Scrambled Eggs

The table soon overflowed with a dazzling array of small plates, each more enticing than the last. From merguez sausages to cheese and pastrami-filled borek and grilled eggplant, the flavors tantalized my taste buds. To cleanse the palate, marinated olives provided the perfect interlude before the tart quince compote graced the table, leaving an unforgettable impression.

Among the multitude of Turkish breakfast staples, one dish stood out as the star of the show: the menemen. Though I had enjoyed menemen in the past, this rendition was unparalleled. Perhaps it was the grandeur of the surroundings, but the menemen (a delightful combination of scrambled eggs with tomatoes, peppers, and herbs) reached new levels of excellence. Its flavors danced on my palate, leaving me longing for more. Determined to recreate this masterpiece at home, I sought the guidance of three Turkish chefs for their insights into mastering the art of menemen.

Chef Mustafa Can Aydogdu, an esteemed Flying Chef for Turkish Airlines, shed light on a hotly debated topic in Turkey: the inclusion of onions in menemen. While some recipes call for onions, Aydogdu firmly stands on the side of "No Onion."

"The Turkish opinion on this matter is divided," he explained. "Some, myself included, argue that menemen is a breakfast dish and should be light. Furthermore, with good quality tomatoes and green peppers, the addition of onions becomes unnecessary."

Oğuzhan Purdeloğlu, the Executive Chef at the Argos Hotel in Cappadocia, shared Aydogdu's sentiments, stating that the inclusion of onions would result in an entirely different dish, no longer deserving of the name "menemen."

Convinced that onions were not necessary, I sought additional insights on possible additions. Aydogdu suggested thinly sliced sucuk (a dry, spicy Turkish sausage), white Ezine cheese, or yellow Kasar cheese to enhance the menemen. Sezai Erdoğan, the Executive Chef of Çırağan Palace Kempinski Istanbul, highlighted the transformative power of feta cheese. According to him, this simple addition elevates the dish to a whole new level, with the feta perfectly complementing the rich and savory menemen.

All three chefs emphasized the importance of ingredient selection. Erdoğan stressed the significance of choosing plump, perfectly ripened tomatoes to achieve unparalleled richness, depth, and natural sweetness. Overcooking was to be avoided, as it could compromise both texture and flavor.

Echoing the sentiment shared by many, all three chefs fondly recalled their mothers' role in their menemen experiences. Aydogdu reminisced about helping his mother prepare menemen during weekend mornings, marking his earliest memories of cooking. Erdoğan cherished the nourishment and satisfaction his mother's menemen brought him, while Purdeloğlu remembered the taste of his mother's version, with onions, green peppers, tomatoes, parsley, and Ezine cheese.

Upon my return to New York, I embarked on the quest to recreate the menemen that had left such an indelible mark during my time at the Çırağan Palace Kempinski. While it didn't quite reach the heights of the hotel's offering, my attempt yielded a satisfying result for a novice. It would have to suffice until my next visit to Istanbul, where I could once again bask in the glory of an authentic Turkish menemen.

Turkish scrambled eggs, or menemen, remain a cherished breakfast delight, evoking childhood memories and captivating the palates of those fortunate enough to experience their flavors. Whether enjoyed in the opulence of a grand hotel or lovingly prepared by a doting mother, menemen is a dish that transcends boundaries and captures the essence of Turkish cuisine.

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