Category Archives: History

Five facts you don’t know about Turkish coffee (via Hurriyet Daily News)

As Hürriyet writer and gourmet Mehmet Yaşin asked recently, where can we put Turkish coffee in the wider coffee world? How come people don’t desire it as much as they desire Italian, American, French coffees? Is it because of their advertisements or is it because of its taste? The answers might be in five facts that you probably don’t know.

1)    The origin of Turkish coffee is South Ethiopia, not Yemen

We always say that Yemen is the birthplace of coffee, but do we really know where its true origins are? According to history books, Kaffa in South Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee. Of course, at that time Ethiopians weren’t drinking coffee. They were blending the coffee seeds and making dough from the seeds to use in food products. Only after many years did Yemen start to produce coffee.

2)    It is the invention of a Muslim cleric, though it was once banned by Islam

The first person who discovered coffee was reportedly Ebu’l Hassan Şazeli, the founder of Şazeli sect. According to legend, while Sheikh Şazeli was on his way to the pilgrimage to Mecca in 1258, he boiled some of the coffee seeds in his pocket. But no one knows who gave him this recipe. Coffee sellers accept the sheikh as their patron saint. Because of this title, in the last decades of Ottoman Empire, every coffee shop had a banner reading “O His Holiness Sheikh Şazeli.”

According to Ottoman chronicler Solakzade, following the Egyptian expedition of Sultan Selim the Grim, coffee shop owners brought coffee seeds to Istanbul from Yemen, Cairo and Alexandria. The coffee was popularized in the daily life of the Ottomans during the rule of Süleyman the Magnificent. With the help of Turkish ambassadors, starting from Paris and Vienna, coffee earned a global reputation as it rapidly spread to all of Europe.

But such coffeehouses were also a new platform for social relationships and facilitated dissidents’ efforts to get organized. As such, Süleyman’s Shaykh al-Islam Ebu Suud Efendi soon issued an edict that declared coffee un-Islamic. Some 70 years after him, Sultan Murad IV not only prohibited coffee, but also demolished all coffeehouses in Istanbul.

3)    Its seed is actually Brazilian, not Arab

The seed of Turkish coffee is called “Rio Minas Gr. 5th type Arabica.” As its name shows, it comes from Brazil, not Yemen. And for this reason, it is very cheap and has very low standards. Rumor has it that with this taste, it hasn’t even made it onto the list of the “worst coffees” in New York.

4)    The seed’s quality is very low

According to coffee experts, “Rio Minas” tastes very salty and muddy. After all of these years, we’ve been drinking this defective product as a coffee!

For this reason we don’t know what a really good-quality coffee tastes like. A real coffee tastes a little bitter. For this reason, coffee producers have tried to decrease the level of bitterness for years. This is the reason why Turks don’t like the taste of “a real coffee.” Worldwide coffee lovers don’t have a high demand for Turkish coffee.

5)    Modern efforts are being made to improve it

Some people who are in the coffee business have started to look for higher quality seeds for Turkish coffee. Coffee associations work continuously to create a standard for coffee, and they also want to introduce delicious coffee to people who have the wrong sense of taste. One of them is Istanbul’s Mehmet Gürs, who has made it his mission “to increase coffee quality.” But he is also aware that it is very hard to change the classic coffee taste. His road appears to be very long and full of obstacles.

Mehmet Gürs

BONUS: How to cook the perfect Turkish coffee

From Beşir Ayvazoğlu’s book “Kahveniz Nasıl Olsun” (How Would You Like Your Coffee):  A good Turkish coffee needs to be cooked slowly, especially in the ashes of the fire. While it slowly boils, it will leave its foam. You have to boil very carefully, as the foam will soon spill over, yet it must stay. When you tell fortunes from the coffee cup, foam has an important role. The tiny bubbles in the foam are interpreted as the evil eye. Coffee pots must also be made of copper to boil the coffee to the right consistency.

How to cook the perfect coffee?

–    When you start boiling, the water must be 60 degrees at the start and should not exceed 88.5 degrees. According to experts, you need a thermometer to calculate the degree of the water.

–    For each glass, put 1 gram of coffee and 7 grams of water.

–    Coffeepots must be made from copper and if it’s possible, the inside of the pot must be covered with silver. The top of the pot must be narrow and the bottom must be wide. To avoid the muddy part at the bottom, you need to stir only once with a wooden spoon.

–    It needs to wait in the pot for 2-2.5 minutes after it’s boiled.

–    For the grounds of the coffee you need to wait for 1-2 minutes. Right before you drink, you have to clean your throat with a sip of water. When you finish drinking, you can eat a Turkish delight to sweeten your mouth.

–    According to experts, foam has an important role while presenting coffee, but it has no effect on taste.

–    Water is very important in the coffee. You have to avoid using tab water because of its PH level.

–    Also, blended coffee affects the taste. In one seed of Turkish coffee, there are between 15,000 and 35,000 particles. In espresso, this number is only 3,500.

–    After you roast the coffee, it is not correct to use it instantly. You have to wait for five to six days before using it.

–    There must be enough coffee grounds at the bottom for the fortune-telling session. In Turkish culture, if the ground amount is not enough for fortune-telling, the coffee is considered of low quality.


Written by: Mehmet Yaşin

Taken from Hurriyet Daily News

Excerpts: Taste of the rose (via Hurriyet Daily News)

The rose is more than a rose in this part of the world. The name of the rose, simply “gül” in Turkish, was once used to refer to all flowers, perhaps because it was the ultimate flower, perfect in shape, color, smell and moreover, in taste. Culinary use of the rose dates back to ancient times, but it is the Ottoman, Iranian and Indian cookery that make the most of the taste of the rose.

Rose-water or rose petals are used primarily in sweets and drinks, like the gulab-jamun of India, or rose-flavored sherbets and ices of Persian and Ottoman palace cuisines. Milk puddings, aşure and zerde always have a good splash of rose-water in Turkish cuisine, and the ultimate rose dessert is güllaç, as the name implies, it means “rosy dish”. In olden times, it was also used in savory dishes like meat stews, but this remains a thing of the past now, especially in Turkey. In Iran some salty dishes still have a touch of rose, one delightful example being Iranian cacık, the refreshing cucumber-yoghurt cold soup.

Apart from being a culinary delight, rose is also a remedy. Ottoman medicine praised rose for its curative properties. Ottoman medicine was based on a unique blend of the teachings of Hippocrates, father of western medicine and Avicenna (or Ibn Sina), his eastern equivalent for the Islamic world, who studied the Indian Ayurvedic system, Islamic practice and the ancient Greek medicine. According to Ottoman belief, rose is cool and refreshing; it smells sweet and lifts the spirits up.

Rose is a strong anti-depressant, that’s why rose-water is sprinkled on guests paying their condolences in the funeral house. Rose gives you a sense of light-hearted wellbeing, and that may be the sole reason why we all have a lofty mood when we hear “La Vie en Rose” playing. We may want to forget all our sorrows and heart-broken memories, but rose is also about remembrance. Rose oil is extremely good for memory – that used to be the best kept secret of Muslim imams. Dropping a few drops of rose-oil in between the sheets of Quran: rose aroma helps reciting the whole holy book from memory.

Rose may be symbolic for the Muslim faith, but it is also about the art of drinking. Persian poet Omar Khayyam wrote so profoundly of rose and grape and wine, and strangely rose was the secret ingredient of western drinks, like punches and juleps. The initial punch was actually “penç,” meaning five in Persian, and consisted of five ingredients, rose-water, grape juice (or wine), lemon juice, sugar and ice. It was taken on by crusaders and later travelled all the way to the Americas by the Portuguese sailors, just like julep, having its name from rose-water güllab (or gulab, culab). Eventually the taste of the rose faded away, but its name prevailed.

Things are what they are. In the case of a rose it is only a flower, but it is also about taste and smell; about forgetting and remembering.

As Gertrude Stein has written:

“Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose…  but a very tasty rose!”


Article by: Aylin Öney Tan


How It Was Started: Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream

Never before I found myself thinking at how could the Brits invented something so monumental in the culinary world other than the French. And this is why I should tell you about a lady once known as Agnes Marshall and her ice cream affairs, involving liquid nitrogen.

Agnes Marshall

The molecular gastronomy technique may perhaps was made known by Hervé This several decades ago and even more popular by celebrity chefs such as Heston Blumenthal or Ferran Adria. But many don’t know it was originally a Victorian era lady who actually invented the instant freeze technique for ice cream.

Of course it is also hard not to credit the French or the Austrian who were known for their excellence in culinary fields since long ago. It was also true that Agnes Marshall was once educated in Paris and Vienna. So there you go, a credit for you dear continental friends!

Liquid Nitrogen Ice Creams from Ron's Laboratory
Liquid Nitrogen Ice Creams from Ron’s Laboratory


However, the credit eventually goes back for Agnes Marshall as quoted from Hervé This’ book “Kitchen Mysteries: Revealing The Science of Cooking”:

“In 1901, at the Royal Institution of London, Agnes B. Marshall invented an ideal method for preparing ice cream or sorbet. It is ideal because, using her process, the ice crystals are tiny, as desired, and the preparation is extremely light because of the countless air bubbles introduced into it. And last but not least, the preparation can be made at the table, before your guests, in a few seconds. What is this marvelous contribution to gastronomy?

Agnes Marshall proposed abandoning the classic, old-fashioned ice cream maker for liquid air, or, more precisely, liquid nitrogen. This transparent liquid, present in all chemistry and physics laboratories, is nothing other than nitrogen from air that has been cooled to -196C. I do not have to tell you that that is very cold.

When it is (slowly) poured into a preparation for ice cream or sorbet, it vaporizes immediately, absorbing the preparation’s heat and instantly freezing it. Penetrated by the cold, the preparation becomes filled with tiny ice crystals, while the liquid air passes into a gaseous state; the air bubbles are trapped in the ice cream or sorbet.

The whole thing takes place in an impressive cloud of white mist, the same kind that is used in shooting films when the director asks for fog. A guaranteed success!”

Liquid Nitrogen Strawberry Ice Cream from LIN
Liquid Nitrogen Strawberry Ice Cream from LIN

That’s how impressively Hervé This described the whole invention done by Agnes Marshall so poetically that will surely make any scientific, nerdy, dessert-loving people run right away to the nearest ice cream parlor. That’s how we cherish upon the invention made by the lady, even I found from one source who describes Agnes Marshall as an “ice cream hottie”.

In addition to that, Agnes Marshall also published books about ice cream and cookery while also living a unique life at that time as a public lecturer, cooking instructor, and also running a school of cookery. It is much like nowadays dream job for young aspiring chefs in Indonesia, more than a century later after Mrs Marshall.

How It Was Started: Churros

Who doesn’t love churro? Formed like a shooting star as described in children storybook; churro is shaped long (and bigger, abroad), crispy on the outer, a bit chewy inside that will make you instantly remember donut, and all those majestic sauces that complement this Spanish doughnut really nicely.

The churros fever probably started like a few years ago in Indonesia, thanks to a local chain restaurant that brought it, however, despite the on and off popularity in Indonesia, the seemingly simple snack has its way written in history although never clear with its origin.

Some say that the Spanish shepherds from the mountainous Andalusia invented it, but I’d like to think that many European during the High Medieval era were pretty much absorbing any kind of information and technology from their neighboring Muslim countries or as far away as the Chinese Empire through their ever-wandering sailors and traders.

Churros from Bengawan, Keraton at The Plaza - Jakarta
Churros from Bengawan, Keraton at The Plaza – Jakarta

First we have to see the possible explanation about the origin of the famous cakwe or youtiao here in Indonesia. We’d think right away that the Chinese immigrants brought these lovely snack to our archipelago many many years ago. And by many many years ago, I mean during the height of exploration age of the Ming Empire. Although it is also never unclear here about when and how these cakwes ever get here, but let us see the Ming Empire policy also in those days.

Portuguese sailors arrived at this massive Far East empire during roughly the same age. They discovered an interesting dish called youtiao but never really knew how it was made and the knowledge was limited only to the basic ingredient of this dish – flour. On how they manually stretch the dough and reached the characteristics as we all know from cakwe / youtiao, they never really knew.

Some say that during those days, capital punishment was harshly regulated for those who gave any information about the empire, including this ridiculously simple recipe. The Portuguese sailors returned to Iberia and began the craze about how to make this stuff, in their own interpretation.

However, it was actually the conquistadors who ultimately popularized the dish upon their bloody, savage conquests in America. Safe to say, sometimes I found churros become more popular in Latin America countries than in Spain itself.

Also, regarding the technique itself that differentiates clearly from the Chinese way, is the use of this device where the dough is inserted into it and squeezed all the way through a tube until it became stretched. All before making its way to the deep-fry hot pool.

It is an interesting take of youtiao, but if you compare it with how it is actually less dense and airy texture when it comes to the original recipe, churro becomes the clear opposite to that. Sometimes the outer part may be equally crispy or even crispier, but the use of star tube to shape the churro is also what makes it intriguing and good looking.

The sauces become the vital part for churro as well. Some inserted liquid chocolate inside the dough, but many use dipping sauce of many kinds. From white chocolate, dark chocolate, milk chocolate, and dulce de leche; or even the fruity and savory version by using guava or melted cheese; you name it. Each country has specifically their own style on how to serve this delicacy and some even turn it into breakfast dish also!

Churros from Churreria, Jakarta
Churros from Churreria, Jakarta

So, how about you? It’s always cakwe at the end of the day for me but a little bit of sweet now and then from the chocolate and caramel for churros wouldn’t hurt, right?

Enjoy your snacking time!

How It Was Started: Martabak Toblerone and Martabak Nutella (Martabak 65A)

Around last year, Jakartans were developing some sort of intense madness towards a spin-off of the usual martabak recipes and that was because of the use of Toblerone or Nutella as the alternate toppings.

During my coverage for The Foodie Magazine last November, I instantly received the revelation right away from the owners of Martabak 65A. Danniel, the second generation owner, actually confessed that initially they were about to shift into delivery business after Eid last year.

Martabak Pecenongan 65A 3

“We have bought two motorcycles and learn the know-how of delivery business, but I decided to give it an earlier start for our new recipe using Toblerone and Nutella”, said Danniel.

In no time, the innovative recipes soon drove Jakartans mad and one may queue for around two hours just to get their share of martabak. Thanks to Danniel’s activity on social media promoting about it, even more people came by to see the mythical creatures themselves. While you might be on the conservative side for martabak, it’s actually interesting to test a new angle with the concoctions – especially when that involves the legendary Toblerone, Nutella, and also Skippy.

Martabak Pecenongan 65A 1

“Perhaps by now, the motorcycles are already blanketed with dust”, said Danniel laughing about it.


Martabak 65A
Jalan Pecenongan no. 65A, Jakarta
T: +62.21.350.4081

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