May 4, 2017

Istanbul. June, 2007

When I first heard of tavuk göğsü, the famed Turkish dessert made from chicken breast, I had mixed feelings. The food adventurer in me couldn’t wait to try it. The rest of me gagged. Following a tradition that some say goes back to ancient Rome but that peaked under the Ottoman sultans, the chicken breast is pounded to a thread-like consistency, then boiled with cracked rice, water, milk and sugar before being spread in a pan to cool. Cut into rectangles, it is often rolled up and dusted with cinnamon for serving. It sounded to me like something that might best be sampled in private, so I bought a portion at Saray, the big pastry shop on the Istiklal Caddesi and took it back to my hotel room. Creamy yet unctuous, gamey yet slightly sweet, with a mucilaginous texture suggestive of day-old tapioca, this pudding did for me what many non-syrupy Turkish sweets do -- left me wanting something additional to bring it all together. A fruit sauce? A salad? Something. I finished it, was happy to have tried it, and remained respectful of the tradition behind it and determined that this was indeed a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

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