October 12, 2017

Beyoğlu, Istanbul. June, 2007

On my long list of must-try food items in Istanbul was aşure, seen here on display at Saray on the Istiklal Caddesi. One of the oldest and most traditional desserts in Turkish cuisine, it’s also known as Noah’s Pudding, and therein lies the tale of its dubious origin. When the biblical flood subsided and the ark wound up on Mount Ararat, a celebration was called for as an expression of gratitude. But the ship’s stores were depleted, so those on the vessel made a sweet soup of everything they had left in the pantry. Today, especially in the “month of aşure” (following the Islamic holy day that honors Abraham’s sacrifice, Eid-ul Adha, or Kurban Bayrami in Turkish) but also throughout the year, the dish is made with upwards of 15 ingredients, including wheat kernels, chickpeas, white beans, rice, dried apricots, dried figs, raisins, orange, sugar, rose water, walnuts, almonds currants, hazelnuts, pomegranate...and whatever else is available. Some recipes call for a piece of the traditionally sacrificed meat to be simmered in the soup, too. There are regional variations, of course, and Saray’s may be the gussied-up urban version, but it was mighty good. And, do I have to mention, filling.

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