Humble Beginnings of Culinary Masterworks: Turkish Börek

A culinary masterpiece that embodies the ingenuity of Turkish cuisine

Dough wrapped on a rolling pin (2023) by GoTürkiyeGoTürkiye

From Flour to Culinary Artistry

The union of mere flour, water, and salt makes up the foundation for a wide variety of remarkable dishes in Türkiye.

Turkish cuisine offers some of the most timeless dishes, a diverse tapestry of flavours, textures and ingredients, shaped by centuries of culinary finesse and cultural influences. The wondrous tradition of baking and dough-making has also made its place at the heart of this culinary heritage.

Layers of dried phyllo dough (2023) by GoTürkiyeGoTürkiye

It All Starts with Yufka

Dough-making practice in Türkiye started with yufka, unleavened sheeted dough, and led to the creation of an array of savoury dishes called börek.

Miniature of Ottoman Horse CampGoTürkiye

The origins of yufka can be traced back to the nomadic tribes of Central Asia to Anatolia, who made flatbread using flour, water and salt.

As these tribes settled in Anatolia, yufka-making became a solid tradition, contributing to the Turkish culinary culture as a pivotal element.

How to Make Yufka Bread

Rolled filo pastry preparations (2023) by GoTürkiyeGoTürkiye

Yufka was not just seasonal but also was considered a means of preserving food.

Thus it has become quite a staple over time in Türkiye, with simple, on-the-go recipes such as yufka wraps with various cheeses and vegetables to intricate yufka dishes like su böreği and mantı.

Rolling pin and dough (2023) by GoTürkiyeGoTürkiye

As yufka became more prevalent in Turkish culture, yufka-making has also become a culinary art on its own, which continues to be passed down through generations. While readymade yufka can be bought at any store nowadays, yufka-making is still a customary practice in rural regions.

Filo pastry preparations (2023) by GoTürkiyeGoTürkiye

The magnificent dishes that emerge from the union of mere flour, water, and salt, bear witness to the resourcefulness and ingenuity of the Turkish culinary maestros.

The result is a tasty börek that can be enjoyed from fine dining to everyday meals, and is often served to guests.

Pastry varieties with spinach and cheese (2023) by GoTürkiyeGoTürkiye

Börek is also widely popular as it is a dish that gives new life to leftover ingredients, turning them into delectable treats. Any remaining meat, cheese, and vegetables are repurposed into delicious börek, ensuring nothing goes to waste.

Pastry with meat filling, GoTürkiye, 2023, From the collection of: GoTürkiye
Pastry with meat filling, GoTürkiye, 2023, From the collection of: GoTürkiye
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Stacked yufka (2023) by GoTürkiyeGoTürkiye

Yufka from Scratch

Along with their impressive culinary artistry, börek starts with the craft of yufka-making demands specific equipment.

Turkish filo rolls, GoTürkiye, 2023, From the collection of: GoTürkiye
Layered pastry with spinach, GoTürkiye, 2023-01-01, From the collection of: GoTürkiye
Layered pastry with spinach and cheese, GoTürkiye, 2023, From the collection of: GoTürkiye
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A sheet of ready-made yufka (2023) by GoTürkiyeGoTürkiye

The aforementioned process consists of four steps, in addition to yufka-making equipment such as yufka tepsisi (yufka tray), oklava / merdane (rolling pin), and sac (griddle). 

Yufka making (2023) by GoTürkiyeGoTürkiye

First, the dough is prepared by mixing flour, water, and salt, then kneaded for several minutes until it becomes smooth and elastic and it is left to rest for at least 30 minutes. Once the dough has rested, it is then rolled out on a yufka tepsisi, into thin, circular sheets with an oklava.

A tray of rolled filo pastry, GoTürkiye, 2023, From the collection of: GoTürkiye
Tepsi börek with walnuts and cheese, GoTürkiye, 2023, From the collection of: GoTürkiye
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Pastry cooked on sac (2023) by GoTürkiyeGoTürkiye

The rolled-out yufka is then cooked on a sac, over an open flame. The yufka is cooked for a few minutes on each side until it becomes lightly browned and cooked thoroughly. Once the cooked yufka has cooled, it can be stacked on top of one another and stored away for later use. 

Yufka, thin layers of dough (2023-01-01) by GoTürkiyeGoTürkiye

In addition to its culinary significance, yufka also has a meaningful cultural place in Türkiye. Going beyond the kitchen, it has made quite a name for itself in the Ottoman Empire literature, continuing its legacy in contemporary Turkish poems as well as daily life.

In Turkish, yufka means ‘delicate, fragile’ which describes the nature of typical yufka as it is a thin, round flatbread. The metaphorical meaning of the word is commonly used in the Turkish language to refer to sensitive, soft-hearted people who are empathetic and kind.

Pastry cooked on sac (2023) by GoTürkiyeGoTürkiye

Yufka-making is also often a communal activity in preparation for winter, where women come together to make yufka, which is then stored in large wicker baskets. This brings women from different households to work and socialize, making it an essential part of the cultural heritage.

This tradition of unity and teamwork is deeply intertwined with many aspects of Turkish culture.

A meal set on a traditional tray (2023) by GoTürkiyeGoTürkiye

The dishes such as börek and gözleme made from the prepared yufka are then served on special occasions such as weddings, making yufka a symbol of togetherness in Türkiye.

In addition to its cultural significance, börek is also a practical choice for any event as it can be easily prepared in large quantities. It is also a versatile dish that can be adapted to suit a variety of tastes and dietary restrictions.

Yufka culture is inscribed on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity List.

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