Traditional Turkish Iftar, Rixos The Palm Dubai

A Turkish-style iftar is the culinary highlight of the Holy Month for Gourmet Editor Olivia
Monday , 06 August 2012
A spread of Turkish fare
A spread of Turkish fare
Whirling dervish performers
Whirling dervish performers

Having visited Istanbul, I had a benchmark for what traditional Turkish fare should entail. I was hoping Rixos would make good on their promise to deliver an authentic offering, and that they did – in abundance! 

With the appetisers from the set menu already on the table, there was, thankfully, no hungry wait in a buffet queue. The table was dotted with serving dishes brimming with dried fruit and nuts, olives, different cheeses and various veggie treats. The fresh green beans, with finely chopped onion and tomatoes cooked in olive oil, is a dish so simple and delicious that I didn’t want to share it.

Another firm favourite was the creamed kaymak cheese with raw honey (comb still intact) squashed inside fresh bread that’s pillowy on the inside and crunchy on the outside with bursts of toasted sesame seeds. It provided the best combo of textures and sweet and saltiness to keep me coming back for more.

Another thing you couldn’t keep me away from (noticing a trend here?) was the lentil soup – I had two bowls of this glossy, velvet-smooth goodness. After a hot starter of vine leaves stuffed with rice and meat with a slice of Turkish cheese pie, I could have happily relinquished my cutlery and admitted defeat. But, as Ahlan!’s culinary crusader, I had to eat on.

For a main course I opted for the braised beef on eggplant purée. Whatever space was left in my stomach exclaimed with joy at the soft garlicky mash and the tender beef. While my dinner companion was distracted by the whirling dervish performance (Semazen), I managed to sneak in a few bites of her baked lamb with bulgur rice accompanied by grilled tomato and pepper. The lamb was reduced to soft stringy pieces thanks to lovely slow-cooking and the bulgur rice (meyhane rice) was like a Turkish risotto packed with tomato and herb flavours. In terms of sweets, the little I managed to squeeze in was the absolutely delicious halwa and gullac (milky dessert during Ramadan).

INFO: Traditional Turkish Ramadan Experience, from sunset to midnight; Rixos The Palm Dubai, 04 457 5555, www.rixos.com.

On The Menu…
TRADITIONAL TURKISH RAMADAN EXPERIENCE STARTS FROM Dhs250
APPETISERS
Tahini and grape molasses
Honey and cream kaymak
HOT STARTERS
Turkish cheese pie
Stuffed vine leaves with meat and yoghurt
MAINS
Roasted eggplant purée with braised beef
Oven-baked konya kebab with bulgur rice, tomato and pepper and lavash bread
DESSERTS
Gullac with pistachios
Turkish bread pudding

Iftar Dishes Explained
DRINKS
Laban:
A diluted, slightly salty, tangy yoghurt drink. 
Kamradin: A staple beverage to break fast, made from apricot nectar.
APPETISERS
Kibbeh:
Bulgur wheat dough stuffed with seasoned ground lamb, onions and pine nuts.
Sambousek: A fried pastry stuffed with cheese or meat.
Harira: A soup made with a mix of chickpeas and lentils in a flavoursome tomato broth.   
MAINS
Lamb ouzi:
The main event of an iftar buffet, a whole lamb is marinated in a mix of spices and stuffed with spiced minced beef and nuts. 
Mouloukia: Mouloukia is a dark green leafy vegetable, most used in Egyptian cuisine. When cooked it takes on a texture similar to okra. It is typically stewed and served with rice.
DESSERT
Kunafeh:
Cheese pastry soaked in sweet syrup infused with rose water and topped with pistachios.
Mahalabia: A light, milk-based dessert (similar to a custard) that can be flavoured with orange, vanilla, cardamom or rose water.

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