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Etli Ekmek and Oven-Baked Lamb in Konya

Konya is known for a number of things, most notably the whirling dervishes of the Sufi sect.  We had already visited a dervish show, so this time we were here for the food. The city is also well-known for its meat dishes. 

We’ve tried a meat borek that is delicious, and one really great dish called tandir kebab, which is a slow-cooked lamb; but on this trip we wanted another famous dish, etli ekmek (literally-meaty bread).

Etli ekmek looks somewhat similar to a pide (Turkish pizza) of which I’m not really much of a fan.  There is some spice that doesn’t set well with me, although, in all fairness, I haven’t really given it a chance.  Etli ekmek, on the other hand, is absolutely delicious!

So, as you drive into Konya restaurants that sell this dish are everywhere.  We didn’t want a real commercial place, we wanted a little hole in the wall where lots of people go.  So we drove just a little off the main road heading into the city center (sehir merkezi) and found a perfect place.

On one half of the restaurant was the oven, and the cooks.  We met the “usta” or chef, who was a bespectacled smiley guy.  He had a few plastic bins of different meat mixes, and trays and trays full of little balls of prepared dough.

As we watched, he took some dough and stretched it into a small oval (about 12 by 5 inches) and sprinkled the topping of choice on them.  We had one cheese, one cheese and hamburg mixed, one lamb, and one just hamburg.  With the toppings on, he let them sit and rise for maybe five minutes.

One feature of etli ekmek is the length of the dough.  When the usta made the original ovals, I must confess I was a little disappointed.  I was expecting something much, much bigger. 

I was soon gratified, though, when as he readied it for baking, he took out a very thin long (5 foot) wooden paddle and stretched the dough to fit it.  He then quickly shoved the paddle into the wooden fired oven. 

It only bakes for about ten minutes before he pulls it out and cuts it into manageable pieces. The etli ekmek is served with roasted pepper, tomatoes, and some parsley.  You can dress it up any way that you want.  All ways, it tastes fantastic.  We’ve decided that any time we are traveling through Konya, we’ll stop at this place.

Note:  All the photos were taken by my friend Matthew.  Thanks!

Author Bio: Corinne Vail is a travel photographer, food lover, and a perpetual traveler who has been travel writing for over 14 years. For many years she lived overseas in Germany, Japan, Turkey, South Korea, and the Netherlands teaching the children of the US. military. She’s visited over 90 countries, and she’s not stopping anytime soon.