I think it’s safe to say that many Americans have not tried or are unfamiliar with Turkish cuisine. The food has an array of influences from Central Asian, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, and Balkan cuisines, and there are, of course, regional differences too like how the Black Sea Region heavily utilizes fish while the Southeast is famous for its kebabs.
Pasha’s website offers a nice overview of some of Turkey’s culinary customs like what a Turkish breakfast entails and what summer cuisine is in the country. Here are some basic facts worth noting.
- Some key ingredients are lamb, beef, eggplants, onions, lentils, beans, tomatoes, and nuts.
- Preferred spices include parsley, cumin, black pepper, and mint.
- Kebab doesn’t just refer to grilled meats, or meats on skewers, but also to stews and casseroles.
- And bonus fact: The English word “yogurt” comes from the Turkish word, “yoğurt.”
I went to Pasha with a friend after seeing a show at Lincoln Center. I feel like going to the ballet and opera and concerts there has really pushed me to explore the area’s food options. This time, I saw how highly rated Pasha was and was intrigued because it was something different. Even though we had already decided to go here for dinner, we saw in our show program that we could get a 20% discount here if we showed them our ticket stubs for a performance that same day. Score!
There were so many interesting and appetizing things on Pasha’s menu. Mücver (baked zucchini and dill pancakes)…imam bayildi (eggplant stuffed with onions, bell peppers, tomatoes, garlic, parsley, and pine nuts)… manti (steamed dumplings filed with ground lamb and fresh mint)…tavuk gögsü sarmasi (chicken breast stuffed with rice, pistachios, pine nuts, bell pepper, and currants on a bed of spinach and with a white wine tarragon sauce)…Oh boy!
Because I always want a sampling of different things, I was immediately drawn to the prix fixe menu, which is an appetizer, entree, and dessert for $27.95. I chose the sigara böregi to start, followed by the yogurtlu kebab, and then kazandibi for dessert.
Sigara böregi is one of many types of börek, or baked and filled pastries made with thin, flaky dough. It’s phyllo dough filled with feta cheese, parsley, and dill and looks a bit like cigar-shaped egg rolls. Fried phyllo plus cheese? I’m there. The phyllo was so crispy without any of that extra greasiness that can sometimes come with fried foods. Deeeelicious.
Before I read over the prix fixe menu options, the yogurtlu kebab kept catching my eye. Lucky me, it was one of the entree choices. The dish is slices of grilled lamb on top of pita and yogurt and topped with tomato sauce. How I loved this dish! The pita at the bottom was soaking up all the creamy yogurt, which added spongey texture to each bite of tender lamb. While I had had each of the ingredients separately, I had never had them assembled together in a dish like this, and I am a fan.
If you look up Pasha, you’ll probably see a lot of people raving about their baklava, a classic Turkish dessert. I was SO close to ordering this for myself, but I felt like I had already eaten enough doughy/bready things during that meal (there was free bread for the table too). So, I decided on the kazandibi, which the waitress described as a pudding similar to leche flan, since I had no idea what it was. Great ordering strategy, huh? It’s a stiff milk pudding with a caramelized outside. It was so silky and melt-in-your-mouth.
I was about ready to burst after such a rich meal, but oh so happy about all the new Turkish delights I got to try (see what I did there??). Want something interesting to eat before or after a Lincoln Center show? Ready to try Turkish food for the first time? Spend some time at Pasha, and I don’t think you’ll regret it.
Prix fixe meal with, sigara böregi, yogurtlu kebab, and kazandibi
70 W 71st St
New York, NY 10023