The region is characterized by great topographical variation, from mountains to extensive coastal areas. The region is situated at the interference of three types of
Fig. 14.1 Gastronomic diversity in Turkey climate: Mediterranean in the south, continental in Thrace (the European side of Turkey), with Black Sea influences along the northern coast. Three historical capitals of the Ottoman Empire are also situated in this region: Bursa, Edirne, and Istanbul. We should also include here the incredible population mix, especially in Istanbul. These factors explain why the cuisines developed in the Marmara region are eclectic. Very sophisticated dishes were created in the last capital of the Ottoman Empire, Istanbul, which, for centuries, was the center of all culinary activity (www.turkishflavours.com). Chefs were brought to the Topkapi Palace from all corners of the Empire to cook for the Sultan and to create new dishes. For the traveler interested in history and gastronomy, Istanbul may definitely be the best place to experience the Ottoman cuisine. Numerous restaurants, especially in the historical peninsula, specialize in Ottoman dishes. One such dish is hunkar begendi (lamb stew served on a bed of creamy roasted eggplant puree), which, the legend says, was created for Sultan Murad IV (1612-1640) who apparently liked it very much (the name of the dish translates as “the Sultan liked it”) (http://almostturkish. blogspot.com.tr).
Numerous dishes, served today almost everywhere in Turkey (and in Turkish restaurants abroad), originated from this region. Here, we should include Inegol kofte (a type of meatball specific to the Inegol district of Bursa Province), created around World War I and influenced by the cevapi (a South Slavic dish), brought to Turkey by Bosnian immigrants, ciger tava (breaded deep-fried liver), which originated from Edirne, and Iskender kebab (slices of doner meat with bread, tomato sauce, yoghurt, and melted butter), which was created in Bursa by iskender Efendi in the nineteenth century.
Apart from the globally known Turkish delight (lokum in Turkish), created in the early nineteenth century in Istanbul, or rice pudding (sUtlag in Turkish), the list of local desserts includes specialties such as piymanye and kestane yekeri. Pi^maniye is a dessert that originated from the Kocaeli Province in the fifteenth century (although the original idea may have been adopted from other provinces of the Ottoman Empire) and looks very similar to cotton candy (although the ingredients and the manufacturing technique are different) (wikipedia.org). Kestane §ekeri (candied chestnuts) are a specialty of Bursa. Kemalpa^a desserts (baked cookies soaked in syrup and topped with crushed nuts and a type of cream known as kaymak) originate from the district of Mustafakemalpa^a, in the province of Bursa (http:// turkishfood.about.com/).