The Van breakfast table is famous for its rich selection; with a menu consisting of completely natural products. The typical Van breakfast will usually include Van Honey, yoghurt cream, milk cream, butter, tzatziki, herbed cheeses, knitted cheeses, feta cheese, roasted-sausage eggs, olives, murtuğa, kavut, walnut jam, rose jam, milk and gencirun. The breakfast is accompanied by samovar tea, lavash bread and fragrant Van buns baked in stone ovens. In summer, yogurt, cacık and piyaz are added to the table, while in the winter, honey, molasses, and tahini are served.
Thanks to the rich flower and plant flora, beekeeping has developed in Van. Beekeeping is an important source of income, especially in the Çatak and Bahçesaray districts, and the honey obtained is of very high quality. While Karakovan honey has been produced in Van from the past to the present, honey production has also been recently started in modern hives.
Unique to Van cuisine, this delicious meatball is made by mixing minced meat, boiled eggs, broken chickpeas, rice, fine bulgur, potatoes, tomato paste, onion, basil and zeytirun spice. Köfte are cooked in Van during Ramadan or on special occasions. This is a somewhat complicated dish to make, but the flavour is worth the work.
Bulgur for köfte, along with basil, salt, and chili pepper, are added to finely chopped onions. This mixture is submerged in hot water and cooked until it boils down. After the cooked ingredients are cooled, they are formed into köfte, boiled in hot water, and eaten with garlic yogurt and a tomato paste sauce.
Tandırda Van Balığı
The pearl mullet, also called the Van fish (Van Balığı) and found only in Lake Van (Van Gölü), is cleaned, salted, and left to drain on the sieve. After being coated in a mixture of water, flour and salt, fish are put into the tandoor oven by their tails and cooked. The cooked fish is served with green onions and ayran.
Salted fish are made from the pearl mullet that live in Lake Van (Van Gölü), and usually prepared for the spring and summer months when fishing is prohibited. The process involves washing fish in clean water and keeping for three days after salting. During this period, a plant called bitter leaf is placed on the salted fish, to prevent the fish from spoiling and smelling. Fish are washed again with clean water and drained at the end of the third day. Subsequently, the fish are lined up in a crate or a pierced bottom barrel in such a way that they do not touch. The fish are covered completely in salt, and then another row of fish is placed. This process continues until the barrel or crate is full. The salted fish are stored in a cool place – ready for eating, even when it is not fishing season.
Yogurt diluted and brought to a thick ayran consistency is cooked with an egg and flour. Chopped zucchini and evelik are added to the cooked dish, with finely chopped coriander added at the end. The result is a very delicious soup in which every flavour shines.
This is a breakfast dish with wheat as its main ingredient. Roasted wheat is ground and turned into “kavut”. It is served at breakfast with honey or rose jam upon request.
Kete is a type of pastry. The dough is made by mixing yoghurt or milk, granulated sugar, and flour, and rolling into a thin sheet, called yufka. The yufka is filled with a mixture of oil, flour, and walnuts, and sealed. The resulting pastry is cooked in a tandoor and served with yogurt.
Chopped onion is fried in oil, and salt, chili pepper and tomato paste are added. Boiled and chopped potatoes are mixed in. After the mixture is cooked, the egg is broken sunny-side up atop the mixture. Cover the pot and let the egg cook; then the dish is served.
Sodalı Van Cake
Beat sugar and egg in a bowl. A solid dough is obtained by adding yogurt, flour and baking powder. This dough is poured into an oiled tray with a spoon in it, to leave space between the bottom of the pot and the mixture. The cake is cooked in a tandoor, turning occasionally.
Van Otlu Cheese
Van's famous herb cheese is usually made from sheep’s milk. Sometimes cow and goat milks are also added. The milk is fermented raw and the fermentation temperature is determined by hand. After the milk is fermented, and before the cheese is made, herbs unique to Van are added to the milk. The local names of the herbs are sirmo, heliz, mendo, siyabo; thyme, wild mint and celery are also added. The cheese can be salted in two ways, either dry or in a brine. The containers with the cheese are then placed in a cool place and left to ripen until autumn. Cheeses matured for two to three months are ready for consumption.
Murtuğa is a simple dish unique to Van. It is prepared using butter, flour, and eggs, cooked over high heat.
Kavut is a dessert similar to halva. It is prepared by mixing roasted and crushed grain flour with sugar or other sweet fruits.
Keledoş is quite laborious to make, but its deliciousness is worth the effort! The history of Keledoş, a sine qua non of Van cuisine, dates to the 1800s.
The most distinctive feature of Van keledoş – which is also made in neighbouring provinces such as Hakkari, Ağrı and Bitlis, under different names such as “kelecoş” – is its meat and butter. In addition, the legumes used in Van keledoş are cooked separately, and the cooked legumes are blended with locally grown herbs such as akpancar (keledoş grass) and kurut (çökelek). The dish is served with chili peppers that have been thrown into the heated oil, making the flavour entirely unique to Van.
The Erciş grape, grown in many parts of the Erciş district, has a long history. A cuneiform inscription by Urartu King Sarduri II (BCE 764-735), found on the stones discovered in the Karataşlar Mevkii, states that vineyards were established in Erciş and that those who steal grapes from the vineyards will be punished. Erciş grapes, which have a small grain and a distinctive taste, are harvested from the end of September to the beginning of November.
Van Rose Jam
Van rose jam is made by picking and sorting roses, washing them, draining them, and then cooking for a long time with sugar. Rose jam is usually made in the autumn months. After cooking, lemon juice is added to the jam so that it does not spoil, which gives it a slightly sour taste.