Holy Trinity of Turkish Souvenirs
Heading home from my first Turkish holiday in 2008, my suitcase was packed with the holy trinity of Turkish souvenirs for friends and family. It included:
1. Dozens of different sized Nazar Boncuk, the evil eye bead synonymous with a Turkish holiday. No matter where you visit, tread or travel in Turkey, you’re never more than a blink away from your next evil eye bead.
2. Small bags of Hazelnut and Pomegranate Turkish Delight, which are evil little enticements. I can eat a whole bag in one sitting, and still crave more. (These definitely have to go in my checked luggage, because they won’t last the flight, in my carry-on).
3. Lastly I had a collection of Kese, the mitt used to exfoliate your skin during a Turkish bath. These unique Turkish exports come in different textures, from smooth to rough.
All of these make great gifts, because they don’t take up much room in your luggage and are inexpensive to buy en-mass. But by my 3rd trip to Turkey I was all shopped-out for these souvenirs, and was eager to find an alternative. All I needed was some inspiration to find a souvenir that was a little bit different. So I went in search of something that was evocative of a trip to Turkey, as well as being light and easy to pack, and cheap to buy.
I decided to do what I love, and wandered around the local farmers markets on the Bodrum Peninsula. Some girls like shoe shopping, but I love window-shopping at market stalls. Each visit to a farmers market is an adventure of colours, shapes, sounds, tastes, textures and aromas; it awakens my senses and feeds my soul. Nothing says “Turkish Holiday” for me, like a walk around a local farmers market.
So it’s no surprise that my souvenir inspiration struck whilst I was wandering around Yalikavak’s Thursday market. This was actually the first Turkish market I ever visited, and played a key role in our decision to buy a house nearby. It’s large enough to offer variety at a competitive price, but small enough to still be relaxing to wander around.
At the spice stall, I met my inspiration; Pul Biber (translation: Chilli Pepper).
Pul Biber is the catch-all generic name used to refer to Turkey’s popular red spice, but there are many different varieties of Turkish red pepper, and each one has a distinct aroma and colour, and offers differing levels of heat.
I realized there was no better way to evoke memories of my trip to Turkey, than buying a trio of Turkish Pul Biber as souvenirs. This way, my friends and family could taste the adventure I’d been on for themselves, and so a new tradition was born.
On this, and each subsequent trip, I bought huge big bags of three types of Pul Biber, and repackaged them in smalls jars or bags to give out as souvenirs.
The Darker the Biber the Bigger the Kick
My new holy trinity of Turkish souvenirs is now:
- Urfa Pul Biber – a mild, tangy flake with a slightly woody flavour
- Ipec Pul Biber Maras – a fruity medium spiced flake, almost crimson coloured
- Aci Pul Biber – a darker red flake with a bitter aftertaste, and a spicy kick
No matter what you’re cooking, a sprinkle of Pul Biber will add a depth of flavour to your dish.
There’s just one problem. My friends keep asking “when are you going back to Turkey, I’ve used up all my Pul Biber”.
© 2012 – 2015, Kerry Arslan. All rights reserved.