THE BEST OF BURSA: HIGHLIGHTING THE BEST OF BURSA, TURKEY

      “Gel, gel, gel,” Sadet said to my wife, Amy, with an inviting hand motion. “Gel” is the command form of the verb “to come,” and in Turkish culture it’s wise to obey such a command given by an elder. Amy, not sure what she was getting herself into, slowly slid out from behind our table, covered her head with a blue silk scarf that Sadet handed to her, and hovered over a bench where three older women rolled dough out into large, thin, circular sheets. These ladies, though warm and pleasant, were clearly experienced at their task and worked quickly and efficiently, chatting away in rapid Turkish. One of the women motioned to Amy to take a seat, and with a bit of trepidation, Amy bellied up to the table to take part in the traditional art of making mantı.

      scarf wearingMantı is the Turkish rough equivalent of ravioli. The large thin sheets of dough are cut into small squares, covered with a small dollop of cheese and meat filling, and rolled to form small filled pasta shells. Served under a white garlic-yogurt sauce, garnished with mint, and sprinkled with paprika, mantı is a popular local dish available in many cafés.

      A mantı-making lesson was not on Amy’s list of things to do that day. It was a Friday morning and Amy and I had taken the day to go to the fantastic little village of Cumalıkızık. Our goal was to enjoy one of its famous village breakfasts and to take some time to study a bit of Turkish language. Having eaten breakfast just down the street in the quaint courtyard of a centuries-old Ottoman home, with full tummies we rolled ourselves into Sadet’s little tea house looking for a quiet, rustic place to drink a cup of tea and spend an hour or so memorizing vocabulary and conjugating verbs. While we certainly found a rustic place to drink tea, Sadet was delighted to meet Amy and had no interest in just letting her sit in the corner with her nose in a book.

      barrel stoveI had met Sadet one day on an earlier trip to Cumalıkızık. Looking for a place to warm up on that cold day, I noticed a sign in front of her shop that read “Kızık Sofrası” (“sofra” in Turkish means “table”). When I peeked through the door and saw a pot of hot tea simmering on top of the large barrel stove in the middle of the wood-paneled room, I knew I had found my place. Stepping inside, I was greeted by Sadet’s warm, smiling face. After chatting with her for 10 or 15 minutes in my broken Turkish and drinking tea that she would not let me pay for, I knew I just had to bring Amy here sometime to meet this sweet woman who seemed to embody the idea of Turkish hospitality. So, when Amy and I arrived on our Friday morning study date, I was happy to see Sadet and friends sitting in her shop.

      manti makingAs Amy sat down to help those ladies make mantı, she was warmly welcomed into an age-old Turkish tradition: local women sitting around a table, preparing food shoulder-to-shoulder, chatting about their families, and helping novices like Amy learn the tricks of the trade.  As the ladies worked and chatted away, Amy continually repeated in her mind the four steps of rolling a perfect batch of mantı: fold, pinch, twist, repeat.

      After all the mantı was filled and folded, it was time for us to be on our way.  As we started to leave, Sadet’s friends warmly wished us well. Sadet kissed and hugged Amy on the way out the door, inviting us back to visit anytime we’re in town and gifting the blue silk scarf to Amy as a memento of the occasion.  We were glad we stopped in to Sadet’s Kızık Sofrası.

      We always enjoy visiting Cumalıkızık. The village is quaint, the houses are old, the streets are cobblestone, and the breakfasts are fantastic. And every time we’re in the village, we make a point to stop in to see Sadet. She is without question among The Best of Bursa.