Global Cuisine: Doha’s Turkish Treats - Top Restaurants and Cafes
Qatar has an enormous expatriate population; statistically speaking, over 85% of the population are non-Qataris. While many expats in Qatar hail from Middle Eastern, Arab and Asian nations, there are people from all over the world. With such a melting pot of cultures and backgrounds in one place, it's no wonder that the country's culinary offering reflects a vast melee of flavours and tastes.
In a series of articles designed to highlight Qatar’s global cuisine, we hope to guide you to some of our favourite restaurants and cafes from different parts of the world and give you an insight into the country’s love of different cultures and their foods. First up, Turkish fare…
Turkey is a vast country bordering Europe, the Middle East and Western Asia. Its neighbours include Greece, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Georgia and Armenia. And historically, the country has been conquered by Greeks, Byzantine Romans, Persians, Mongols and Ottomans. The country's geography, history and neighbours' cultures, as well as trade, migration, travel and tourism, have undoubtedly influenced its cuisine. As such, food in Turkey is diverse and traditional cuisine varies from one end of the country to another, with tastes evident, depending on where you are located, from the Balkans, Eastern Europe, and the Mediterranean to the Middle East and Western and Central Asia. To the north, fish are a consistent part of people's diets; to the west, rice and stews dominate; to the south and east, kebab meat is more prevalent, as is the tradition of food served as mezes.
In general, Turkish food is based on rice, vegetables and bread. Fish and meat are consumed, but less so than Turkish restaurants abroad cater for. Foods are spiced, but not as heavily as Asian foods, and yoghurt is eaten with most meals as an accompaniment, a dip or a drink, or it's used in the preparation of the food or cooking sauces. Cheese, which is generally produced from sheep milk and comes in a dizzying array of varieties, is another main food source, as are eggs. Soups, stews, slow-cooked and grilled meats and fish, kebaps, kebabs, kofte, rice pilav, salads, stuffed vegetables, meze, bread, cakes and pastries are all commonplace in the Turkish diet, and most of these can be found in the menus in Turkish restaurants aboard.
Qatar has an array of Turkish restaurants and cafes serving food from across the different regions of their home. Serving homemade fare, from breakfast to dinner, this cultural cuisine is a favourite of Qatar’s residents, making these eateries some of the busiest across the country. And while there are many to choose from, we recommend the following top three:
Turkey Central is a no-frills local eatery, serving delicious fresh food for reasonable prices, which could be why it’s always buzzing with customers. Located off the beaten track, in the side streets away from the city’s main thoroughfares, Turkey Central is the place to eat authentic food while rubbing shoulders with the locals of Qatar. The restaurant teems with activity, and its rows of communal tables are never far from full. However, find yourself a seat and catch a waiter's eye and you won’t be disappointed with the food. The menu offers soups, salads, handmade fatayer (savoury pies), grills and BBQ’s, shawarma and an array of desserts.
Our favourites from the menu are the grills and shawarma; a mixed grill comes with grilled meats, koftas, salad, pickles and homemade bread - a feast for less than $10 (USD), and the chicken shawarma is a taste sensation for under $5. If you have any room after your main meals, try the kunefe (a sweet dessert made with spun pastry soaked in sugar syrup and layered with cheese) - it's possibly the best in town.
You can find Turkey Central off of the C-Ring Road on Al Mirqab Al Jadeed Street. The restaurant is open from mid morning until around 1 am. For more information, check out their Facebook page, @turkeycentralrestaurantqatar, or give them a bell on +974 4442 3423.
MADO Turkey is a popular chain restaurant found in Doha’s The Pearl district, Ezdan Mall in Al Wakrah and Landmark Mall in Al Gharaffa. With 300 outlets in Turkey and more in twenty-two other countries across the world, MADO is most famous for its Turkish ice cream and traditional, flavoursome desserts such as baklava. However, if you find yourself in one of Qatar’s MADO branches, you can look forward to much more on the menu.
In Turkey, breakfast is definitely an important meal of the day and has the air of a feast to those of us used to a bowl of cereal. MADO Qatar is no exception. While they offer various breakfasts, the Sini breakfast platter is, for us, the hands down winner. Beautifully served on traditional bowls, plates, bread baskets and serving dishes you can find menemen (eggs, tomato, green peppers, and spices), borek (a filo pastry pie stuffed with meat, cheese, spinach or potatoes), halloumi and other cheeses, tomatoes and cucumber, acuka, tahini and molasses (dips and spreads), olives, homemade orange jam, homemade strawberry jam, butter, honey and cream, a simit (circular bread with sesame seeds), and, of course, Turkish tea. It is a veritable banquet. If you are eating at other times of the day, the menu includes soups, salads, grilled meats and fish (the lamb chops, kebabs and skewers are delightful) and a host of their famed ice-creams and desserts. They also serve an assortment of more international dishes.
Whenever you choose to go and whatever you decide to order, Qatar’s MADO Turkey eateries are lovely venues to visit - clean white decor, with an ice-cream parlour feel and an easy, relaxed atmosphere. Each of the three MADO branches open from 8 am to 12 am daily, though The Pearl branch closes for an hour and a half on Friday for prayer. To find out more and to peruse the menu before you go, check out MADO’s website, https://www.madoqatar.com, or their Instagram, @madoturkey_qtr.
Usta Turkish Kebap & Doner - Souq Waqif
Usta is an authentic kebap and doner restaurant in Doha’s traditional Arabian market, Souq Waqif (they also have a branch in the Mall of Qatar). Simple, stylish decor and terrace seating on the ground floor and the rooftop of the restaurant make eating here a delight; not to mention being in the heart of the souq, which makes the entire experience feel more genuine. The food, which centres around the doner and the kebap and is obviously the star of the show, is high end, using premium ingredients and cooked from fresh every day.
Our favourite, by a mile, is the Mixed Kebap Tray, which showcases the restaurant's specialities. The dish includes a platter of kebap meats (lamb and beef), chicken shish, doner meat, tomatoes, peppers and onions, bulgur pilaf and fresh Turkish bread. The Grilled Kofte with Kashari Cheese or the Turkish Pitta with Kashari Cheese run a close second and third. Aside from our top picks, the menu also offers a Turkish breakfast, meze, a variety of doner and kebap, kofte, salads, soup and pita. Desserts also feature, as does a kids menu.
While the menu at Usta is pricey, the food is top-notch and the atmosphere is warm and comfortable - it’s definitely worth a visit. If you are interested in giving Usta a whirl, check out their Facebook page, @ustadonerqatar, Instagram, @usta.qa, or give them a call on +974 6641 1777; they’re open from 10 am to 12:30 am everyday except Friday when they open at 1pm.
Main image: Elena Eryomenko/Shutterstock.com
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