They took me to visit these smiling and nice women in the advancing autumn – a season which, as you will notice from the above photo, looks just like summer in the southern Turkish province of Adyaman, and in particular in the municipality of Samsat. Or at least it did so for me who had come from nearly 2000 kilometers to the north. For them, the season had long been over and on the shore of Ataturk Dam everything was closed. For such high guests as us, the experts of a major European tourism project, of course, everything opened.
First, they accommodated us on a floating platform where we were served the above. I will not explain the salads, in this part of the country they appeared naturally at the tables before a person even thought what s/he would order. In the bowls, you observe the local variant of the Bulgarian summer soup (tarator) called “Mayir”, that is, a cold yogurt soup, with bulgur or grains of wheat instead of cucumbers. And the special dish was a fried fish from the dam.
From there, they moved us to another terrace and there we got this beautiful dish. Here they call it “Menemen”, but it is much like what we Bulgarians call “Mish-mash”, fried peppers with tomatoes and eggs. Sometimes they also put cheese inside, but the Samsat option was with … fish! And it was incredibly and indescribably delicious. I just attacked it and my colleagues said, wait, hold it, we are going for lunch. (!?!)
While our lunch was cooking, it turned out that they had also opened a small cruise ship on Ataturk Dam for us. You can believe me that I have never felt so V.I.P. in my life. We took a big tour of the bright blue waters, including to the place where the capital of the ancient Commagene Kingdom, the trademark of the area, was once located. The tour was very pleasant – the sun was shining, the warm wind was caressing our faces, and I was worrying where I was going to accommodate that lunch.
It turned out that I was worrying for a good reason. Please observe what our hosts did to us. And since I mentioned the hosts, I may have forgotten to introduce them to you by paying too close of a attention to the food. These are the ladies of the Women’s Cooperative of Samsat, and they have arranged a wonderful visitor center on the shores of the dam; there is a souvenir shop below, and above – a kitchen with a terrace. It is on this terrace that the so-called NDA (Near-Death Experience) came to me, which can also be translated as a colossal amount of food.
When we got off the ship, the ladies were still doing their magic in the kitchen. The iconic Cig-kofte is traditionally kneaded only by men because it is quite an effort. Here, as you can see, the women were making it. If you do not know what is the Cig-kofte, it is a raw paste of ground bulgur, tomato-and-pepper puree, green spices and very hot red pepper. It takes some time to get used to it, but you have to give it a chance. You will find it in different shapes and sizes, the common one being this:
In addition to the Cig-kofte, we were also treated to the so-called Icli-kofte. They, too, are common throughout the area, not just in Samsat. These are balls of minced meat with bulgur, fried in thick delicious breading. I have also tried a gluten-free version, breaded in corn flour. They consider them an appetizer, but I assure you that three of those are quite sufficient for any meal. Their shape is very typical and easily recognizable.
I will not go much further, just two more things. One is the Taplama bread, which is traditionally made only in the month of Ramadan, perhaps because it is quite durable. It looks rather like salted dry cookies, round and flat, with a lot of cumin. Nowadays, they can be found at any time in the bakeries and, when they are fresh, they are also crunchy. Not bad after a couple of days either. Our dear hosts had made them the same morning.
The last dish I want to share with you now, is typical only of Samsat. Garlic chicken pilaf, which can be prepared with both rice and bulgur, and sometimes with both. You can guess what the aroma was. I will not even start on desserts because you will hate me. I have a lifelong invitation to go visit the wonderful ladies from Samsat again and bring friends along. If you are good girls and boys, I might take you too.