Köfte is commonly translated as meatballs – but this is selling the Turkish versions a bit short. It is believed that there are 291 different kinds of meatballs (köfte) in Turkey. However, originally meatballs came from Iran. They called a mixture of vegetables and eggs covered with meat küfte. Once the Turks got their hands on them, they increased the diversity of the dish enormously and called it köfte. Make sure to eat at least once this Turkish delicacy.
The diversity comes from a number of sources, such as:
- the minced meat used: lamb or calf
- the onion: grated or chopped
- the cooking style: fried, grilled or baked
- variety and preferences in spices
- type and amount of oil or butter used for frying
- amount of the fat the meat has
Most Common Köfte Dishes
Below you will find the most common meatball dishes (köfte çeşitleri) that you can find in Istanbul (or Turkey for that matter).
- Kuru köfte – Kuru means dry because there is no dressing or sauce, just kneaded and pan fried rolls of minced meat, onion, egg, bread (soaked in water and squeezed), parsley, pepper and köfte baharı (spices mixed for meatballs). Cumin and garlic are optional.
- Dalyan köfte – It is prepared as kuru köfte and rolled as a big loaf with carrots, peas and even hard boiled eggs in the center. Baked in the oven and served in slices.
- İzmir köftesi – The kuru köfte and potatoes cooked with tomato sauce in a pot on the stove or in an oven.
- Çiğ köfte – Fatless minced meat kneaded with grinded wheat (ince bulgur), onion, tomato or red pepper paste and spices like cumin, paprika, pepper, mint, coriander, cinnamon. This is a raw dish, served with lettuce and is ordered as a starter.
- Şiş köfte – It is prepared as kuru köfte, wrapped around a skewer and grilled (originally on a charcoal fire).
- Harput köftesi – Small balls of kneaded minced meat, wheat, onion, parsley, pepper and sweet basil cooked in a sauce of butter, water, tomato and/or red pepper paste.
- Mercimek köftesi – Red lentil and grinded wheat kneaded with onion, parsley and tomato paste. Served with rocket or lettuce.
- Izgara köfte – It is prepared as kuru köfte only the egg doesn’t participate in the game and it is grilled.
- İçli köfte – Roasted minced meat, onion and walnut with a coating of wheat, flour, egg and red pepper paste. Generally served as a starter. It looks like a big egg, mostly fried but can be boiled as well.
- İnegöl köftesi – Balls of very thoroughly kneaded minced meat, onion, pepper and sodium bicarbonate are cooked in the oven. To get the taste of the meat, very few spices are used.
- Kadınbudu köfte – Big balls of kneaded roasted minced meat and onions with boiled rice are fried after being dipped in flour and eggs.
- Tekirdağ köftesi – It is prepared as kuru köfte, only the bread is used as dry small pieces.
- Sulu köfte – It is a soup like dish. Small balls of kneaded minced meat, grinded wheat or rice, onion and parsley are cooked in a sauce of butter, tomato paste and water. Some prepare the sauce with small cubes of carrots and potatoes as well.
- Ekşili köfte – It is called terbiyeli köfte, too and prepared as sulu köfte. The difference is the additional sour (ekşi) taste. An egg, lemon, yogurt and flour mixture is used to get the sour taste.