If you love a good breakfast, then you have to try traditional Turkish breakfast fare. A classic Turkish breakfast, better known as 'kahvaltı' (kah-VAHL'-tuh), consists of fresh Turkish cheeses like feta and kashar, black and green olives, fresh-baked white bread, fruit preserves, honey, sweet butter and plenty of brewed black tea served in Turkish tea glasses. Spicy Turkish sausage called ‘sucuk’ and eggs cooked in a copper skillet, or ‘sahan’ (sah-HAHN’), omelettes and Turkish scrambled eggs called ‘menemen’ are also popular.
A Robust Breakfast
Breakfast in Turkey also varies greatly by region. A favorite breakfast staple in Turkey’s northern Black Sea region is a delicious blend of local cheeses melted together with coarsely ground corn meal in a ‘sahan’. Pieces of fresh, crusty bread are used to scoop up the mixture with your fingers.
This dish is called ‘kuymak’ (kooy-MAK’) in the city of Trabzon, ‘mıhlama’ (MIH’-lah-mah) in the northeastern provinces like Erzurum and Bayburt and ‘muhlama’ (MOOH’-lah-mah) in Rize and Artvin. In Giresun and Ordu it’s called ‘yağlaş’ (YAH’-lahsh).
Whatever it’s called, this hot, stringy breakfast treat is a favorite among locals and famous all over the country.
Mıhlama is the Secret
So, what exactly is ‘mıhlama’ cheese and how is it prepared and served? The key to authentic ‘mıhlama’ is the cheese. Fresh cheeses like Feta and other Turkish white cheeses won’t do.
Aged cheeses, especially the local cheeses from the Black Sea region like Trabzon cheese work the best. High-quality kashar cheese will also work.
These cheeses are made from unpasteurized milk. Once the milk turns to cheese it is put in containers and doused with boiling water and left until the water cools completely. The cheese is then removed from the water and sliced. Sometimes salt is added and the cheese is frozen for future use.
The second most important ingredient is the cornmeal. In authentic ‘mıhlama’ a special kind of coarsely-ground cornmeal is used that has been baked in the oven before storage. You can also toast raw cornmeal in a hot skillet before using it.
Another trick is to use raw, unpasteurized village butter or Turkish clotted cream called ‘kaymak’ (kai-MAK’) in place of regular butter.
When cooking your ‘mıhlama,’ you must be patient. Stir the cheese and the cornmeal and let them melt slowly until the cheese becomes stringy and gummy at the same time. Never prepare ‘mihlama’ in a rush. And keep in mind that this dish is best served hot and fresh. Reheating ‘mıhlama’ doesn’t work.
- 6 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- 6 Tbsp. corn meal
- 1 cup water
- 10 oz. (300 grams) Trabzon village cheese, Turkish string cheese or Kashar cheese
- In a copper ‘sahan’ or frying pan, melt the butter completely. Continue to allow the butter to bubble for a few minutes without letting it burn.
- Add the cornmeal and work the butter all the way through with a large wooden spoon.
- Stir the cornmeal gently over the heat for several minutes until it changes color to a deep golden brown.
- When the oil from the butter begins to separate out, add the water and bring it to a boil.
- Once the water boils, slowly add the grated cheese.
- Stir the mixture well each time to allow the cheese to melt and the mixture to become smooth each time.
- As you stir, the melted cheese will combine with the cornmeal.
- Let it cook over a low flame, stirring occasionally until you see the butter appear on the top.