Before we went to Turkey, my knowledge of Turkish food was very limited. In fact, I think the only items I could name with any confidence were Turkish delight and kebabs.
Luckily, I know people here in Melbourne that hail from Turkey, and one of them wrote me a list of foods I had to try. On that list were two dessert items: künefe and tavuk göğsü.
Armed with this list, I kept an eye out on menus for either of them, and after a day wandering around Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, we stumbled onto a café in Sultanahmet where I found both.
Hafiz Mustafa was founded in 1864. There are four locations in Istanbul and they offer the most incredible range of desserts and sweets. The ‘menu’ is in the format of a glossy fashion magazine. Think Vogue (but just a regular issue, not the September one) and that’s about the thickness. Page after page of mouth-watering photos of the available items. Queenie and The Impossible Princess were so taken with the menu that they wanted to steal one…but they didn’t.
Anyway, in among the pages of the menu I found künefe and tavuk göğsü, so ordered them both.
Künefe is a dessert created in a flat metal dish with layers of a white cheese (like mozzarella) and shredded wheat pastry (kadaif). The whole thing is soaked with a sugar syrup, and grilled to melt the cheese and crisp the pastry. Crushed pistachios garnish the top. It takes about 25 mins to prepare, but is worth the wait.
The Poolboy has made künefe back at home since, with considerable success (I found the kadaif at Oasis Bakery in Murumbeena), but, there’s nothing quite like having the authentic dish in Turkey.
Tavuk göğsü is not a dish we’ve tried to recreate at home. It’s more of an acquired taste. It is a specialty of Istanbul and is a dessert that was served at Topkapi Palace during the Ottoman reign. It is made by boiling white chicken breast, finely shredding the meat, then combining it with sugar and rice flour to create a pudding.
After visiting the Hafiz Mustafa in Sultanahmet twice in a couple of days, we discovered there was a branch a few hundred metres from our hotel in Sirkeci…good for a late night visit for more desserts.