Different countries have different signature dishes, and börek is one of the signature dishes of Turkey. For breakfast, lunch, dinner, or as a quick snack, eating börek is just delicious. Made with different ingredients, all kinds of börek are unique.
When it comes to börek, possibilities are limitless. You can choose any ingredients that you wish, but some popular börek types are considered the best.
What is Börek?
Inside thinly roughed dough, börek is made with different kinds of ingredients such as cheese, potatoes, spinach, meat, chicken, and a combination of various vegetables. Also, it has variations according to the region. It can be made in the oven or it can be fried in oil, or air fried. It is an indispensable part of Turkish cuisine and especially teatime.
Börek can be made with various cheeses, for example, cottage cheese, feta cheese, cheddar cheese, and so on. Parsley, dill, and sesame could be added to have a little bit more flavor. Börek with potatoes is also popular, especially among vegans and vegetarians since it does not include any animal products if it is made with olive oil or sunflower oil.
Etymology, history, and origin of börek
The word börek comes from the Turkish verb “burmak” which means bending something by grabbing it at both ends or anywhere and turning it around its axis. This explanation is a statement of how börek is made. Yet this is not accepted as a piece of scientific evidence about börek’s etymology in sources. The word origin is also not precisely known, but it is known that this word is transferred to Russian and Persian languages. In Kashgar Mahmud’s famous writing Dīwān Lughāt al-Turk which was written in the 11th century, the name börek is included.
Another theory is that börek’s origin is based in Middle Asia. An Uyghur ruler Mr. Bugra used to have his own recipe for börek. According to this information, it has been said that the work börek comes from “bugrek” which means “belongs to Mr. Bugra”. It is also known that börek became popular in the Ottoman empire around the 17th century. In the Ottoman empire, börek was a part of high-level meetings and banquets.
The findings of börek are not clear until the middle of the 12th century, and there are lots of theories about where it all started. The most common theory is that a type of flat pastry was obtained from dough in Rome. This pastry was stuffed with honey, cheese, or chopped nuts. Yet nowadays, the theory that it was first created in Middle Asia by nomadic Turks around the 7th century is a lot more popular than this theory.
Börek in Turkish cuisine
Börek is a part of teatime gossips, lunches, and dinner with family or a lunchtime dish at the lunch break. Individuals prefer to eat börek basically any time of the day, it is consumed in breakfast, in-between meals, or lunch and dinner. If it is being consumed at breakfast, usually people drink Turkish tea with it. Usually, börek with cheese or potatoes are preferred at breakfast.
Stay at home moms and housewives prefer to make börek when they have guests to come over; it represents versatility and care since it is not easy to make. When guests come over, börek may be preferred as a treat with Turkish tea or as one of the main courses to eat. If it is being consumed at dinner, it is mostly preferred by a soup of your choice next to it.
Another popular drink to have with börek is ayran. Ayran is a salty drink that is made from yogurt, and it is also a traditional Turkish drink. It can be easily made at home if you have yogurt and it is a lot healthier than sodas and sweetened drinks. Also, turnip juice is preferred too by being healthy and delicious, which consists of black carrots. It is also preferred with cola or other kinds of sodas, and fruit juices.
In Turkey, women tend to have a day in a month or week to meet with each other. There are 10 or more women in those gatherings, and the host prepares various kinds of food, desserts, and appetizers for them. And then, each woman gives a specific amount of money or gold to the host. Börek is a significant part of those gatherings, typically made by the host.
Börek variations in Turkish cuisine
As I mentioned earlier, there are different kinds of börek with different characteristics. One of them is “sigara börek”, “sigara” means cigarette in Turkish and it gets this name because its shape looks like a cigarette. It is characterized by having cord cheese filling inside and parsley. Phyllo dough is rolled like a cigarette with cheese filling, and then the outside of it is washed with egg yolks. Then it is fried in sunflower oil in a pan.
Gözleme, on the other hand, is a variation of börek that is mostly preferred at breakfast. It is kind of a stuffed flatbread that is made with unfermented dough. Sometimes it is also made with yeast dough. Inside, there can be cheese, potatoes, sausage, or any combination of those ingredients. It is similar to “paçanga börek”, which includes cheese, pastirma (a kind of seasoned, air-dried, and cured beef), tomatoes, pepper, and parsley. But “paçanga börek” is shaped like a “sigara börek”, only thicker. It is also fried in sunflower oil.
Especially in the Adana region, “D börek” is quite popular. It is named “D börek” because it is the shape of the letter D. “D börek” can be made with cheese, spinach, or potatoes. “D börek” with spinach also includes tahini in it. Its dough is handmade, as it is opened like a circle, the filling is put inside, and it is shaped like a D. Later, it is closed by using fingers and cooked in a pan.
Another variation of börek is “tepsi” (means tray in Turkish) börek. Layer by layer, the dough is put to the tray by putting cheese mixture between each dough. It also has a special sauce to put at each layer. It typically includes two types of cheese, which are feta cheese and curd cheese. After it is cooked in the oven, served in the shapes of squares. It could also be prepared with mince and onions.
“Gül” (means rose in Turkish) börek gets its name from its shape, too. It reminds you of a rose. It could be prepared with spinach, cheese, mince, or potatoes. Gül börek with mince also includes currant in it. Gül börek also has variations within, such as “rüzgargülü” (means windshield in Turkish) börek or “gonca gülü” (rosebud in Turkish) börek. These variations are also named after their shapes. The doughs are cut in a triangular shape, filled with a filling of choice, and then rolled just like a sigara börek, then rolled vertically and take the shape of a rose.
Another type of börek that is indispensable from breakfast is “sıkma”. Sıkma means “squeezing” in English. It can be made with cheese of your choice and/or potatoes. It’s filling also includes onions and red pepper powder. It is different from other kinds of börek, because in “sikma” you need to cook the dough first, and then you need to fill it with filling. It is a lot easier to do in comparison to other kinds of börek. It is mostly preferred with Turkish tea.
Among all kinds of börek, one of them is probably the most difficult to make. It is called “su” (means water in Turkish) börek. It is mostly preferred on special occasions and holidays. There are also hearsays about “su börek”, such as in the past being able to be making “su börek” is a criterion for men while marrying with a woman, if she cannot make “su börek” then the marriage is not going to happen until she learns how to make “su börek” properly. The optimal “su börek” is not cooked in the oven, it is cooked above a fire and rotating it frequently. It is prepared with cheese or mince, but cheese is the most popular ingredient for “su börek”.
Çigbörek, as known as çibörek (translated chebureki to English) is another kind of börek is that typically preferred at breakfast or teatime. It is characterized by having mince and onion filling.
Börek in other cuisines
There are various börek-like dishes all around the world. For example, a similar dish to börek is called byorek in Armenia, and it is pretty much the same as börek. But a difference is that byorek is mostly spicy and there is a little bit of liquor in it.
Romanians call it plăcintă, Slovenians call it burek.
The round börek was initially made in Serbia by a Turkish baker.
In Israel, it is known as bourekas and it could be made with mushrooms, olives, chickpeas, mallows, eggplant in addition to cheese, potatoes, and mince.
In Greece, it is known as boureki or pita, which is very similar to Turkish börek.
In Albania, it is called byrek and there are special kinds of byreks. A special kind of byrek is called “lakror” in Albania, and it is usually prepared with green vegetables.
Where can you eat börek in Turkey?
Since börek is very loved and popular in Turkey, finding börek will not be difficult for you by any means. If you are going to a Turkish house as a guest, they may prepare börek for you. Or if you walk into any grocery store, you can find different kinds of frozen böreks in the frozen food section and cook them in the oven or a pan according to the cooking recipe. Other than that, if you want to eat fresh börek, you can find different restaurants that are dedicated to börek only. You can also go to any store that sells bakery foods or pastry and find börek there. If you want to do it yourself but you do not trust your abilities, you can just prepare the filling and take it to a bakehouse, and they will do it for you, but not all bakehouses do that. It is recommended to ask before preparing your filling to not get disappointed.
If you are vegan and want to eat potato or spinach börek, do not forget to ask what kind of oil or butter they are using, because they might use butter or oil that is derived from animals.
How to make börek?
To make tepsi börek with cheese, you will need 6 phyllo dough. To make the filling, you need cheese (you can mix various kinds of cheese if you would like) and parsley. For its sauce, you need half a glass of melted butter, a glass of sunflower oil or olive oil, a glass of milk, and one egg. Keep in mind that the glass mentioned is 250 milliliters.
First, you need the prepare the sauce. You must mix melted butter, sunflower oil, milk, and egg very well. Later, you need to put one phyllo dough on the tray and spread the sauce that you have just prepared. The next step is putting the filling, but do not put all of it, remember, you will need those filling for 4 other layers. After putting the filling, put another layer of phyllo dough and spread the sauce all over again. Then put another layer of filling, and above that, put another phyllo dough and spread sauce again. And then, for the last time, put another layer of filling and put the last piece of phyllo dough on top and spread sauce.
After that, you may or may not add sesame on top. Put it in a preheated oven at 180 centigrade degrees. Bake approximately 40 minutes until the top and the bottom of the börek turns a reddish color. Afiyet Olsun! Do not forget to serve it with ayran or Turkish tea.