Lahmacun

Lahmacun is a popular and loved dish that has an important place on Turkey’s deliciousness map. It is prepared by putting a filling with mince to a thin layer of dough, and then baking it. It is also as known as “Turkish pizza” since it is sort of similar to pizza, in the preparing process. Do not let this referring to lahmacun fool you, it is a unique taste by any means.

Lahmacun appeals to all age groups. There are lahmacun lovers from the age 7 to age 70, because it is mainly made with ingredients that are typically loved among people. If you are okay with consuming meat, you will most probably like lahmacun, too. If you love meat, I personally do not give you any chance to dislike lahmacun, but of course, it can depend.

What is lahmacun?

Lahmacun is an example of how wonderfully simple and uncomplicated flavors can be. It could be simply described as dough and mince topping which could be made with beef, meat, or lamb, but the ingredients within filling, the dough of it, the preparation of it is all contributes to the taste of lahmacun. In Turkey, different regions make lahmacun in various styles and all of them are loved.

Lahmacun’s popularity is not exaggerated. According to the data from Turkey’s most popular company that you can order food from anywhere to anywhere(Yemek Sepeti), 2020’s most ordered dish was lahmacun. You can find lahmacun pretty much everywhere in Turkey, and in some regions of Turkey, it is pretty common to make the filling at home, and then giving it to a bakery to put the filling into a round-shaped dough and cook it. 

Etymology, origin, and history of lahmacun

Lahmacun has a long history, it has existed in the world for more than 5000 years. The word “lahmacun” comes from an Arabic word, laḥm ˁacīn, which means kneaded (like a dough) meat. Separately, “lahm” means meat, and “acin” means kneaded dough. The word “acin” comes from another Arabic word, “macun”. Macun refers to the object that has the consistency of dough.

The first example of the word lahmacun in written sources is included in Evliya Çelebi’s work named travel, before the year 1680. But the word lahmacun has not been any dictionary before the 20th century.

Since lahmacun is made with unleavened dough and it is quite easy to make, it is estimated that lahmacun exists long, long before. Approximately, it is known to be existing in the Babylonia period, and as a Middle Eastern food. Until the spreading of stone ovens, lahmacun was not easy to prepare. With the spread of stone ovens, it became possible to cook both dough and the topping at the same time. And until the mid-1960s, lahmacun was only popular in specific regions in Turkey, especially in eastern regions that include Gaziantep and Şanlıurfa. 

As the migration from those small towns to bigger cities, individuals started to make and sell lahmacun in those big cities. Since it is a taste that common people will like, it became popular very quickly and it preserves its popularity up to date. Nowadays, rather than being street food, lahmacun is a lot more industrialized taste in which you can find in various restaurants and cafes.

Lahmacun is popular in Armenia, Lebanon, and Syria, too. Even though there is no clear evidence about where it was invented, most of the world agrees that lahmacun is a traditional Turkish or Armenian food.

Lahmacun in Turkish cuisine

Lahmacun is consumed in lunch, dinner, or as an appetizer before certain dishes. Some prefer squeezing a little bit of lemon juice in lahmacun and putting some parsleys. Also, radish and arugula are musts for lahmacun. Parsley and arugula go well inside lahmacun, yet radish is not commonly put inside the lahmacun, rather, it is eaten after each bite or couple of bites. According to its size, people prefer eating different numbers of lahmacun, but it is not quite usual to just eat one and leave the table.

Lahmacun is typically eaten with ayran, a traditional Turkish drink that is derived from yogurt and is a salty drink. Turnip juice, another traditional Turkish drink which is made from red carrots, is another option to have with lahmacun. Both of those drinks are healthier than sugary and acidic drinks and their taste just matches with lahmacun perfectly. But drinking cola or other soft drinks are also preferred by some people.

It is also quite common to eat tomatoes with lahmacun. Chopping up some tomatoes and eating after every couple of bites of lahmacun will help you to chew and digest easily. Also, the salt in the lahmacun will be balanced thanks to tomatoes. Also, chopping tomatoes to your salad is another option to eat with lahmacun.

Lahmacun could be preferred to eat as a main course and nothing else, or sometimes it is served with soups like lentil soup, tomato soup, or chicken pot soup. It is also served as an appetizer on some occasions. For example, if you go out to eat kebab in a restaurant, the chances of having tiny lahmacuns as an appetizer are high. It is also served as an appetizer in the rakı (an alcoholic drink that is famous in Turkey) table, but the portions in appetizers are really small in comparison to other kinds of lahmacun.

Storing and keeping lahmacun

Some housewives prefer to make lahmacun in quite a bit many numbers, and then store it in the freezer. This way, in an urgent situation they can just dissolve and warm up the frozen lahmacuns and serve or eat them. Also, it is known that the lahmacun that is made in the stone oven can protect its freshness without being frozen, for 2 days. These are very useful in terms of not wasting any food.

If you need to store lahmacun for a while, you need to put them in a certain way. It must be the way that one lahmacun looking up, and above that, another lahmacun looking down. This way the topping will not entangle with the dough that is on the backside.

The proper way to eat lahmacun

As I mentioned before, lahmacun is round-shaped, but it is not eaten as it is. In different regions, the size of the lahmacun changes. But none of those regions prefer to eat lahmacun with a fork or knife. You need to use your hands while eating lahmacun, but if you are uncomfortable with that, you can always use a napkin or if you are uncomfortable with that too, you can use a fork and knife. In the regions in which lahmacun is made larger, they add some other ingredients they like in lahmacun and roll it like a wrap. This is the optimal way to eat lahmacun. In the regions which lahmacun made small, you do not need to roll it, it is typically smaller than a slice of pizza and you can easily eat it.

How to make lahmacun?

Besides eating lahmacun at a restaurant, or buying frozen from the grocery store, you might prefer to make lahmacun at your home. The following are the ingredients for lahmacun:

For the topping: green pepper, red pepper, onions, parsley, tomatoes, tomato paste, pepper paste, red pepper powder, salt, oil, beef mince with oil.

For the dough: flour, water, sugar, oil, salt.

To make the topping, you need to mix the ingredients except for spices, mince, oil, pepper, and tomato paste. After you mix them all, you will have a mortar. Then, you must put the remaining ingredients from the topping (spices, oil, pepper paste, and tomato paste), but do not add the mince yet, and mix them. Afterward, you can add the mince and knead them all together. If it took a kind of solid texture, you may add some water to soften it. Then it is just left to leave to rest.

Now, after making the topping you can take it to a bakery and ask them to do it for you. Or you can complete it at home. 

To make the dough, put water, sugar, oil, and salt in a cup and mix them. Then slowly, add flour as you keep mixing it. You need to have a medium-hard dough, so knead it accordingly. After it becomes medium-hard, you need to knead for 5 more minutes. Then you need to put the dough in a cylinder shape, and then divide them equally. The divided dough needs to be rested at least for an hour, and it needed to be closed with a towel or something like that to not be exposed to air contact.

As they are waiting, you can turn your oven on to warm it up. After spreading flour on the counter, you can start rolling the dough. An important trick for a well-done lahmacun is thin dough, this is why unleavened dough is used in the making of lahmacun, to not become puffy. So, keep in mind to roll your dough thinly. After you rolled your dough, you can put the topping that you have prepared. You can arrange the filling/dough ratio as you would like. Then it is just left to be cooked. Afiyet Olsun! Do not forget to serve it with radish, ayran, or turnip juice.

Different lahmacun types in Turkey

As mentioned before, different regions in Turkey have different kinds of lahmacuns. The following subtitles are some of the most famous types of lahmacun all around the country.

Şanlıurfa Lahmacun

Şanlıurfa is a city in Turkey that is located on the southeast side. It is one of the two cities that lahmacun is known to be originated in Turkey. This type of lahmacun is characterized by containing a pepper powder that is special to Şanlıurfa, named “isot”. Isot is quite spicy, if you do not like spicy food it is not recommended for you. In Şanlıurfa, this lahmacun type is also referred to as “bread with mince”. Şanlıurfa lahmacun is made from a mixture of lamb and veal.

Gaziantep Lahmacun

Different from other lahmacun types, Gaziantep lahmacun’s most important feature is that it does not contains onions. Instead, it has cloves of garlic. It is also known by having different vegetables in it. Gaziantep lahmacun is also known for its ellipse shape. Different from other kinds of lahmacuns that contain no yeast in their dough, Gaziantep lahmacun contains 1% yeast in its dough. Additionally, Gaziantep lahmacun is made from lamb.

Fındık Lahmacun

Fındık means “hazelnut” in Turkish, and this type of lahmacun gets its name from how tiny it is. The appetizer lahmacun that was discussed earlier, is named fındık lahmacun. It is very small and is usually served before eating a kebab in restaurants. In some regions, like Tarsus, fındık lahmacun is the only type of lahmacun they consume.

Crispy lahmacun

Crispy (çıtır) lahmacun is different from regular lahmacun by being cooked in a pan instead of an oven. After regularly preparing the lahmacun, crispy lahmacun is prepared by putting it in a pan and closing its lid. Also, crispy lahmacun is different from regular lahmacun by containing yeast in its dough.

Other kinds of lahmacuns

Even though other kinds of lahmacuns are just innovations that were made by people who think that it would be good on lahmacun, they are also quite popular. For example, nowadays lahmacun with cheddar cheese is on the agenda. Besides, almost all cities have their own ways to make lahmacun. It can be observed that even the different households of the same city have their special unique styles of preparing lahmacun. 

Lahmacun around the world

Lahmacun is a wondered dish in the world. According to Google’s data, lahmacun is one of the most searched words in 2020. This shows the curiosity and demand for lahmacun globally. Additionally, different countries refer to lahmacun under different names. For example, it is called “lamadjo” in Armenia, in Syria and Lebanon it is called “lahm bi ‘ajin” and in the United States, it is usually called “Armenian pizza”. Some other countries refer to lahmacun as “Turkish pizza”.

İsmail Çamönü

Hi! I am Ismail. I am a digital nomad from Turkey. I lived in many cities around Turkey during my life and I am passionate about traveling. At Nomad's Guide to Turkey, I share travel tips for nomads, expats, and tourists who would like to visit Turkey.

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