Spice trade has played an important role for many centuries. It was associated with power and wealth. Many of the most valuable spices came to us from India, China and Indonesia. In the Middle Ages, the spice trade was controlled mainly by the rulers of the Ottoman Empire, who earned a lot of money on it. The sailors were tired of the high prices of pepper, cinnamon or ginger and were looking for their own ways to India to break the trading monopoly of the Ottoman Empire.

The ancient Egyptians used onions, garlic, juniper and cumin 4-5 thousand years ago, not only as food additives, but also as medicinal and cosmetic products. These spices are also featured in manuscripts from Mesopotamia. In China, star anise, saffron and ginger were used 3–4 thousand years ago.

Philosophers and doctors in ancient Greece and Rome, already 2500 years ago, knew many herbs and spices, which are still used today. At that time they were used mainly as medicinal plants. Alexander of Macedon brought pepper and cinnamon from his trips to Persia and India. The Greeks considered imported spices a sign of prosperity.

Turkish (Arab) cuisine is among the three best cuisines in the world (after the French and Chinese); It is famous for its diversity and antiquity. Most of dishes are a healthy and well-balanced combination of ingredients. Dolma and sarma (these are stuffed vegetables), lentil soups, meat with vegetables, rice or wheat groats (bulgur) and, finally, yogurt, which is served to almost all these dishes – everyone will like this menu. Meat stewed with vegetables in the Turkish kitchen is always served with rice or wheat cereal. For cooking, mainly olive oil is used. Mint or dill combined with zucchini, parsley – with eggplant. Lemon and yogurt balance the flavor of olive oil, meat or vegetables. Pine nuts, pistachios, walnuts, or sultanas raisins are often added to vegetable and meat dishes, which give them a peculiar taste. Sometimes, to add sourness, instead of lemon juice they use pomegranate seeds. In the preparation of dishes are widely used rice, legumes – peas, beans.

5 favorite spices

Red Pepper Flakes (Kırmızı Pul Biber)

Going to any tray on the market, you may be embarrassed. Red pepper fills more space than anything else. Dried and chopped red pepper is a versatile seasoning. Pepper is used as a final spice in almost every dish. Therefore, there is nothing unusual if you see a cup of red pepper flakes next to salt and black pepper on the tables of the cafes of the city of Istanbul. Red pepper has a rather sharp taste. The darker the color of the spice, the sharper the taste.

Dried thyme

This may seem strange, since thyme is an Italian spice, but it is most often used in the preparation of dishes. Fresh thyme (oregano) is rarely found in Turkey, while in dried form it is used very often. In Turkish cuisine, dried thyme is used as a final spice for soups and many other dishes. For example, one of the favorite and uncomplicated recipes is meat with thyme.


It is also a type of red pepper, but the color is almost black. It is made from Urfian pepper, which is dried in the sun for 3 days. It is due to this technology that the pepper acquires a rich dark color. Isot has a spicy taste and adds spice to the dish. Often it is added to the filling for dolma, to meat dishes. 

Dried mint

Everyone knows that nothing can compare with fresh mint. It is a companion of dried thyme for soups. It is added to other dishes, such as stuffing for dolma.


Very bright and unusual spice for foreigners. Sumac looks like pepper, but has nothing more to do with it. In fact, it is a berry, which, of course, dried. Sumac has a sour taste. It is often added to salads, for example, from tomatoes, onions and parsley.