Vegetarian Options Increasing in Kebabistan

Seven years ago, I was visiting Turkey with a vegetarian friend, also from the United States. One night, looking for somewhere to eat dinner, we went up to a restaurant owner and asked, "Do you have anything without meat?" He responded enthusiastically, "Yes, yes…! Coffee, and rice."

Although fresh, delicious produce is easy to come by in Turkey, kebab culture still dominates. But options for vegetarians -- or anyone who's had their fill of grilled meat -- are increasing, especially in Istanbul.

Creative restaurateurs are using a hearty mixture of bulgur wheat, lentils, mushrooms, onions, and cheese to replace the meat in kebabs and topping their thin, pizza-like lamacun with spinach and cheese instead of ground beef. While this may not seem like a very big deal to many Americans, tradition generally reigns in Turkish cuisine.

Of course, there's always simit, cucumber-and-tomato salad, and mercimek çorbası (lentil soup), but a kebab without meat? That's like messing with hamburgers or apple pie. Whether it's because people are looking for healthier, cheaper, or more ecofriendly meals, the times, they are a-changin'. Via: "I'll take a kebab, but without meat, thank you!" Today's Zaman

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