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Imam Bayildi (Eggplant) from Turkey • A Culinary Tour Around the World

January 22, 2011 by Joan Nova in Blogging, Culinary Tour Around the World, Events, Food Challenge, Travel Retrospectives, Vegetables | 24 Comments

I’ve been to Turkey twice. It was both a taste and a tease — times 2!

Food was not an important factor during those brief visits so my personal knowledge of Turkish food comes from restaurants in New York and it’s similarity to Mid-Eastern countries, like Lebanon and Syria.

For this stop on our Culinary Tour, I’m sharing a few of my travel photos and a delicious vegetarian dish called Imam Bayildi.

Within a space of 5 years, I visited Turkey twice. The first time was on a Mediterranean cruise that stopped in Istanbul for about 8 hours. I actually saw a lot in that short time…the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace and The Grand Bazaar… and I was impressed by the sounds (call to prayer), smells (spice market), and culture of the city. The second time was an excursion to the ancient ruins in Ephesus from a small Greek ship touring the Islands.

Ephesus was a remarkable experience that at once envelops you in the history of civilization.

Imam Bayildi (stuffed vegetarian eggplant)

The name supposedly derived from a Turkish imam who swooned with pleasure at the flavor of this dish when it was presented to him by his wife. Other accounts suggest he fainted at the cost of the ingredients. And even further stories that he fainted because of the amount of oil used to cook it. (Wikipedia)

When I was googling for a recipe that appealed to me, I came across the Give Recipe blog written by a Turkish woman named Zerrin. It’s a very attractive blog with beautiful photography and although I had never visited her website before, I saw in the comments that we share many readers — so some of you may already know Zerrin. I chose to follow her recipe for Imam Bayildi…or, as she calls it, imambayildi (one word).

I served the eggplant with a little sour cream (Zerrin suggested yogurt but I didn’t have any) and brown rice.

About this dish…
This is a simple dish that delivers! At first glance, I thought the flavor profile was reminiscent of caponata or ratatouille but I discovered it had its own characteristics. I was tempted to add ingredients like feta cheese (or olives, nuts or capers), but I used self-control and stuck to the recipe. I’m glad I did. It was delicious in its simplicity and it was enhanced by the accompaniments.

This photo was taken in Istanbul. I was told this young boy was dressed in ceremonial garb for his circumcision (ouch!).

Allaha ismarladik*…as I leave you with this bit of inarguable wisdom from a Turkish proverb:

If a stone falls on an egg, it is bad for the egg;
if an egg falls onto a stone, it is still bad for the egg.

*hasta la vista, see ya’, ciao for now :)

Blogger Round-Up: Wednesday, January 26
Next Stop: Japan, January 30
Event info + details

NOTE: Some recipes found on FOODalogue are offered without ingredient quantities. They're meant as a guide to food pairings and techniques to be experimented with … in your own kitchen … to your own spice and taste levels … to your preferred portion sizes … and to however many people you’re cooking for. A perfect meal has multiple levels of flavor and textures, bright colors and tastes, and healthy(ish) choices. It's all about enjoyment. Enjoy the process, the presentation and the just rewards...eating!

24 Comments

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  1. zerrin says:

    Joan, you did a great job here! Your imambayildi looks definitely so Turkish! Rice goes perfect with this dish. I’m sure sour cream does it too. And thank you for sticking to my recipe and giving a link to my page. But I must admit that I’m now tempted with the ingredients tempting you. I can try them next time.
    Also, I enjoyed reading about your visits to Turkey. Ephesus is one of my favorite places here, isn’t it like a different world from history? It makes you feel in a time tunnel. And the places you visited in Istanbul are just the main tourist attractions in Istanbul, there are much more impressive places there to see. You must visit it for a second and longer time.

    • Joan says:

      Thank you. I’m glad you’re pleased with my interpretation of your country. I know Turkey has a lot to offer the visitor and I certainly do hope to visit again.

  2. norma says:

    That eggplant is so beautiful. The colors just stand out and I am sure the taste is just perfect. I will definitely book mark this for my client. Another winner!

  3. Foodiewife says:

    Someday, I hope to visit a part of this world. Thanks for the mini tour. I’ve been wanting to expand my recipe repertoire to include dishes from this part of the world. This dish has beautiful color and I can tell that the flavors are bright and tasty. I’d love to try a dish like this, and now you’ve shown me how.

  4. bellini says:

    This sounds like a fantastic experience Joan and I will definitely check out her blog. Turkey is somewhere i would love to go in real time.

  5. This is a beautiful dish!! How fortunate you are to have made such frequent trips – I remember my trip there years ago still but think I need a pick-me-up! =)

  6. Katie says:

    I have always been intrigued by Turkey, and your photos and travel experiences confirm that there’s a great deal of interest for the visitor. I hope to see it with my own two eyes one day.

    For now, I am content traveling there via your blog, and this eggplant recipe looks so colorful and inviting. I’m a big fan of eggplant, so I look forward to trying this out!

  7. Joan, you are a fab cook and I can smell the aroma through the screen. I am sorry about my website. I am going through several to see how I want to set up my wordpress. BTW, I also like your photos each day. Good job.

  8. Brii says:

    well, this is the best part of the culinary tour,
    visiting follow bloggers. I do like this a lot and will drop by Zerrin as soon I’m finished writing here.
    great dish Joan and lovely photos.
    I have never been to Turkey, but it is on my wishlist together with Cyprus.
    thank’s for sharing.
    baciusss
    Brii

  9. Peter says:

    Nice job on the Imam Bayildi, a dish loved by the Greeks. It’s a wonderful vegetarian dish and I love the garlic!

  10. I love imam bayildi! My roots are Asia Minor Greek (from Turkey) so we enjoy this dish immensely….although I have yet to make a satisfactory version.

  11. I’ve enjoyed Imam Bayildi for a number of years now…eating it at friends houses whose roots stem from Asia Minor. A great job on the recipe Joan and a nice intro to Turkey.

  12. I read Zerrin’s posts regularly and her food is amazing. This dish is no exception. Yours looks fantastic, Joan… as does hers. I also make a similar recipe. I love egg plant filled with whatever is in the fridge with some homemade yogurt. Great post. So interesting!
    :)
    Valerie

  13. This is a wonderful dish! I’m going to agree with my fellow Greek bloggers and say that it is a dish that is loved by Greeks as well as Turks. Your version looks amazing!
    Magda

  14. I love the colours and the fact that it is stuffed veggies. Yum. My post is up – cheers.

  15. Maria says:

    Great write-up on Turkey Joan! I’ve never been even though it is a stone’s throw from the island in Greece from which my family is from.

    The Imam Bayildi turned out amazingly well it seems! Lovely photos.

  16. Torwen says:

    I can understand the imam, I’m swooning myself :) This looks so delicious! I definitely have to try it once our journey is over.
    As usual lovely food photography :)

  17. I haven’t made Imam Bayildi before, but I’m dying to. Love the addition of sour cream too, I can imagine the flavours all together, sounds glorious.

  18. elly says:

    I’ve always wanted to try this dish. Yours looks so bright & delicious.

  19. Angela says:

    Joan, your imam bayildi looks so good….thanks also for making me know about Zerrin and her blog. I visited her and it’s so appealing and full of dishes to try!

  20. Turkey is one of the places that I wish to visit time and time again; so much riches and history and of course such great food!
    Great rendition of the imam bayildi with a colorful photo and perfect sides.

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