I have been lucky enough to go back to Antioch,(Antakya), my hometown, with 11 enthusiastic travellers. It is the place I spent many childhood holidays at my grandmother’s almost 500 year old house, shopped in its ancient Long Market and enjoyed endless hammam rituals. It is so wonderful to be back and share this wonderful city with you all.
And here we are in the Antakya Museum of Archaeology (Mosaic Museum), which has the 2nd richest collection of ancient mosaics in the world. The size and the quality of the mosaics are simply breathtaking. This is the Soteria Mosaic (awakening).
And this is one of my favorite mosaics, Oceanus. Lovely details of cupids fishing and all the fish mosaics around.
The Mosaic Museum also hosts a section featuring the medieval pottery excavated in the region. Here are some examples of their beautiful pottery.
We left the Mosaic Museum and started walking towards the ancient Long Market (Uzun Carsi). Along the way, we came across a street stall, selling fresh pistachios, in their vibrant cherry coloured soft shells!:) They are a real delicacy at this part of Turkey, packed with flavor. Southeast part of Turkey, especially Gaziantep region is famous with their pistachios and Turkey is one of the biggest producers in the world. Next to the pistachios are the hazelnuts. Of course we had to get a small pack and taste them on our way to the market:)
And here we are in the Long Market, Uzun Carsi. It is the place where locals shop for their spices, red pepper paste, cheese, bread, kunefe (tel kadayif, shredded pastry strands for the dessert kadayifi), clothing and many more. Dried eggplants and peppers decorate almost every shop and it is delightful even to stroll around.
You see drink stalls all around the Long Market. This is my freshly squeezed orange, lemon and red mulberry juice with crushed ice; great colours, isn’t it? Very refreshing too!
Spices are being used artfully in Antioch; I can’t think of the cuisine without cumin, red pepper flakes, dried mint, sumac and many more. Long Market is the place where you find them all. There is also a great variety of herbal teas, henna (for coloring the hair and hands, especially at festive times and weddings), tahini, sesame seeds and pomegranate molasses; this place is a real foodie heaven.
Another delightful spot at the Long Market, a shop selling wooden spoons. This spoon is especially used for making region’s sweet pastry called kombe; locals shape the pastry using this spoon and its pattern.
I was watching this little boy getting his pide (flat bread, especially made during the month of Ramadan)from the local bakery in Long Market. I used to do – and always willing to!- that when I was a child a lot. Bakeries in Antioch is not only used for bread, but also locals would bring their meat mixture for kebabs and the bakeries would bake them. The tray kebab (which you can find the recipe in the blog, under Regional Signature dishes) cooked in the bakeries is to die for.
This is quite an interesting operation. Tel Kadayifi, fresh, vermicelli like pastry strands is the main ingredient of the world famous dessert Kunefe (or Kadayifi, as known abroad). The fresh pastry strands are cooked and sieved through a machine, that spirals through a round flat oven and baked there.
Once the pastry strands are ready, they are soaked in the melted butter and pressed flat on a greased oven tray. Then a generous layer of region’s unsalted cheese, specially produced for this dessert (similar to mozzarella)is spread evenly. Then another thin layer of butter soaked pastry strands is pressed over the top and baked. After baking it is cut in triangle slices and hot sugary syrup is poured all over. After a few minutes of soaking this syrup, the kunefe is ready to be served! It is worth coming to Antakya just for this dessert!:)
I hope you enjoyed strolling around Antioch, Antakya. This is a land of peace, tolerance, with rich history and culinary heritage. I can’t wait to come back again, and I hope you make it here sometime too.