The literal translation of the name for these pastries is “raw pastries – Çiğ börek”. Not because they are eaten raw, but because the filling is not pre-cooked. The filling is cooked by the hot steam that forms inside the pastries during frying in hot oil.
To tell you the truth, the term “Çiğ börek” is based on the original name of the Crimean Tartars dish “Chiburekki”. These pastries filled with minced meat are a Tartarean dish, they brought to Anatolia centuries ago. Thus these dishes have served as an everyday dish in Anatolia for a very long time.
In my dreams I imagine how many travellers passsing through Anatolia got to enjoy these pastries and told everywhere they went about these simple but delicious comfort food they had in the middle of Turkey. I imagine how they told cooks about it, and how the recipes travelled and entered the kitchen of the ottoman palace. I love to think how the palace chef served these dish to the emperor as a midnight snack with a lovely rose sorbet. What did the emperor think? ‘This cook is crazy serving me a simple pastry’ but than the emperor tasted it and was enchanted and a new tradition for midnight snacks at the ottoman palace started
The cooking was historically reserved for men – except in the domestic kitchen, which was primarily intended for women. Perhaps you have heard of the many specialty cuisines during the area of the Ottomans or read about them or even visited the Palace in Istanbul?! The men dominated the paid cooking jobs and they specialized in certain foods and prepared this special food day in and day out for decades in the same way. And “Çiğ börek” were always the “pastry filled with spiced raw minced meat and then fried in oil”. Full stop, that’s it.
Even nowadays, When you travel in Turkey you will notice that these recipes are still prepared the same way since centuries, no changes in pastry or filling. But who could effort to buy minced meat for an everyday dish?! So again, the women messed up, started nibbling at the old traditional recipes and changed them to their liking. They filled the pastries with raw vegetables, cheese or with lots of onions and herbs and baked them in oil. Yumm! A small revolution in the domestic kitchens, yeah! Today, the title “Çiğ börek” is a very stretchable name.
Another popular version is without a filling, therefore the dough is only slightly pulled apart, fried in oil, sprinkled with sugar and served. My mother used to make the latter very often on Thursdays and distributed them to all our neighbours. Why on Thursdays, now that’s another story.
I wish you a wonderful day, enjoy your food! Afiyet olsun!