NEOLOKAL is the Modern Anatolian Museum Restaurant of Chef Maksut Aşkar located in SALT Galata, a cultural institution and exhibition space in Istabul, Turkey.
The term “neolokal” is meant to describe the refined family cooking philosophy of the restaurant, based on the roots and traditions of real Anatolian cuisine. “Anatolia” is the old name of Turkey, which refers to Asia Minor or the western side of Asia.
For the first time ever, Manila was able to get a taste of the real flavors of Anatolian cuisine at Flame, Discovery Primea, thanks to Cheryl Tiu’s Cross Cultures.
Here is a photo essay of our educational journey into Turkish cuisine…
Kitchen 19:00 – 22:00 (Except Mondays)
Restaurant 19:00 – 01:00 (Except Mondays)
Ayran is a popular yogurt drink in Turkey. It’s an acquired taste that you’ll enjoy, especially when eating döner kebab.
This particular appetizer is made of a unique combination of yogurt soup base with flavors of chickpeas and herbs and topped with popped wheat grains.
(Neolokal trivia: Ayranaşi is a yogurt-based cold soup which consists of chickpeas, wheat, and fresh herbs, but recipes differ depending on the geography. We say it this way because this soup is made around the country, no matter the regional cuisine is.
In our recipe, we used salted goat yogurt with fresh green herbs aroma, green chickpeas that remind us of our childhood, and fresh flowers from our garden to express the freshness of the soup, as it is served as a palate cleanser to start a beautiful meal.)
ÇİĞ KÖFTE. Bulgur and beef tartar with mustard yogurt and turmeric pickled cauliflower (middle).
A ball of salad like the tabouleh mixed with beef tartar with Turkish spices.
It’s soft when you bite into it but a bit bland, so best to dip it in the mustard yogurt for flavor.
(Neolokal trivia: Kısır is a salad that plays an important role in our traditional home cooking.
We believe every Turkish mother and daughter has made this salad at least once in their lives. It is simply a bulgur salad, like tabouleh but with more spice and less greens. Then we make a beef tartar using Anatolian chili spices and homemade mustard and mix it with kisir.
This gives us another meze called çiğ köfte.)
This is a popular street food in Istanbul, which tastes better after a whole night of drinking.
It’s battered to give texture and flavor to the mussel, served with walnut and garlic sauce. Our favorite among the three appetizers.
(Neolokal trivia: Mussels are the symbol of the Bosphorus and Aegean Sea. Street food plays a big role in Istanbul cuisine, and fried mussels, fish and calamari are the stars of street seafood.
We use our sour yeast, Neylan, as batter for our mussels, which lends acidity and saltiness to the fatty fish.)
SOUR DOUGH. She is called “neylan ekşi.” Neylan is a common girl name and ekşi means sour. She was born on the 27th of June, 2014, months before Neolokal was born.
I don’t usually like hard bread but this Turkish sourdough has a good tough texture and a sour flavor that is best with Turkish butter and olive oil.
(Neolokal trivia: Everyday it gets wilder which gives her an attitude with a strong character. We serve it with butter of Çamlıhemşin, Blacksea and Parsley infused Olive Oil of Ayvalik, Aegea to refer the dark green mountains of Blacksea itself, Bear mushroom to refer the mother earth.)
Nice “domino blocks” of melon topped with bits of cheese, spices, walnuts, and almonds.
Best appetizer for raki (alcoholic drink popular in Turkey) sessions with friends before the main meal.
(Neolokal trivia: Meyhanes are where you drink raki over mezes with a lot of different varieties. Once there, the first thing to serve you is raki and you are asked whether you want your raki with melon and cheese, then the meze comes. After mingling with raki and friends, the street vendors comes to your table and asks to serve you fresh walnuts and almonds on ice. With this plate we wanted to take you to a small journey.)
This is the most familiar flavor and the most raved about dish throughout the dinner.
I like the delicate texture of the houmus, with different spices and color adding a 3D experience of the Turkish landscape, with the quail egg portraying the Anatolian sun.
(Neolokal trivia: Houmus is a Middle Eastern-influenced meze of Southeastern Anatolia, although every geography has its own recipe. As houmus changes it taste every hour, we remix ingredients until they reach that perfect taste we are looking for. In this recipe, we want to express how rich and colorful the spice road is where it passes through Mesopotamia. Thus we tried to imitate beautiful landscape of Mesopotamia with the herbs and spices accompanying houmus and have you travel all the way with the power of the different taste.)
The octopus was grilled well–still juicy and not chewy, with a mashed yellow gambilya fava and salsa on the side.
(Neolokal trivia: “Gambilya” at it is called in Turkey is a high protein legume that is used in its dried form. It is native to eastern Turkey. The bitter green leaves of the fresh plant may also be eaten. This split, yellow beans are found inside a brown pod. It could easily be mistaken for a yellow lentil, but is more closely related to peas, and it has a square-like shape as opposed to round lentils. It is a much less common variety grown for human consumption than other related species in the same genus. We make sage flavored fava cream out of gambilya, grill the octopus with olive oil, and add pepper salsa with dill power and dill oil.)
It was great to share this intimate educational experience of Anatolian cuisine with our foodie friends.
Crisp dried pastrami chips on a bed of big fat Turkish wheat grains infused with onion and leek flavors.
(Neolokal story: Uveyik wheat is an ancient breed of wheat produced by a farmer, Hüseyin Amca, with a Japanese technique thought by Masanobu Fukuoka which respect the earth and welcomes whatever the earth gives back. This breed of wheat is still al dante even if it cooked for 7 hours with onion and leek.)
My personal favorite–perfectly cooked sea bass steamed with fish stock, lemon, onions.
(Neolokal trivia: “Buğulama” is the name of the steaming technique in Turkey where fish is cooked with lemon, potatoes, bay leaves, and onions at homes. We steam the fish with the juice of fish stock, potatoes, lemon, and onions.)
The meat course of the night was beef cooked in duck fat served like a philo sandwich. It was a bit salty and wasn’t what we expected.
(Neolokal trivia: Wherever you go in Anatolia, you will find tirit and tarhana soup on the dinner table.
Depending on the region, tirit is either cooked with beef, lamb or poultry. The meat is cooked with stock and simply served with bread soaked in that stock and yoghurt.
Tarhana soup is made with a fermented mixture of grains, yoghurt, spices and sometimes tomatoes. Our version is a combination of all. Cooking beef in duck juice and fat gives an amazing complexity to the dish.)
This pumpkin dessert was so good–crisp outside but smooth and sweet inside.
(Neolokal story: Soft inside hard outside crispy pumpkin is made for ages in the hometown of the chef. An old technique applied to last harvest of aubergines, walnuts and pumpkin. Resting the fruits in limestone and water mixture helps get a crispy texture after boiling in sugar water. Served with different takes on pumpkin, tahini and molasses. This dessert is a reminder of chefs childhood where his grandmother’s neighbors used to make their living with this dessert. Serving sesame croquant is a homage to street vendors selling croquants in grandmother’s neighborhood.)
Our favorite baklava a la mode made with Turkish ricotta & pistachio and walnut cream, served with hazelnut crunch.
(Neolokal story: We made our baklava in two varieties: Turkish ricotta & pistachio and walnut cream without syrup. We serve it with molasses tahini ice cream on a bed of pistachio powder. [Our way of making baklava is rolling the baklava dough with unripe walnut candies and fill them with 1-pistachio, “lor” (ricotta like fresh cheese) and “kaymak” (clotted cream) 2- walnuts, “lor” (ricotta like fresh cheese) and “kaymak” (clotted cream). We serve the baklava with “halva” made with grape molasses coming from “Edremit” of Aegean, produced by 3 generations producers called “tıflıpaşsa.”)
Pişmaniye Angel Hair candy. Pişmaniye & Floss Candy.
Black Poppy Seed tuile. Haşhaş Kıtırı & Poppy seed tuile.
Rose “lokum” delight. Lokum & Turkish delight.
A classic sweet ending of Turkish delights and floss candy to share. Would have been perfect with Turkish coffee and a bit of fortune telling in the end.
We loved this educational journey into Anatolian cuisine, which was totally different from the flavors we’re used to in Manila.
There’s a lot of yogurt and sour flavors, and the use of wheat and Turkish spices. It’s a bit hard to appreciate it if taken out of the context of the Istanbul street and Bosphorus scene.
Our favorites for the night were the double baked tahini houmus, grilled black bass, crispy pumpkin, and baklava desserts.
Congratulations to Cheryl Tiu and Chef Maksut Aşkar for a successful Neolokal x Flame dinner in Manila!
CROSS CULTURES by CHERYL TIU
Cross Cultures was founded by journalist Cheryl Tiu on the premise that food is one of the most accessible ways of exchanging cultures. Through the sharing of culinary experiences and talents between chefs and cooks, between countries and continents, we hope to dispel misconceptions and remove boundaries and rather integrate and contribute to building a more global community.
instagram: @cross.cultures • facebook: CrossCulturesbyCheryltiu • blog: www.CherylTiu.com
Live an Awesome Life,
Disclosure: I wrote this article with my biases, opinions, and insights.
P.S. Can’t wait to go back to one of my favorite culinary destinations and try out Neolokal in Istanbul!