We’re halfway through the month of Ramadan (called Ramazan in Turkish), an important time for religious Muslims but also a time of many celebrations. Turkey is a largely secular country, thanks to founder Ataturk, who brought the country out of the Ottoman Empire into the modern world 90 years ago, and many Turks do not observe the fasting but do enjoy many of the traditions associated with Ramazan. Each day’s sunrise-to-sunset fast is broken with the iftar meal, a feast anyone can enjoy and typically started with consuming a few dates.
In Turkey, a large flat loaf of Ramazan pide bread is a specialty only made during this month and a must for any iftar. Last year, during my first Ramazan in Istanbul, I tried a few supermarket Ramazan pides and was mostly underwhelmed, it tastes similar to a pizza crust. This year I got wise and joined the many locals standing in line for a fresh hot pide and now I’m hooked. Bakeries all over the city make pides in the afternoon and evening to be fresh for sunset call-to-prayer and it’s one time you want to show up at a bakery at the end of the day. Look for a bakery with the longest line, get your lira ready (they generally cost around 1.50 TL or $1 USD), and grab a piping hot loaf wrapped in a paper sleeve. Pides are usually covered in sesame seeds and make a great sandwich base with cheese or spread with tahini and Nutella, that is if you can wait that long. Many Turks tear into their pide on the way home from the bakery, while it’s still hot and crusty from the oven. Enjoy them while you can, Ramazan will be over August 29, when the national bayram holidays begin and pides disappear until next year.