Kahramanmaraş is world famous as the home of Maraş ice cream. Though not as renowned as the ice cream, the Maraş tarhanası soup has a national reputation.
In addition to these special flavours, there are some less well known – but very distinctive – local specialties.
Maraş Ice Cream
Milk, sahlep and sugar are used to make traditional Maraş ice cream. Goat’s milk is traditionally used: the ice cream’s unique flavour is derived from the milk obtained from goats grazed on rattleweed (astragalus). Another crucial element is sahlep, from the roots of wild orchids grown in Maraş. This herb gives the ice cream its distinctive fragrance and texture.
To make the ice cream, sahlep and then sugar is added to goat’s milk boiled at 90 degrees (C) and stirred until the mixture becomes gummy. It rests for six to eight hours and is then cooled and prepared for eating.
Maraş tarhanası is unique in its traditional preparation, presentation and flavour. Mainly preferred as soup, the paste base can also be eaten dried, fried or crisped on a hot iron sheet. Maraş Tarhanası is made with dövme, which consists of yoghurt and wheat. It is a nourishing regional dish and excellent for digestion as it has probiotic qualities and is rich in protein and fibre.
These thin-skinned peppers are usually dried – in the sun or in an oven – and used to make powdered pepper and chili pepper. The pepper has a distinctive flavour and is in high demand both in Kahramanmaraş and throughout Türkiye.
Maraş Peanut Butter
Maraş peanuts are ground, and water and sugar added. When the mixture has thickened, it is diced. This peanut butter enhances physical performance and endurance as it is highly nourishing and keeps energy levels high.
This long-established pastry is an indispensable flavour for local people. Usually accompanied by a fruit compote, the Maraş muffin is a regional specialty, notably served to guests for Ramadan feasts, Islamic memorial services and other special occasions.
Specialties of Şıra (Pestil, Pekmez, Turkish-style ‘sausage’, Samsa dessert, Hapısa)
In Kahramanmaraş, traditional foods prepared in autumn and consumed in the winter are known as ‘şıra’. Şıra include such items as pekmez, bastık, pestil, samsa and sausage, and they have a special place in the region’s culinary culture. Şıras are usually made by the owners of vineyards in October and November, for both their own consumption and to sell.
Pekmez is a type of molasses made from grapes or mulberries; the ‘sausage’ (sucuk) is made by boiling pekmez with nişe (a type of halfa) and stuffing it with walnuts. Hapısa is made by boiling pekmez with nişe. Bastık involves a thin layer of dried hapısa. Samsa is made by rolling crushed walnuts into triangles of bastık, while pestil is sun-dried hapısa. These are among the must-try Kahramanmaraş culinary delights.
Kırma Dessert with Walnut
A type of şıra, kırma dessert is made by dicing and sprinkling a little water over it. After frying, the oil is drained and removed. Then the diced walnuts are braised. These two ingredients are fried together and served hot.
Fresh grapes are juiced and strained in burlap sacks. The strained juice is sun dried in bowls; the thickened liquid is then preserved in glass jars. For the sherbert, a spoonful of the ravanda concentrate is added to water.
Döğme (coarsely ground wheat) is soaked overnight, then boiled and cooked with lentils and chickpeas. Vegetables (purslane, aubergines, or beets) are added to the mixture, along with a meat broth or cooked, shredded meat. Finely chopped onion is sauteed with tomato paste, peppermint and chili pepper and added to the soup, along with sumac and salt to taste. The soup is served with sauce.
Maraş Kelle Paça
This traditional soup is made by boiling the meat of a goat or sheep head and adding pepper, red pepper paste, garlic and sumac. The resulting, extremely tasty soup is called kelle paça (head and feet) an indispensable dish in the regional cuisine.
This type of dolma (stuffed vegetable) is made by boiling dried vegetables such as aubergines, peppers, or zucchini, and stuffing them with a mixture of minced meat, onion, garlic, and various spices.
İçli köfte are bulghur balls filled with a mixture of roasted mincemeat and onion blended with black pepper, chili pepper and walnuts. It can be fried or boiled; for special occasions, more walnuts are included. It goes well with ayran (a drink made of yoghurt and water). The dish has a special place in the traditional culinary culture of Kahramanmaraş.