Monday, July 30, 2018

A Vegan Turkish Feast!

Have you ever heard of Burek?? I first learned about burek many years ago, when Mr. VE&T and I were traveling in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Because parts of that region were historically part of the Ottoman Empire, there are many connections between Bosnian and Turkish cultures. The first city we visited in Bosnia was Mostar, which is a very special place. I remember vividly my first burek sighting... It was at a spot in Mostar with a huge wood oven (like a pizza oven) and inside was a huge cast iron pan with a huge THING on it. This "THING" was clearly amazing - it was rolls of very thin dough, filled with something definitely not vegan, and arranged in concentric circles... like a giant, target shaped savory pastry. I was mesmerized. I asked Mr. VE&T (who is not vegan) to please order a piece and tell me all about it.  

I've had the mystical vision of that decidedly non vegan burek in my head for years... and I mentioned it at some point to my excellent friend Kenan, who is Turkish... and he promised to someday make me a vegan burek...

This weekend, Kenan did just that!!! Because he is amazing, he made the most beautiful spread of TWO KINDS of burek, Turkish tea, and treats. It was such a wonderful afternoon. Here he is, with his beautiful piece-de-resistance! 

Spiral Burek

The picture above gives you a sense of how big this was. Kenan made this burek using the "official" Turkish dough - which he explained to me is a lot like phyllo dough, but a bit thicker so that it is easier to work with and has a bit more chew to it. It was SO good. Kenan was fancy and made the two inner spirals with one type of filling and the outer two layers with another filling. The middle filling used some amazing vegan Feta cheese that he had found at The Butcher's Son in Berkeley. Oh man it was so good, especially with that burek dough. The outer two rolls had a hearty filling of spinach and onions that was extremely delicious - perfectly savory and seasoned. He must have used SO MUCH spinach! This whole creation was just incredible and it sounded like he had done more pretty advanced level veganizing for some parts of the traditional recipe that called for egg. Whatever he did worked, because it was all fantastic.

"Cigar Burek" 

Kenan taught me that there is another kind of burek called Cigar Burek - for obvious reasons... they are rolled up like little cigars! These were stuffed with a potato mixture that was UHMAZING. And they were deep fried, which was a special treat - so crispy on the outside and smooth and delicious on the inside. These ones had a bit more dough, and were a little more bready, which was different but equally delicious.

Kenan and Kendra also made some special lemonades - lemon and rose, and lemon and mint. So good and summery! Plus there were big beautiful tomato slices and cucumber spears... and most especially, Kenan made Turkish tea in his beautiful special tea pot. It was such a beautiful color and was so good. It went so perfectly well with the burek... like you could just tell that these two flavors have been side by side for centuries.

Kenan told us that he read in his Turkish cookbook that people have been eating some version of burek since the 11th century!!! WOW. 

My tea, my VEGAN BUREKS (plural!!!), lemonade... my heart! 
This is definitely one of the very most special vegan treats anyone has ever prepared for me and I was just overwhelmed with the deliciousness, the gesture, and how lucky I am to have such awesome friends in my life!!! And, as if that wasn't enough, I was also sent home with an equally huge and glorious portion, which I devoured for lunch the next day. Ahhhh. HEAVEN. 

We really just had the most lovely afternoon, in the sun, catching up, laughing, munching away, sipping our tea, eating cucumber slices, surrounded by flowers, and it was great. 


  1. Amy, my heart feels so full reading this. What a thoughtful and amazing gesture from your friend, Kenan, to go to that much effort to share these dishes with you. Everything sounds so delicious, and I like what you said about the flavors having existed in harmony for centuries. That's pretty incredible and even hard to conceive of that people have been eating some form of burek since the 11th century.

  2. I love sharing in your joy and appreciation for vegan food, friends, and Summer’s blessings!

  3. wow, this post makes me so happy. what a special friend to make such an amazing effort so you could try a food from his heritage! also my mouth is watering looking at your plate!

  4. What a perfect day - beautiful generous friends and amazing delicious food.

  5. Everything looks so good and the bureks sound incredibly delicious; how nice of your friend to veganize them for you!

  6. Stop! I am so jealous! i want to eat this so badly! lol

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