Most self-professed foodies will recoil in anxiety-induced fear when asked the dreaded question “So, what’s your favourite food?” But not me. That’s an easy one.
Without hesitation, my favourite food is Turkish mezze. I love the mixture of hot and cold, different textures and tastes and most importantly, I like that mezze is designed to be shared.
I think it is such a gorgeous way to enjoy food, and when you are used to sitting and eating on your own after a long, hard day in the office, it is easy to forget that eating together and communicating is one of the things that sets us apart in the animal kingdom.
It also means you can try much more, which when you are a disgustingly greedy snuffle-pig such as myself, is fantastic news.
Kai on Deansgate is Manchester’s latest answer to mezze, and their menu is a complete lesson in how true Turkish mezze should be done. Here is what to order for a traditional experience.
You start with dips and bread. You will all know about hummus, but explore further into delicious things like baba ganoush which is made from smoked aubergines, or the deliciously fresh Zhoug made with green herbs, Yemeni chilli, cumin and garlic.
Alongside the dips, it is traditional to order some hot and cold mezze dishes. Look to the mouth-watering bic borek which are deep fried parcels of pastry filled with feta cheese, spinach and nutmeg.
I am also obsessed with the sundried peppers which are stuffed with bulgar wheat and labneh (strained yoghurt) – which makes a great choice for veggies.
Equally, the egg cilbir is scrummy too. These are basically poached eggs with garlic yoghurt, oil and pepper essence for a bit of spice, they are incomplete without a side of their stone-baked bread for dipping.
Alongside this, it would be traditional to have a Pide which is basically a Turkish version of a pizza. Made from oven-baked dough and shaped into a petal shape which is then filled with a selection of meat, cheese and veggies. Look no further than the traditional Lachman Pide made with spiced lamb- you’ll never look at Rudy’s the same way again.
After this, a Turkish feast would move on to some serious meat. Now the Turks take their meat pretty seriously and ALWAYS cook it over hot coals for that lovely charred flavour. Kai takes it just as seriously, and they have one hell of a grill in their kitchen for optimum results on the meat front.
You cannot go wrong with the deliciously tender kebabs- either in the shawarma (chicken), or the flavoursome lamb sirloin kebab which is about as Turkish as it gets. The lamb chops are great for sharing too, so they come highly recommended.
With your lamb (or chicken) you would have a couple of salads to get stuck into for a bit of a contrast to the hot meat. The most traditional feature on Kai’s salad menu would be tabbouleh– a fresh mix of green herbs with a little vinegar, oil and buckwheat. The crunchy cucumber salad with yoghurt is lovely and fresh too which is a great contrast with the meat.
So there you have it – a complete guide to ordering traditional mezze at Kai. Order all these bits, hot and cold, small and large and get your nearest and dearest around you and get stuck in at your earliest convenience.
KAI Deansgate, 82-84 Deansgate, Manchester M3 2ER
0161 832 3431