Turkish Food: Hünkar Beğendi – An Ottoman Classic

Quite possibly one of the best Turkish aubergine dishes I have ever tasted: Hünkar Beğendi. The first time I tried it was at a restaurant in Ölüdeniz. We’d been there once in the past and Barry ordered it whilst I ordered something obviously less memorable since I have no idea what I ordered! I tried Barry’s meal and was coveting it immediately and since then, whenever I see this dish on the menu, I have to order it.

Dalyan River & Rock Tombs

Dalyan from Yakamoz Restaurant

Hünkar Beğendi, meaning, the sultan enjoyed it,’ is classic Ottoman cuisine and you’ll find the dish on the menu of any Turkish restaurant that promotes food of the Ottoman Kitchen. In the days of the Ottoman Empire, many cooks would work in the vast kitchens of Topkapı Palace in Istanbul and compete to create meals that would please the Sultan. Surely, a meal that has became known as ‘the sultan enjoyed it,’ has to be good?

A couple of weeks ago, when we were taking our friends back to Dalaman Airport, you may remember we stopped off in the port of Göcek en route and then continued along to spend the remainder of their last hours in Turkey in lovely Dalyan. We were on the look out for a good restaurant that would provide ‘The Last Supper.’ Somewhere that would provide moody twilight views of the Lycian tombs and, more importantly, a memorable Turkish meal.

We ambled along the river, glancing sideways towards the restaurants lining the jetty, but we knew we wanted to be further along, away from the boats and closer to the tombs. Eventually, we came across Yakamoz Restaurant – the place that inspired the post on Turkish meze. ‘Ottoman Kitchen’ was written on the board outside, we could see the inviting, glass meze fridges and the riverside tables beckoning. That was us!

Turkish Food - Hünkar Beğendi

Hünkar Beğendi served at Yakamoz Restaurnat, Dalyan

After we’d gorged on the meze dishes, I spotted Hünkar Beğendi on the menu and didn’t bother to peruse any alternatives. It had been over a year since I savoured the bliss of the meat and aubergine and I knew what I wanted. I wasn’t disappointed!

I have no idea which Ottoman cook invented this wonderful dish but I’m happy for their probable competitive nature against the other cooks, and for their experimentation. Stewed lamb in tomatoes, peppers, onions, a touch of chilli and a little salça (tomato or red pepper puree) is served on top of a bed of pureed aubergine that’s been transformed into a bechamel sauce. The result – well, if the sultan enjoyed it, it must be good enough for the rest of us.

I struggled to get through my Hünkar Beğendi (despite it being one of the best versions I’ve tried!) because it was a very generous portion and the weather was so hot that day. It’s a perfect dish for lower temperatures and I’m going to attempt to make it myself over the cooler months. If it’s a success, you’ll hear all about it here…and if not, we’ll just recommend the restaurants that do a quality version of this wonderful Ottoman dish.

If you see it on any menus and you decide to try it, Afiyet Olsun!

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  1. That dish looks like a perfect long holiday (over here) meal. I don’t usually do lamb, but….

  2. I love reading your blogs….and this one has me wanting the recipe pronto..never tried this dish, but will next time I am over in Turkey, hopefully if all goes to plan in a few weeks, Oludeniz again for the 3rd time 🙂

  3. @ Belinda: It’s worth doing the lamb for this. Okay with other meats but the lamb makes it special.

    @ Tania: Hope you have a great time in Ölüdeniz and hope you get to try lots of Ottoman cuisine. It’s great!

  4. I love hearing about these “new to me” dishes. I hope to travel to Turkey and try them all first hand!

  5. It’s very tasty and what little meat I eat has to be lamb. I am not a fan of anything pureed though, it’s far too filling for my shrunken stomach, so I wonder if they make it with the aubergines sliced and grilled instead???

  6. Oh, I’m looking forward to your cooking experience of this dish, and of course the recipe, because now I want to make it and try it.

    I love Middle Eastern food, but have not had much experience with the Turkish versions, so love to try. You are lucky to live in a country with such wonderful food. It makes life so much nicer to have good things to eat!

  7. Anonymous says

    This is my husband’s favourite dish….looking at your Blog, how I miss going to visit Turkey this summer. I personally don’t eat Lamb, but with your description maybe I should try it. But after all those mezes I’m usually to full to eat a dinner. Thanks for sharing your story….

    Erica…. erica-sweetonyou.blogspot.com

  8. @ Bellini: Hope you do make it here one day. You’d love all the food here.

    @ Inka: Strange that your chosen meat is lamb – most people who aren’t keen on meat usually prefer chicken. Good choice, though. 🙂 I’m sure you could go with sliced and grilled aubergines…and give the dish a different name?

    @ Miss Footlose: Far too warm to try it yet but I’ll definitely try it over winter and post the recipe – and my experience of it! 🙂 Hope you find what you need in Moldova…

    @ Erica: Shame you can’t make it to Turkey this year. Hope you get here again soon and eat lots of lovely meze! 🙂

  9. Ahhhhhh Cok lezzetli!!! I can never resist hunkar begendi!

  10. @ Liv: Kesinlikle! 🙂 I’m looking forward to giving the recipe a try.

  11. Many thanks for recommending this dish, was fortunate to go to a local Turkish restaurant in Portsmouth this evening, and this was on the menu, so had to try it because of your blog….wow…it was amazing 🙂

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