There are quite a few unique foods and drink combinations in Turkish culinary culture. These may come as second nature to a native Turk but from a foreigners’ perspective, they need to be explained to make sense. One of those unique combinations is dürüm, the quintessential meat wrap; and ayran, the ubiquitous yogurt drink that usually accompanies it.
Personal experiences showed me over the years that for an outsider ayran can be an acquired taste. Most foreigners associate yogurt with something sweet and therefore the initial impression of ayran is thought to be a sweet drink, which ends up as a huge disappointment after the first sip. To acknowledge the true flavor of ayran it has to be accompanied by the right kind of food and that is where our second hero of this article comes into play: dürüm and specifically the spicy version; Adana dürüm.
There is a long history behind both ayran and dürüm in general leading back to Central Asian Turks. As the founders of this great combination, we can be thankful to them for this inheritance. However, when speaking of dürüm nowadays, there a few different types that appear on the menus all over Turkey, but the one taking the lead is the Adana dürüm, which is the distinctive and spicier version. If you happen to go to a dürüm place, you are most likely to see it appear at the top of the menu followed by its milder cousin Urfa dürüm. Granted they are names of cities in Turkey that are famed for their food, but in their respective cities they are not baptized as such, however everywhere else these are the official names.
Ayran will be the ideal drink for any kind of grilled meat dish but spicy tastes and ayran just have that je ne sais quoi kind of attraction that can best be explained with the help of little scientific knowledge. The burning sensation from red pepper comes from a compound called capsaicin. Therefore, after eating a spicy meal, when our mouth burns, we need to employ the right kind of drink to relieve the burning sensation. Ayran, milk, and olive oil were determined as the first drinks to be resorted to when our mouth burns from a spicy meal. The reason is that these liquids absorb the capsaicin substance, and catch up with the burning sensation in our mouth like a firefighter, preventing it from reaching the pain receptors in our mouth. Since the sweet taste of milk and the oily texture of olive oil will not be the best choices here, ayran comes to the rescue as the most suitable of these liquids, both culturally and in terms of suitability for the palate.
Keep in mind that water, carbonated soft drinks, and beer are not good for mouth burns because they cause capsaicin to spread in the mouth. Especially when we eat spicy food, our body temperatures increase causing the carbonated drinks to turn into sulfuric acid which incidentally increases the acidity in our stomach. That is exactly why ayran becomes the perfect choice of drink because it is the ultimate refresher to calm down the burning sensation and balance our body temperature so that we can continue to devour the delectable Adana dürüm.
In Turkey, while drinking ayran with a spicy dish can come as a natural habit, it is important to know the reasons behind it so that when an ayran-virgin tries it for the first time, they can try it within the right combination and appreciate these harmonious tastes like a local.
If you would like to test this theory yourself there are some suggestions below. My humble advice would be to take a bite of your Adana dürüm, chew until you are about to swallow, and then wash it down with a sip of cool salty ayran. Afiyet olsun!
Hüseyinağa Mah. Kamer Hatun Cad. No:26/A Beyoğlu 34435 Istanbul
- Dürümcü Mustafa
Mercan Mah. Örücüler Kapısı Sok. No: 19, Nuruosmaniye 34200 Istanbul
- Zürüm Dürüm
Sinanpaşa Mahallesi, Şht. Asım Cd. 21/1, Beşiktaş 34353 /İstanbul
0850 888 4111