This is one of the most popular traditional Turkish fast food. It’s originally from an Eastern city of Turkey, Sanliurfa. Now you can find lahmacun restaurants all around the country and not surprisingly, the owners of almost all these restaurants are from Sanliurfa. And generally they serve lahmacun only, not any other dishes. As people from this small city love hot pepper, the original lahmacun is too hot for the people in the West of Turkey to eat. Then they decided to serve two versions of lahmacun in their restaurants in this part of the country: with and without hot pepper. In these restaurants, there are also red pepper flakes in small bowls on each table. If you aren’t sure whether you can eat hot lahmacun or not, you can order one without pepper and when it comes to table, you can sprinkle red pepper flakes according to your taste.
The shape of lahmacun may change depending on its region. Originally, it is so thin with a crispy texture and as big as a serving plate. It may be either round or oval in shape. However, in the region of Mersin, where my hometown Tarsus is located, there is a very small version of lahmacun. It is called fındık lahmacun because of its small size. In fact, people of Tarsus call it just lahmacun as there is no big versions here. Findik lahmacun is a term used in other parts of the country to differentiate between two versions. Findik (fındık) means hazelnut and this word is generally used to show how small something is. This lahmacun is as small as a saucer and I find it cuter than the big one. And unlike the big version, findik lahmacun is not crispy as it’s not that thin. I do love both versions, but this small one is more advisable to make at home. You can eat it with a big pleasure even the following day as it’s still soft. However, the big and thin ones must be eaten once they are cooked.
In Mersin (A Southern city of Turkey) and its small towns like Tarsus, there are special bakeries just for cooking lahmacun in stone ovens. Women prepare the topping mixture at their homes and generally their husbands take the mixture to such a bakery and ask when it will be ready. They come back to take the cooked lahmacuns at the time he is given. He pays the money and leaves a few of them to bakery people. As you see, this is an easy way of making lahmacun, you just prepare the topping and the rest of the work is done for you at bakeries. However, if you’re not living in that part of Turkey, but still want to make findik lahmacun, you’ll find its recipe below. This is again a recipe from mom. My parents are still living in Tarsus, so with the help of these bakeries, they have that chance of making easy findik lahmacun. However, mom always prefers the most difficult way! As long as she has enough time, she always makes all work including its dough and topping at home. I learnt this recipe as a child as we used to make lahmacun together at the weekends.
Even though the origin of findik lahmacun is Tarsus/Mersin, it’s now served in most restaurants in big cities, but not as a main dish. Because of its small size, people generally have it as an appetizer while waiting for their order. As a person who knows the original version, I must say that these small appetizers are not completely the same as the original one. They are as crispy as big lahmacun whereas the original findik lahmacun has a softer texture as I explained above. While there are six to ten findik lahmacuns in a portion in Tarsus, restaurants in other cities serve one or two before the main dish.
You may find that lahmacun looks like a pizza, but there is a big difference between them. A pizza is sliced and it can be eaten with a knife and fork while you don’t need knife or fork to eat lahmacun. Put some parsley leaves, squeeze lemon, wrap it and it’s ready to eat. Although it is served sliced in some restaurants today, it’s not the right style to eat lahmacun. I think this shows an inevitable effect of some international dishes on local dishes.
For its dough:
- 5g dry yeast
- 4 cups flour
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup milk
- ¼ cup warm water
- 1 ½ tsp salt
For its topping:
- 200g ground beef
- 3 medium size tomatoes, thinly diced
- 1 bunch of parsley, minced
- 1 big onion, thinly diced
- 1 tbsp pepper paste
- Salt to taste
- Ground black pepper to taste
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp water
- Extra oil for the oven tray
Mix the yeast with warm water in a glass and wait until you see foams on its top.
Sift the flour in a mixing bowl and pour the yeast in its center. Mix them together.
Add milk, olive oil and salt. Knead them to have a soft dough. If the water is not enough, add little more. It shouldn’t be sticky. Put the dough in a bowl, cover it and wait for about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile you can prepare the topping mixture. Mix the ground beef with all the topping ingredients.
Pick walnut sized pieces from the dough and roll them one by one as big as a saucer. They mustn’t be too thin.
Preheat the oven to 200C.
Oil the oven tray and put each round piece on it.
Divide the topping mixture on these evenly. And cook them 10 minutes.
Serve it hot with some parsley leaves and lemon wedges.
We put a few parsley leaves on it, squeeze lemon on it and fold it to eat.