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  • Writer's pictureAround the World in Vegan Eats

ÇIĞ KÖFTE: THE NATURALLY VEGAN DELICACY WE FOUND IN KONYA, TÜRKIYE!


Please note that due to the current economic situation in Türkiye, prices are very variable and may change rapidly. The prices quotes are those we paid in October 2023 - please check current menus for the most up to date prices.


Welcome to Konya! This city is a little off the tourist trail, but honestly, this place has so much to offer! Known as Türkiye's most conservative city, Konya was also, in our experience, one of the friendliest places we visited. So many kind and lovely locals were keen to talk to us and help us out, exchanging stories in the process.


Most people who visit Konya do so to see the incredible mosques, archaeological dig sites, buy traditional rugs or - most famously - witness the Whirling Dervishes in action. If you've not heard of them before, the Whirling Dervishes are Sufi Muslims who take part in traditional meditative and spiritual whirling. This involves spinning on the spot for up to an hour. It really is a spectacle to behold, we were so impressed. Though it's not to be regarded as a 'performance' as such, you can buy tickets to witness this unique spiritual practice every Saturday. And if that sounds up your street and you're in this part of Türkiye over the weekend this really is something you shouldn't miss.


With Konya being a lesser travelled city, and a very traditional one at that, there is not as much for vegans as in some of the bigger cities. But we quickly realised that there was an incredible, (usually!) naturally vegan Turkish delicacy right under our noses the whole time we were travelling this country. The dish? It's çiğ köfte!


But wait, what exactly is çiğ köfte?

Çiğ köfte (pronounced chee kofta) is a 100% plant-based wrap that can be found all over Türkiye. We couldn't believe this at first: especially as it translates as 'raw meatballs'! The reason for this is that originally, the dish was historically made of raw meat - but when çiğ köfte became popular as fast food, it was veganised for health and hygiene standards. Hooray!


Now, a slight disclaimer. Sometimes you'll still find çiğ köfte that is made from raw meat, but this is very unusual now - and if you visit the two chains that serve them throughout the country, you'll definitely get a meat free version. This çiğ köfte is made from fine bulgur wheat, tomato, onion, garlic, spices, and pomegranate. This paste makes the 'raw meatballs' which you can buy on their own, with salads and sides, or in the traditional wraps with a spicy sauce and a sticky pomegranate sauce. It is served cold, and usually it is regarded as fast food.


Where did we try vegan çiğ köfte in Konya?

We headed to Oses, a chain that specialises in çiğ köfte and has over 600 branches across Türkiye. These small fast food cafes aren't fully vegan, as they also serve yogurt and ice cream for dessert, but everything here is meat free. You'll see their iconic red and green branding across Türkiye - so if you get a taste for çiğ köfte don't worry, you'll be able to find it wherever you go!


So come on - tell us all about the çiğ köfte! How did it taste?

We had absolutely no idea what to expect from the çiğ köfte; this dish was so different from anything we had ever tried before! Now, the first word that I would use to describe the çiğ köfte is SPICY! I had both the chilli sauce and the pomegranate sauce added to mine, while Mike chose just the pomegranate sauce. The spice came both from the 'raw meatballs' and the chillis sauce too - and contrasted really well with the sweetness of the pomegranate.


Though it seemed like it would be nice warm too, the coldness worked well in the hot Turkish weather. And then the çiğ köfte itself: this was an acquired taste but absolutely delicious! It was soft and flavoursome, with a slightly mushier texture than things I would usually have in a wrap - but alongside the softness of the wrap, the crunch of the salad, and the smooth and sticky sauces, this was a great multi-sensory experience. So many flavours, the sweet, savoury and spicy all intermingling, and so many textures too. Though this isn't something that I'd eat everyday, I definitely would try this again, it surprised me so much!


How much did the plant-based çiğ köfte cost - and was it worth it?

The çiğ köfte was really reasonably priced: I picked the small wrap, which included 100g of çiğ köfte: this cost 45₺ (approx. £1.19, €1.38 or $1.51). Mike, meanwhile, ordered the large wrap which included 150g of çiğ köfte; this was just a little bit more expensive at 55₺ (approx. £1.45, €1.69 or $1.85). We definitely understand why you'd want to grab this dish for lunch on the go!


Have you tried çiğ köfte in Türkiye? Or elsewhere in the world! Where did you go and what did you think of it? Let us know in the comments below.



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Where should I stay?

Because Konya is less tourist focused, there are fewer places to stay. There are still some top choices though, especially if you're on a budget! We stayed at Hostelida Konya, which offered basic but clean accommodation at a very cheap price. Another popular choice is Konya Victory Hostel, which offers private rooms at an equally reasonable price.


Tours & Experiences

Though the most popular thing to see in Konya is the Whirling Dervishes, there is a lot more to this wonderfully welcoming city. One of these incredible things is the Catalhoyuk Archaeological site, which can be accessed easily with tours from Konya. This trip to a fascinating UNESCO world heritage site includes visits to Catalhoyuk Neolithic City, Boncuklu Hoyuk Archaeological Site, and Konya Archaeological Museum.


Or if that's not for you, why not check out some of Viator's most popular Konya tours to the left. With walking tours, and trips beyond the city, there's something for everyone!


Please note that the tours displayed on the left are automatically selected for their popularity by Viator, not chosen or recommended by us. Please check whether any food or drink based tours are suitable for your dietary requirements, and any animal-based experiences are ethical, before booking!


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