Sephardi Spices in the Sultan’s Shadow

Unique Classes and Tours Spotlight Turkey's Jewish Cuisine

Turkish Lunch: Selin Rozanes runs tours and cooking classes that highlight the cuisine of Turkey’s Jews.
Turkish Lunch: Selin Rozanes runs tours and cooking classes that highlight the cuisine of Turkey’s Jews.

By Katherine Martinelli

Published June 13, 2012, issue of June 22, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Selin Rozanes’s family, like most Sephardim in Turkey, likely came to the country in the late 15th century, when Jews were expelled from Spain. Sultan Bayezid II welcomed these exiled Jews into the Ottoman Empire at the time, where they would end up living, and cooking, alongside native Turks.

Today, Rozanes helps to preserve the unique Sephardic Turkish culinary heritage through her company, Turkish Flavours. The company offers cooking classes, market tours in Istanbul, and weeklong culinary tours and sailing trips around the country.

A former travel agent, Rozanes decided to start teaching cooking classes in 2006, after she lost her job. (While cooking classes and culinary tours are commonplace in Istanbul today, six years ago there were few of either.) The idea sprouted when a friend asked Rozanes to teach her how to cook. Soon after, she opened Turkish Flavours.

“I have loved cooking since my youth,” Rozanes said. “My mother was also a good cook.”

For her Turkish cooking classes, Rozanes — a born-and-bred Istanbulite — welcomes guests into her own home in the Nisantasi neighborhood of Istanbul. Made famous by author Orhan Pamuk as the setting of many of his novels, today the area is an affluent residential quarter that is home to the city’s most chichi shopping street. Her house was built by her grandfather in 1933, and it once was inhabited by her entire extended family. Today she is the only one who remains.

In order to teach at home, Rozanes built a spacious and well-appointed cooking nook, outfitted with a large gas range and Turkish tile backsplash, and a kitchen island topped with weighty wooden cutting boards at which participants work. While cooking, Rozanes pulls out various kitchen gadgets and ingredients that she has acquired locally or through her travels — like homemade pomegranate molasses made by a friend, and an egg separator she picked up in France.

During the hands-on class that I visited this past April, Rozanes put guests to work chopping onions, whipping up salad dressings and checking on the pumpkin dessert in the oven. Though she does not exclusively teach the preparation of Sephardic dishes, she happened to have a few on the menu the day I attended, and she is always happy to include them upon request. We learned how to prepare köftes de prasa, which are beef and leek patties, one of the most quintessentially Sephardic Turkish dishes. To make them, boiled, finely chopped leek is thoroughly mixed with ground beef, eggs, salt and pepper to create a loose mixture that is formed into patties and fried in oil. It’s a simple yet intensely flavorful dish that highlights the tendency of Sephardic Turks to add vegetables to their meatballs.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.