TURKEY, THE LAND OF SEAS AND FISH
Turkey is a peninsula surrounded by the Black Sea in the North, the Mediterranean in the South, the internal Marmara Sea in the Northwest, and the Aegean in the West. Turkey’s marine coasts add up to 8333 kilometers. The seas of Turkey are very different from each other in terms of their physical structure and other characteristics.
The Black Sea has a salinity level of 18 percent, and since it is fed with river waters, its temperatures tend to be low. Due to its latitudinal location, the Mediterranean Sea is warm and condensation is common. Its salinity varies from 36 to 39 percent. In terms of the characteristics of its waters, the Marmara Sea stands between the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. Upper currents form the Black Sea account for the 23 percent salinity on the surface, while lowers Mediterranean currents account for the 36 percent salinity in the deeper sections. The Aegean Sea has characteristics similar to that of the Mediterranean. The salinity of the Aegean Sea in the North is 33 percent, while it is about 37 percent in the South.
Due to these structural differences, the fish living in the Seas of Turkey show a lot of variation. For example, while Hamsi (European Anchovy) has become almost synonymous with the Black Sea, Papalina (Sprat) will certainly indicate the Aegean. Fish hold an important place in both world cuisine and Turkish cuisine. With the exception of periods of fishing restrictions, fish has been caught and consumed abundantly in Turkey. Despite the fact that fish and seafood have been enjoyed since the Ottoman Period, plain methods are generally preferred for preparing fish dishes in Turkey. Merely frying or steaming the fish is generally sufficient to bring out the taste. What gives fish its taste are the meze and the salads that accompany it to the table. The most commonly consumed fish of the seas of Turkey are listed as follows:
Leer fish “Akya” (Lichia Amia): Seen mostly in Mediterranean and occasionally in the Aegean Sea. Its weight can vary from 500 grams to 60 kilograms. Because it is not a tasty fish, it is not consumed often.
Mullet “Barbunya” (Mullus Barbatus): Barbunya is a Mediterranean fish. It is brown in the sea but turns red after it dies. It is low in fat and it is easy to digest. It usually weighs between 150 and 600 grams.
Gilthead Sea Bream “Çipura” (Sparus Auratus): This fish is mostly seen in the Aegean Sea. It can grow up to 23 centimeters in size and 1,5 to 2 kilograms in weight. It tastes best during the months of fall.
Dour Sole “Dil Baligi” (Solea Vulgaris): Is one of the best sea bottom fishes, which lives in sandy and muddy depths. It is consumed in fall and in winter. It usually weighs between 200 grams and 1 kilogram.
John Dory “Dülger” (Parca Saltatrix): This fish lives in all of Turkey’s seas with the exception of the Black Sea. It tends be quite tasty and expensive. The size varies from 20 to 60 centimeters and the weight from 1 to 10 kilograms. In general, it lives in very deep waters.
Brown Meagre “Eskine” (Corvina Nigra): This fish is little known and rarely consumed but has great taste. It is a fish more commonly found in the Black Sea and it can weigh from 750 grams to 1.5 kilograms. On both sides of its skull, the Eskine has shiny stones, which are believed to have a therapeutic effect; kidney patients are advised to keep the stone in lemon juice for a long time and to drink the lemon juice.
Angler Fish “Fener” (Lophius Piscatorius): This fish found in all seas except for the Black Sea and it can grow to 60 to 80 centimeters and 5 to 6 kilograms. It is consumed as an entrée along with sauces and salads.
Shore Rockling “Gelincik” (Motella Vulgaris): This fish is usually exported. This fish measures 20 to 25 centimeters and weighs 120 to 130 grams. With the exception of the months of April, May and June, this fish is not tasty because of the ovulation season. In general it lives in areas close to the river mouths.
Atherine “Gümüs Baligi” (Atherina Presbyter): This fish is seen only in the surface waters of the Marmara Sea, It is usually 12 to 15 centimeter long and has no fat. It is usually fried without being cleaned out.
European Anchovy “Hamsi” (Engraulis Encrasicholus): This fish is 10 to 12 centimeters at most. It is seen in the Marmara, Aegean and the Mediterranean but it tastes best in the Black Sea, which is its homeland. This fish tastes best between the months of December and March. It is inexpensive and rich in proteins. In the Black Sea region, this fish is prepared in an endless variety of ways ranging from jam to pickles.
Black Scorpionfish “Iskorpit” (Scorpaena Porcus): This fish is 20 to 25 centimeters in size and weights about 400 grams. It is caught in the months of June and August. It lives mostly in deep waters in the Aegean Sea. It is a fish suitable for making soup.
Mediterranean Horse Mackerel “Istavrit” (Scomber Trachurus): This fish is found in abundance in the Black Sea. This is a migrant fish 20 centimeters in size and 500 grams in weight. They can be caught year round in large quantity. It is suitable for frying and salting.
Picarel “Izmarit” (Moena Vulgaris): 20 centimeters in size and 80 grams in weight. It is seen in all the seas of Turkey between August and February. This fish is believed to have healing powers. It is generally fried.
Turbot “Kalkan” (Rhombus Maximus): This is a fish of the Black Sea. It lives both in shallow and deep waters. It can reach up to 12 kilograms in weight. It body is covered with button-like spots. It is quite tasty but expensive. Caught between May and July. Its liver is considered gourmet food.
Two-Banded “Zebra” Sea Bream “Karagöz” (Sargus Rodeletii): Weighs 200 to 250 grams. The Karagöz that lives in deep and rocky areas is considered best. It tastes best is the month of June. It is seen in the Marmara, Aegean and the Mediterranean seas.
Flathead mullet “Kefal” (Mugil Cephalus): This is one of the oldest known fish of the seas of Turkey. This fish lives in the coastal strips. Its meat is firm and tasty, and its eggs are precious. Its weight can reach 7 to 8 kilograms. It is seen in all of the seas of Turkey and in the straights.
Swordfish “Kiliç” (Xiphias Gladius): It gets its name from its sword-shaped like head. It is consumed in the months of November and December. It is more commonly seen in the Istanbul and Çanakkale straights. It can grow to 2.5 meters and 150 to 200 kilograms. It is usually smoked.
Tub Gurnard “Kirlangiç” (Trigla Hirundo): This is a red fish with large, wing-like gills. It can grow up to 8 to 10 kilograms. It is generally not consumed, despite the fact that it is tasty. It is usually seen in the Black Sea.
Bogue “Küpes” (Box Vulgaris): This fish is seen in the Mediterranean, Aegean, Marmara Seas, and especially in the Çanakkale straight. Its weight can reach 1 kilogram. It is quite tasty in the fall. This fish is rather inexpensive.
European Sea Bass “Levrek” (Labrax Labrax): This fish can grow up to 1 meter and 14 to 16 kilograms. It is most often spotted in the Mediterranean Sea. This is a popular fish and it is consumed often from May to October.
Blue Fish “Lüfer” (Parca Saltatrix): One of the tastiest fish known, seen in the Black Sea and Marmara. It can weigh up to 1 kilogram. It is consumed from August to October, usually in fried form.
Saddled Sea Bream “Melanurya” (Oblada Melanura): This fish is seen in the rocky, sandy, and reed bed sections of the Mediterranean Sea. It weighs from 250 to 300 grams. It is a fish of the fall season but it is relatively unknown and not consumed often.
Red Sea Bream “Mercan” (Pagellus Erythrinus): Never seen in the Black Sea but seen abundantly in the Marmara, Aegean and Mediterranean. It lives in deep waters and its weigh can reach 500 grams to 1 kilogram. This red fish is a gourmet dish.
Blue Whiting “Mezgit” (Gadus Minitus): It is also known as the “Chicken Fish” because of its taste. It is 20 to 25 centimeters long and weighs between 1 and 1.5 kilograms. This fish lives in deep waters, especially in the Aegean and the Mediterranean seas. It is battered and fried and can be found in almost any season.
Crob “Minakop” (Umbrina Cirrosa): Is a Black Sea fish. It can reach 1 meter in size and 30 to 35 kilograms in weight. Lives in rocky, deep waters. It is usually tastiest in the months of winter and is preferred steamed and salad form.
Grouper “Orfoz” (Serramus Gigas): This fish is seen in the Aegean and the Mediterranean Seas. It can reach 1 meter in size and 30 kilograms in weight. This is a favorite fish that is quite rare but tasty.
Atlantic Bonito “Palamut” (Pelamys Sarda): This large fish which can reach 10 to 12 kilograms is seen in the Black Sea, Marmara and Mediterranean seas. It is one of the fishes favored by the inhabitants of the Black Sea.
Pichard “Sardalye” (Clupea Sardina): This fish is 12 to 15 centimeters long and it migrates to all of the seas from the Aegean. This fish is seen in all of the seas. One favorite dish involves wrapping this fish in grape leaves and frying it.
Common Dentex “Sinarit” (Pagrus Vulgaris): This is a Mediterranean fish which lives in deep waters. It can reach up to 10 - 15 kilograms. It is an expensive fish, eaten in the spring season.
Twaite Shad “Tirsi” (Clupea Harengus): This fish can be found in the winter months in the Black Sea. It can measure up to 1 meter. When fresh it is only grilled. More commonly it is salted and smoked.
Mackerel “Uskumru” (Scomber Scombrus): This fish weighs between 100 to 120 grams and measures between 20 to 25 centimeters. It can be found in the black sea between March and June in the Black Sea and in the Marmara Sea. When not grilled, it is dried in the sun consumed as “çiroz.”
Garfish “Zargana” (Belone Vulgaris): This is similar to the swordfish. It is seen in the straights, but it is not tasty. It can measure from 80 to 90 centimeters and weighs 1 kilogram at most. It is only seen in the Black Sea. It is steamed with butter and olive oil*.
Reference: Olcay Sönmez, Baliklar Bizim Baliklarimiz, Yesim Gokce (Bilkent University)