Çılbır: Poached Egg in Yogurt with Spicy Frothed Butter.

Cilbir

I’m surprised that I had never eaten çılbır until well into my twenties. It’s the ultimate whip-something-up snack in a Turkish household. It is seconded by sucuklu yumurta, which is just sunny side up eggs with spicy sausage slices. (Sucuklu yumurta = pork-free bacon and eggs, if you will.)

Ottoman sultans are said to have eaten çılbır as far back as the 15th Century, because after a long day of orphaning future Janissaries and screwing harem girls, you need to maintain your protein intake!

Some people have strong opinions about poached/runny eggs and any yogurt that isn’t specially bioengineered to make you poop, so çılbır is a good litmus test for weeding out dickhead eaters.

It’s easy-peasy: chuck some yogurt in a bowl, like a couple cups’ worth. Make sure it’s fatty, fresh, thick and tangy, like Oprah with a yeast infection.

Poach 1-2 eggs. I like poaching my eggs (two and a half minutes, at a steady simmer) in salty water with a splash of vinegar. Place your egg(s) on the yogurt, taking care not to break them. The cold yogurt should stop the eggs from cooking. Salt and pepper the eggs and yogurt generously.

Go pick some mint from outside. Really wash it off, as there are cats EVERYWHERE here that love mint and peeing on things you value. Turkish mint varieties have small leaves so I don’t bother with a dice/chiffonade, but if you’re using something American like Kentucky spearmint, chop it up.

What makes çılbır so ball-drainingly awesome is the addition of the paprika-cayenne frothy butter that goes on top. It’s the same butter you see on İskender döner kebap. Heat your generous pat baby-fistful of butter over medium-low heat until it gets melty and slightly frothy.

Don’t wait too long, as you don’t want smoking hot butter that burns the spices. The addition of a fat pinch of paprika, a bit of cayenne, will give the butter the desired foam effect. Give the pan a quick shake and drizzle over the eggs and yogurt. If you feel like you’re putting too much butter in, call me and I’ll come to your house and smack you in the mouth. DUMP ALL OF THE BUTTER.

You can add Aleppo pepper (pul biber – the ubiquitous red pepper condiment at each Turkish restaurant table) to the butter, but I like putting it directly on the eggs and yogurt. Looks cooler.

Top with mint. If you don’t have fresh mint, dried is OK. I like eating mine with a spoon and a half loaf of bread to mop up all the goodness. Make sure to break up the egg and swirl it around the yogurt.

Ingredients – Adjust the proportions as you want; I’m not the boss of you.

Eggs
Yogurt (My favorite yogurt type in Türkiye is “kaymaklı,” which means the yogurt has its fatty cream-top.)
Butter
Paprika
Cayenne
Aleppo pepper
Mint
Salt & Pepper
Splash of vinegar or lemon juice

PSST!!! HERE’S A SECRET TIP THAT FEELS LIKE CULINARY CHEATING:

You can put spicy frothed butter on anything. A piece of toast, some lentil soup, a hobo’s penis, ANYTHING. Try it!

Thanks as always to Mary H. Brown for the photo. Find her at http://blotsee.wordpress.com/

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Perfect Izmir Day

Wake up groggy, because apparently Efes Pilsen puts bear hibernation strength formaldehyde in their beer. A big day of bank errands, shopping, and döner-eating await!

Time to hit the ground runn–

First clear the table of the forty dishes that comprise a Turkish breakfast. Everyone likes chores! Make sure to put away the bread basket, sucuk plate, the cucumbers, the tomatoes, the feta cheese, the sugar cubes, the salt, the pepper, the soft boiled egg holders, the olive oil, the tea glasses, the tea glass coaster plates, the black olives, the green olives, the oregano, the Aleppo pepper, the tiny salt shakers, and the cutlery. It’s like an archaeological assemblage. Yes, sometimes Slow Food can be a pain in the ass.

Understand the appeal of a quick bowl of cereal now, even if a splash of milk turns my intestines into a chemical weapons factory.

Glance out to see what people out and about are wearing. Sweaters and hats and gloves? Must be freezing!

Weather is 28 degrees Celsius and sunny. Immediately begin flooding underpants with sweat. Swamp ass in Turkish is “bataklık götü.” Not a saying, but I’m determined to have it become one.

Say hello to our ever-growing army of street cats. Have a previously-sweet but now aggressive cloudy-eyed male mount my leg. Dread the prospect of taking him to get fixed. Pull up pant leg to examine the pinpoint blood drops on my leg. Stupid horny cat.

Catch what you think is a dolmuş, but what in fact is a local city minivan that looks like the Mystery Machine. Avoid asking any questions as you careen away from the cardinal direction of your original intent. Smile/grimace and say “it’s part of the adventure!”

(Protip: a dolmuş is basically a white taxi. The dolmuş of days past were the minivan things we got on. More important protip: if there’s a wrong turn, vehicle, or physical gesture to be taken or done, I will somehow always find my way to it).

Get told to sit down in a seat the INSTANT one is vacant. Say “hey, it’s cool, I’m OK standing,” and have ten people yell at you at how unsafe you’re being.

Stand up to offer seat as soon as a woman gets on.

Am now standing.

Someone gets off, I am immediately directed to their seat.

Repeat this game of musical chairs for thirty minutes while trying to figure out where we are.

Get off at Karşıyaka Metro station when every single person gets off. We’re somewhat close to where we want to be, but the random turns, rapid acceleration, and circular route have you feeling like a hostage recently removed from a trunk. Apparently we took a tour of the Şemikler neighborhood.

Walk wrong way for 45 minutes. Keep following “Feribot” signs that appear to have been rotated by those evil goblins in “Labyrinth”.

Finally find main street in Karşıyaka that you’ve been looking for. Begin search for famous döner restaurant, Sakıpağa.

Walk obliviously past said restaurant multiple times by mere feet because the logo has a very distracting ayran-being-poured graphic, and because I am an idiot. Give up on food for the time being, as it is now 30 degrees Celsius and I need someplace with air conditioning right away before I have to wring out my underwear.

(Sure, it’s sexy when a WOMAN says “wring out my underwear,” but when a GUY says it, how come it’s considered “UN sanction-violating mental torture” and “sexual harassment?”)

Go shopping with lady, because she needs clothes. Get yelled at in store for daring to take clothes between levels OF THE SAME STORE, which apparently operate with a floor-as-Teutonic-fiefdom concept of retail management.

Six transactions for five items later, step out ravenously hungry.

Take a random hollering preteen restaurant busker’s recommendation and pop into a restaurant for a döner sandwich.

Ask for four ayrans for two people. “You want four?” Evet, dört lutfen.” DÖRT ayran? Again, yes, goddammit.

Feel like a fatty.

Go to Garanti Bank to get debit card from new Turkish account. Room is 8,000 degrees. Understand why no one moves even in the slightest to help me. Welcome back to the swamp, dick and balls!

Get informed that the card has arrived, but they lost it.

You LOST it?

“Well, the courier lost it.”

How?

“We gave it back to them since we didn’t know what it was, and they lost it.”

Sounds like YOU guys lost it, maybe?

“…”

Return to bank two weeks later, after Bayram, and find that card has been there the whole time. Card was in envelope with language on the front that effectively said “This is a new card for a new bank account, so here it is, keep it safe, KTHNXBAI.”

Waddle past aforementioned famous döner restaurant, not hungry in the least. I MUST HAVE THIS DÖNER.

Man at ordering counter looks like Estelle Getty. Get cut off in line multiple times because of silly concepts like “personal space” and “waiting my turn.” Get Jumbo döner sandwich. Ask for four ayrans.

“Did you say FOUR?” (Sad trombone).

Fill sandwich to the brim with spicy pickled peppers. Make appointment with toilet later. (It will be worth it).

Go home in time to watch Galatasaray blow a three-goal lead against marginal Anatolian squad.

Begin drinking Efes.