Hatay joins select group as City of Gastronomy

Hatay joins select group as City of Gastronomy

HATAY - Anatolia News Agency
Hatay joins select group as City of Gastronomy

Hatay, which is famous for many meze-like foods and kebabs. AA photos

The Mediterranean province of Hatay, long famed for being a city of tolerance because of the harmonious coexistence of people of different faiths, is now preparing to become a “World City of Gastronomy.”

Hatay’s application to UNESCO has been approved, meaning the province is now only waiting for UNESCO representatives to complete formalities prior to the official designation.

The province is set to join a select list of other UNESCO Cities of Gastronomy that includes only three other cities: Chengdu in China, Östersund in Sweden and Popayan in Colombia.

Hatay is famous for meze-like foods such as humus, a food dip or spread made from cooked and mashed chickpeas that is blended with tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and garlic; muammara, a dish of crushed walnuts, stale bread, tahini, olive oil, garlic and lemon juice; and baba ghanoush, a dish made from eggplants, garlic and parsley. The city is also known for its kebabs such as paper kebab, tray kebabs and sini oruğu, a dish made with thin bulgur and minced meat. The province is further famous for its desserts such as künefe, an oven-baked pastry with a soft cheese filling that is smothered in thick syrup.

Noting that the province also has a rich gastronomic culture that is separate from its rich historical heritage and culture, Lütfü Savaş, the mayor of the central Hatay district of Antakya, said the diversity of culture in the area was also reflected in the dishes and mezes.

Hatay’s food includes influences from a number of different cultures including Arab, Ottoman and French cuisine.

Quite apart from its wealth of historical artifacts, the Antakya mayor said Hatay could draw tourists based on the richness of its cuisine alone.

“We think that this exclusivity of the city should be evaluated rightly,” said Savaş, adding that there were few others places in the world like Hatay.

“In November, we presented our city in South Korea’s capital, Seoul. We presented our gastronomic culture during the [UNESCO] conferences,” the mayor said.

Savaş said Hatay drew many tourists from Turkey and around the world. “People who visit Hatay not only admire the historical and cultural heritage of the city, but also the mezes and dishes which have created diversity in the gastronomic culture.”

Gastronomy tourism
As part of the drive for UNESCO recognition, Savaş said they aimed to increase the standard of living in the province and make it a tourism spot through its gastronomic culture.

“It is also very important to educate chefs from Hatay. All the dishes should be prepared according to hygienic standards,” said Savaş.

Hatay’s archaeology museum doubles as one of the world’s largest mosaic museums in the world while the provincial center is also home to the first cave church in history, St. Pierre.