31
Dec

menengiç 5 copy

I discovered this extraordinary drink last year. I was walking through the bazaars of Gaziantep (or Antep as the Turks like to call it or ‘Entab as the Syrians do, a lovely town in south eastern Turkey which is a mini Aleppo, complete with a smaller Citadel) when I stopped in front of a sack full of pretty small dried berries, some blueish and some red which I had never seen before. I asked the vendor what they were but naturally, he only spoke Turkish and sadly, I don’t. Rather annoying but I was meeting my friend Filiz Hosuokoglu, the reference in Gaziantep for all things culinary, and others — her father and brothers have a lovely gold jewellery shop where I got my lovely grape earrings — for lunch and I bought a bag to show her and ask about them.

menengiç berries

She explained that they were wild pistachios used to make a caffeine-free coffee that looks like Turkish coffee, but isn’t – it has a resinous quality to it and a mouth feel that is definitely an acquired taste. After lunch, Filiz took me to the most divine old-fashioned cafe, Tahmis, to taste menengiç. Sadly, the café is being restored now and the old man in the picture below will no longer run the café when it reopens.

cafe tahmis copy

I was intrigued and I thought I would introduce my friends and students to it. What I omitted to do was ask Filiz how to use the berries I had bought. It wasn’t until I returned to London that I realised I couldn’t use them as they are. They needed to be processed and I couldn’t do it. People buy menengiç ready-processed in jars or cans with the berries already roasted and crushed into a kind of dark, thick and wet substance.

So, no menengiç coffee until I had a jar of the processed berries. Now, I am sure I could have bought one at any of the Turkish shops in Green Lanes, north from where I live, but it wasn’t the same thing as bringing one back from Gaziantep. Luckily it wasn’t long before I was back in Aleppo, which is about two and a half hours drive from Gaziantep. Once there, I hired a car with the most sullen driver ever and took along my lovely friend Anna (who is about to take a sip of menengiç in the last photograph). We stayed in the same boutique hotel where I normally stay, Anadolu Evleri, two lovely old houses in the old part of town, round the corner from the bazaars. Everyone there is charming, Tim who is the owner, his family and the staff; and they also are extremely helpful. As soon as I explained to Tim that I needed to find out more about menengiç, he brought out the jar you see in the picture below, and asked one of his lovely young men to make us some. Anna asked for hers to be made with milk while I had mine plain. To tell you the truth, neither one of us liked it much but it is definitely worth trying, at least once. Happy new year.

menengiç 1 copy menegiç 2 copy

menengiç 4 copy menengiç anna

How to make Turkish coffee or menengiç:

The method is the same for both. Ideally you need a rakweh which is the Arabic name of the little pot with the long handle and spout in the picture above but you can easily make your coffee in a small saucepan. Measure out the number of coffee cups you would like to make by pouring water in a demi tasse (one cupful per person) and pour the water in the rakweh or saucepan. Add a heaping teaspoon of either very finely ground coffee (there are many good Lebanese brands with Najjar being one of the best known) or menengiç per each cup of water, and depending on how sweet you like your coffee, omit the sugar altogether (I always have it sadah, meaning without sugar; wassat means medium and helou, like my name, means sweet) or add up to a teaspoon per cup.

Mix and place over a medium heat. Bring to the boil but be vigilant. The coffee will boil over, so, watch it closely as it starts rising and take off the heat just as it is about to boil over. Let the coffee settle, then boil again. If you like foam on your coffee, two or three boils will be enough. If not, boil several times until there is no more foam. The method is the same for menengiç except that you will not really have any foam. Enjoy.


There is 21 comments on this post


  • I’ve found menengic at the Siirt Pazari in Istanbul, where people from southeastern Turkey shop; it’s a block west of Ataturk Bulvari, extending for a couple of blocks north of the Aqueduct of Valens. There they call it bitim, which is the same as the Arabic butm, terebinth. (Terebinth is a member of the pistachio family.) Menengic is a Southeastern (and Ottoman) pronunciation; standard Turkish for terebinth is menevis.
    Terebinth is the plant we get turpentine from. Fortunately, menengic isn’t at all like turpentine — it’s more like a cross between coffee, cloves, sesame paste and peanut butter, with a curious meaty note, followed by a hint of chocolate in the finish.


  • it’s funny, i had never seen it in istanbul. thanks for the information charles. filiz said in email which i got after i published the post that they also call it Ç?tl?k, Çitlembik.. and that the tree grows on Southeastern, Central Anatolia and mountainous/hilly areas of the Mediterranean region. It grows naturally and the latin name is Pistacia Terebinthus.


  • You ought to check out the Siirt Pazari. It’s on Itfaiye Caddesi, on the way up to the Zeyrek Mosque, a little converted Greek church. It’s the best neighborhood in Istanbul to shop for honey — four or five shops sell nothing but honey, mostly in the comb. And there are half a dozen restaurants serving buryan, which is whole lamb roasted in an underground pit. It’s served with a curious bumpy bread called tirnak ekmegi (fingernail bread) because the baker punches a lot of little holes in it with his fingernails. Many of the buryan restaurants are Arabic-speaking.
    I see citlembik in my Turkish dictionary as the word for the terebinth berry — citlembik agaci is the name of the tree.


  • thanks charles. you’re brilliant as usual. i will go there when i am next in istanbul. will also take my group.


  • The best known buryan place in the neighborhood is Seref Büryan Salonu (#79, Imam Niyazi Sokagi), a big, handsome place. I’ve also eaten at a smaller, funkier place on Hüsam Bey Soka??, U?ur Büryan, because it was recommended to me by a guy from Siirt. I assume all the buryan places are good.
    By the way, if you go there you’ll see glistening purplish bundles hanging in the air at butcher shops — they’re livers displayed on a gang hook.


  • anissa, i so do enjoy reading your posts, particularly bec of the different places you travel to- how fascinating to be able to go to Aleppo in a mere 2.5 hours! i am a huge fan of najjar and would also love to try this non-coffee.


  • thank you shayma. i am not sure you will like it but when i was in karachi, i remember going to a confectionery shop that seemed to have middle eastern stuff. perhaps you’ll find menengiç there. otherwise, next time you’re in london. will tell you where the turkish shops are. or you can come and have a cup at my home.


  • I wonder if that “coffee” tastes like the stuff I buy at Wholefoods made from dried fruits and such (I buy it and then hate the smell of it and dump it a few weeks later); I was in Istanbul for a quick stopover and loved the apple tea. Bought some sahlap at the bazaar; and headed to Beirut.


  • People, this berry is also eaten in mount lebanon – paradoxically, the berries start out red and turn blue later in the season. the blue berries are roasted and salted, and can be saved in jars and eaten as a crunchy snack. My granmother still saves them in her mouneh every year and sends a jar to her grandchildren the world over!

    They are called “berzok” (silent k).

    They are quite peculiar in taste, very resinous, reminescent of juniper berries and smoked applewood.


  • it’s funny, now that you say it i vaguely remember eating this when i was a kid. will check with my mother.


  • I grew up in Southeastern Türkiye, where people love drinking menengic coffee, as it tastes highly aromatic, delicious. Pity that Anissa’s taste buds failed to detect that 🙂

    Locals in Southeastern Türkiye also liberally incorporate menengic’s oil into home-made sweets (baklawa, kadayif, halwa, cookies and more) as it counters sugar and gives an unworldly delicious taste….

    Besides that, menengic’s oil is used as a proven centuries-old folk remedy treating stomach diabetes, ulcer, asthma and coughing.

    Menengic’s oil accumulates naturally on top in the jar. Try mixing it with pekmez (or honey) tahini (or almond butter) creating most delicious and healthy spread you ever taste it.

    You can also add a spoonful of menengic to your regular/real morning coffee, hence creating a truly mellow and aromatic sublime cup of joe.


  • this is all v interesting ali. i love the idea of menengic oil in baklava. will have to try it. and will try it with pekmez or tahini. thank you. as for my taste buds failing to appreciate menengic, it is unfortunate. perhaps i should try again when i am back in gaziantep. who knows, i may get converted in the newly refurbished tahmis cafe 🙂


  • At this very moment, am perched above the courtyard at Anadolu Evleri, after a day that did include a stop in at the reopened Tahmis. Though the place does have laminated menus, and far too many besuited waitstaff, all has not been lost. The coffee is still loamy, and comes served with a small bowl of… Menengic! The dried and salted snack version, mixed in with kendir tohum and roasted leblebi. So lovely, so tasty.


  • I was always very attracted by exotic “cuisine” and odd food from foreign countries. Today, making some shopping in a little turkish supermarket in Provins, France, I discover and bought a jar of Menengic Kahvesi a pistacia coffee. I read the notice and try so soon I was back home. It’s sweet, fatty in the mouth and slightly smell like a mixed of coffee and backed seeds. I love it!


  • Hi
    Does anyone know if I can get Menengic in London?
    Thanks


  • Hello,
    Does anyone know how to roast the menengic beans I bought back from Gasientepe?

    Thanks


  • You could add grape molesses to the menengic coffe to have a great yaste


  • Just returned from Sanliurfa where some sweet locals introduced me to menengic. It was love at first sip and before returning home, I bought two large bottles. I had no idea it wasn’t a dried powder like Turkish coffee and that it is truly oily. But just made my first home made menengic and it came out pretty good. Best yet, I had two cups and don’t have to worry about it keeping me awake all night! Now to take some of the recommendationa made here and try it in other forms!


  • Good to see that there are more lovers of menengic, a beverage presumably known from antiquity (at any rate, the name of the tree appears in the Bible as “terebinth” and the like). Does anybody know where the word menengic (I omit the diacritic) can be derived from? Any suggestions will be highly appreciated. Thanks a lot in advance.


  • I am from Turkey/Gaziantep(Antep). I was looking for whats caffein rate in menengiç coffee(pistachio coffee) and i coincide your blog. greeting from turkey.

Leave a Comment