20.3.11

Şalgam Suyu

Fermented pickled turnip juice, deep blood-red and pungent.

Adana Food 042

That's one way to describe şalgam, a traditional Turkish drink which hails from Adana. Despite the description, it is a beloved drink, said to cut the fat of the famous Adana kebap and aid in digestion. It's a bit of an acquired taste (understatement!) but if you like kombucha or were one of those crazy kids who drank pickle juice straight from the jar, you'll probably enjoy şalgam as well.

Şalgam is made with fermented bulgur, turnips, and purple carrots to which salt and other seasonings are added. The whole process takes about two weeks from start to finish. If you are lucky enough to drink it fresh from a şalgamcı (şalgam seller and maker) it will be served in a big glass with a long slice of crunchy pickled purple carrot. You can order it sade (plain) or acılı (spicy), or if you're not in the Adana region, you can find it in just about every supermarket.

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Stacked jars of turşu (pickles) and a rapidly disappearing glass of şalgam

Şalgam is served best cold and it hits the tongue with a little sparkle, a gentle fizz which is a byproduct of its fermentation. The taste is salty and sour and it kicks you in the stomach if you drink it too quickly, and once it's there, you can really feel it speeding up your digestion. It is a reputed cure for a hangover or a too-heavy meal, though I've never tried in for either. I simply find the taste refreshing and the metabolic boost gives me a bit of a natural rush.

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