Çiğ köfte means ‘raw meatball’ in Turkish and is a favourite Turkish snack and a specialty of southeastern Turkey.
Bulgur is kneaded with chopped onions and water until it gets soft. Then tomato and pepper paste, spices and very finely ground beef are added. This absolutely fatless raw mincemeat is treated with spices while kneading the mixture, which is said to “cook” the meat. Lastly, green onions, fresh mint and parsley are mixed in.
Although, a vegan variety of Çiğ köfte exists which is shaped similarly and with a similar texture.
Traditional recipe requires minced -raw- meat, the version in Turkey consumed as fast-food (through small franchise shops in every neighbourhood of Turkey) must since a few years ago be meatless by law due to hygienic necessities. Therefore, Çiğ köfte is, unless restaurant or home-made, vegan in Turkey and North Cyprus. Meat is replaced by ground walnuts, hazelnuts and potato.
One spice that is associated with Çiğ köfte, vegan or not, is a very dark, almost blackish paprika, prepared in a special manner, and which is considered as indispensable for an authentically local preparation of Çiğ köfte.
A favourite way of eating Çiğ köfte is rolled in a lettuce leaf, with tomato, fresh mint leafs and at most places you can also add cucumber, jalapeños, carrot, rocket leafs, beetroot slices, a salad mix based on tomato, onion and cucumber in your roll. Çiğ köfte accompanied with good quantities of ayran to counter-act the burning sensation that this very spicy food will give.
In Cyprus there are over 100 different Çiğ köfte restaurants and you can find them almost everywhere. There are tens of different big franchise companies, all with head quarters in Turkey, for example called CRM, Enfes, Komagene and ÇiğKöfteEM. Together these four companies have many thousands of restaurants worldwide and there is now branches in Germany, Netherlands, Denmark, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Australia, France, Hungary, Austria, Switzerland and many more countries.