Do yourself a favor, take a cooking class with Aslihan while you visit Bodrum. Here’s how it works. Asli picks you up at your hotel and takes you to the local farmer’s market to shop for fresh ingredients. The market is in itself an impressive local attraction you might miss if you’re doing typical touristy things in Bodrum. Sample the freshest produce, cheeses, and olives offered by local growers and producers. Most vendors are happy to give you a taste of their wares. Some things must be seen to be believed, like the huge rounds of phyllo dough for sale, and the vast array of olives. Keep an eye out for the tea vendor running around delivering hot glasses of Turkish tea to farmers and sellers.
With shopping done, Asli takes you to her shaded garden kitchen where the lessons take place. Instruction is informal, punctuated by conversation, noshing and Turkish coffee. This is true cultural exchange in so far as the topic of conversation often ranges far beyond food and into the realms of culture, language, politics and religion. It’s a truly relaxed and civilized experience. The language of good food is universal, but it does help that Asli’s English is impeccable. She’s a great mediator for Anglophones trying to understand a little bit more about Turkish culture through its cuisine. Asli’s staff is also amazing. At one point, Asli stepped back to allow her Georgian assistant to teach us her signature Georgian dish, an eggplant roulade stuffed with walnut paste. By the end of the lesson you will have created an impressive array of mezzes, small tapas-like gems. During your time here you may stuff zucchini flowers with cheese and herbs, roll phyllo dough, shell fava beans, and dress sea beans with garlic and lemon. You’ll feel proud of your achievement when you see the mezzes you made brought to the table at lunchtime. The delicious food you make here will become the benchmark against which you judge the food you receive in local restaurants.
While you eat and take sips from your glass of rosé, take a moment to appreciate the setting. Asli’s kitchen opens up onto an enclosed yard adorned by her artist husband in colorful painting and relief sculptures that capture the spirit of the Aegean. We enjoyed our experience so much that we booked dinner in the garden for later in the same week. If for some reason you can’t find the time to take this cooking class, please do make a reservation for dinner in the lantern-lit garden. It will be the best food you eat in Bodrum.