Monday, February 25, 2013

Tarhana - Turkish Chips

Close up on the distinct texture of tarhana chips
(Photo by Turklish)
Tarhana: paper-thin, jagged edges, specks of wheat floating in an almost transparent, tangy concoction.  No matter what time of year you will find these interesting chips taking up a prominent spot on the dessert table.  The young will eat them while they are hard and crispy, the older generation might add a few sprinkles of water to soften the edges and go easy on their gums.  Along with ice cream, tarhana is one of the most common items you'll see in boxes coming off the baggage claim from a Maraş flight.

Tarhana on the dessert table - right in the middle so everyone can grab a few.
(Photo by Turklish)
Yep, I'm back to finish up the Maraş themed posts on a savory note.  Tarhana - you may have heard of it, but the tarhana known throughout the rest of Turkey is not the same as the tarhana chips adored in Maraş.  These chips are unlike anything else I have ever tasted.  They are not sweet, but not really salty either.  They are tangy, with that particular flavor that comes from Turkish yogurt.  They are addictive, you can't stop munching once you try a few.  I guess this is probably the only thing Tarhana chips have in common with the typical potato chips - "betcha can't eat just one". 

While I'm still a little unsure of the details of the entire cooking procedure, I can tell you that tarhana is made from a combination of cracked wheat, yogurt and then flavored with some spices, such as thyme.  It is cooked in a large copper pot and stirred with a large wooden spoon, which the Kahramanmaraş travel guide lovingly calls a "Tarhana Shovel". 

You can see how the tarhana is prepared in this video below, and if you know Turkish, you'll hear these ladies explain it in more detail than I can provide:

When the mixture is ready, the thick paste is spread on reed mats and laid out to dry on rooftops, in open areas, and even in the city on the sidewalk in front of shops.  If the tarhana dries from morning to dusk it will be "Fresh Tarhana" and retain a limp texture, which is a delicacy savored in those lovely, early summer days.  After drying for two full days, the tarhana is crisp and can be stored for the rest of the year. 

The tarhana goop before it is spread on the mats.
(Image from Market Maras)
 This winter we were enjoying stashes of stored tarhana and came upon a white, crusty blob in the middle of the chip.  I looked at H. and giggled, "It's bird poop." 

"Tarhana is 100% natural."  He grinned back at me.

Yes, it is all natural and dried with the grace of nature, with a few presents from the local avian population mixed in.  Don't let that discourage you - it's part of the experience.  To be honest, I just put that piece off to the side and kept on eating.  A little poop won't hurt anyone.

The tarhana drying on mats in the fresh air.
(Image from Market Maras)
Unlike the Kahramanmaraş ice cream, there is no one selling tarhana on the street corners or playing fun games with an ice cream cone.  It has not won worldwide awards for its unique flavor or texture, and as a tourist you may not even know it exists unless you were invited to a home for dinner, or happened to be in town during the few weeks when the tarhana was hanging out to dry in the streets.

Tarhana is like many beauties of the Turkish culture, it is soft-spoken and unknown to the rest of the world, but deeply loved by its owners.  If you happen to stop in Maraş  I recommend you find a shop* selling tarhana and try a few chips - I betcha can't eat just one! 

A Question for the Readers: Have any of you heard of this type of tarhana before?  I'm curious if others know about it or have ever tried it.  Share your comments below!

*In Maraş there are a variety of shops selling tarhana, they will usually advertise this on their shop front window or awning.  Your best bet is to ask around to find a shop close to where you end up in the city.  There should be quite a few.


  1. I've never tried this, or even noticed it before. I'll be on the look out now.

  2. Thanks for adding this tarhana to the Turkish Food community. We're learning a lot in that group and this one is definitely a first. Would love to try it as I can't imagine what it tastes like. :)

  3. . . same as Annie - never heard of this but will try seeking it out when we are over that way later this year.

  4. Thanks for your comments BtoB, Julia and Alan. If you find tarhana and try it, please drop me a note! I'm curious to know if it's only a maras thing. H. says that even his Turkish friends in other parts of Turkey have never tried it, and when some of them did, they didn't like it. It is a peculiar taste, but it grows on you. I'd love to see it made first hand too! Looks like fun.

  5. Merhaba!

    Tarhana is a favorite of mine in soup. It is often made when one is ill in the colder months. While I noticed that there are variations of tarhana, my experience with it (through my Adana-born and bred husband; I'm an Asian-American) is chunks of it soaked in water then cooked up with garlic, red pepper paste, and mint. It is insanely delicious! Though, I'd love to try tarhana chips as well, someday! :)


Thanks for joining the conversation!

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