Breakfast is indispensable and the most important meal for Turkish people. Especially the breakfast tables set up on weekends! Even for those who claim not to be morning people and can't eat anything when they wake up, I'm sure their opinion changes when they see a Turkish breakfast. There are hundreds of different breakfast options, varying according to each region. Among these, undoubtedly the most universal throughout the country is Menemen.

In my previous article, I mentioned to you the fundamental trio of Turkish dishes: onion, pepper, and tomato. Menemen is actually a breakfast dish entirely built upon this base. It is a Turkish breakfast dish made with eggs, peppers, tomatoes, and optionally, onions.

History of Menemen

One of the places where tomatoes were first cultivated in Turkey is the "Menemen" district in İzmir. In the early years of the Republic, the economy of the Menemen district was largely based on agriculture. Particularly, the fertile and vacant lands left by the forcibly displaced Greeks were distributed to the Turks who migrated to the Menemen district through the population exchange. Among these, the Cretan Turks were prominent. The Menemen dish was first prepared by the Cretan Turks, who arrived in the Menemen district during the population exchange. The residents of Menemen, who were neighbors to the Cretan immigrants, gradually became acquainted with their cultures and the Cretan cuisine.

The Cretan Turks mostly used herbs gathered from the mountains in their dishes. After boiling these herbs in water, they would pour olive oil over them or break an egg on top and eat. The Cretan Turks who introduced herb dishes to the people of Menemen also learned the "Meat and Tomato Stew" dish, which included plenty of tomatoes, some potatoes, and meat, from the people of Menemen. Due to economic reasons, the Cretan Turks changed the ingredients of this dish. The Cretan Turks in Menemen, known as hardworking and thrifty individuals, altered the ingredients of this dish, replacing meat with eggs and potatoes with onions, thus creating the "egg and tomato" dish. The addition of peppers to the dish came later.

The biggest debate that's on everyone's lips in Turkey: Should Menemen have onions or not?

This question truly divides the population. One group adamantly asserts that onions should never be added to Menemen, while the other side argues that Menemen can't exist without onions. Even chefs haven't been able to come to a consensus on this matter.

In my opinion, Menemen is particularly delightful with onions! Now I'll be sharing my recipe for Menemen with onions. If you wish, you can join the debate in Turkey by trying the recipe without onions as well, and you can choose your side.

Menemen recipe:

  • 1 small-sized onion
  • 4 green peppers
  • 1 red bell pepper (optional)
  • 4 tomatoes
  • 3 eggs
  • 4 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of black pepper

Here's how it's made:

  • Take a deep pan with a non-stick surface and add olive oil to it.
  • Sauté the finely chopped onion in the pan until it turns golden brown.
  • Next, add the green peppers and, optionally, the red bell peppers, and continue sautéing.
  • Once the peppers start to soften, add the chopped tomatoes to the pan.
  • Cook the mixture until the tomatoes are thoroughly softened. This should take approximately 10 minutes.
  • Now, add the beaten eggs from the bowl into the pan and quickly mix everything together.
  • Stir continuously until the eggs are fully cooked.
  • Turn off the heat and serve the Menemen while it's still hot.

The most common accompaniments are fresh bread, feta cheese, and Turkish tea!

Enjoy your meal!