One of the most commonly used vegetables in Turkish cuisine is undoubtedly eggplant. "Hünkar Beğendi" is a Turkish dish consisting of roasted eggplant and béchamel sauce, served on a bed with cooked meat on top. It remains one of the most important culinary legacies left by the Ottoman Empire, still preserving its prestige and place.

Despite centuries passing, it consistently succeeds in being among the most popular dishes in Turkish cuisine, especially for special occasions and gatherings.

The distinctive feature of the eggplant bed: Meyane

What sets the eggplant bed of "Hünkar Beğendi" apart is its smoky flavor and the inclusion of eggplant and béchamel sauce. In short, meyane, prepared by sautéing butter and flour, was traditionally enriched with milk (and nowadays, sometimes melted cheeses), adding flavor and depth to "Hünkar Beğendi."

Even after centuries, "Hünkar Beğendi" continues to maintain its status as one of the most cherished culinary traditions from the Ottoman era, often chosen for special occasions. Would you like to learn the story of how "Hünkar Beğendi" came into existence?

How did Hünkar Beğendi originate?

There are several accounts regarding the discovery of "Hünkar Beğendi." One of these accounts goes as follows: In the 1800s, during the opening of the Suez Canal, Napoleon III. and his wife Eugenie were invited. As Napoleon couldn't attend, he sent Empress Eugenie to represent them in Egypt. Eugenie stopped in Istanbul on her way to Egypt and visited Sultan Abdülaziz at his palace. While traveling to Egypt, Eugenie brought her personal chef along and asked him to prepare béchamel sauce for her and Sultan Abdülaziz.

Eugenie's chef prepared the béchamel sauce, and at the same time, the head chef of the palace added roasted eggplant to the béchamel sauce and placed Sultan Abdülaziz's favorite meat dish on top of this mixture, serving it to Sultan Abdülaziz and Eugenie. Sultan Abdülaziz was so impressed with the dish that from that day on, this meal became known as "Hünkar Beğendi" and gained fame throughout the country and the world. "Hünkar Beğendi" translates to "Sultan's Delight" in English. Hünkar Beğendi means the Sultans likes it.

Now, let's examine the ingredients of this dish and how it's made !

Ingredients for Hünkar Beğendi recipe

For the meat:

  • 600 grams of lamb leg (or beef, according to preference)
  • 2 medium-sized onions
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 3 medium-sized tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon of tomato paste
  • 2 cups of hot water
  • 1 teaspoon of salt

For the Beğendi (béchamel sauce):

  • 1/2 cup of grated kaşar cheese (a type of Turkish cheese, you can substitute with another cheese like mozzarella)
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • 5 cups of milk
  • 4 medium-sized eggplants
  • 5 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper

How to make Hünkar Beğendi recipe:

  • Make four medium-sized eggplants and make incisions with a knife, then place them in a baking tray. Bake them at around 200 degrees Celsius for approximately 20 minutes.
  • Transfer the baked eggplants to a bowl, cover them with plastic wrap, and let them sit for about 15 minutes to make it easier to peel off the skins.
  • In a pan, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Add 2 finely chopped onions and sauté them until they become translucent.
  • Add 4 cloves of chopped garlic and 600 grams of diced beef or lamb to the pan. Cook the meat until it releases its juices and they evaporate.
  • Stir in 1 tablespoon of tomato paste, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, black pepper to taste, and 3 peeled and chopped tomatoes.
  • Add 2 cups of hot water and simmer until the meat becomes tender.

Now, let's prepare the béchamel sauce (beğendi).

  • Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a separate pan. Add 1.5 tablespoons of all-purpose flour and cook until it's fragrant.
  • Add the baked and peeled eggplants to the mixture. Slowly pour in 1.5 cups of milk while continuously stirring. Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt and black pepper to taste.
  • Finally, add 1/2 cup of grated kaşar cheese and mix well. Remove it from the heat.
  • Spread the cooked meat over the béchamel sauce and serve. Enjoy your meal!
  • One portion of Hünkar Beğendi contains 567 calories.