Pan-fried lamb testicles with almond garlic tarrator
"The lamb testicles... they taste a bit like sausage."
There's a moment of silence before the table erupts into a fit of giggles at the unwitting comparison.
But it is true. The testicles do taste like sausage, a little bouncy but still soft, like a well-minced chicken sausage in a taut skin. They don't have a lot of flavour, mild on the palate but texture-wise, distinctly spongey and fatty.
The lamb testicles appear midway through our Efendy Celebration Dinner
($55 p.p.), commemorating the announcement of Istanbul as the European Capital of Culture
for 2010. Each year the European Union chooses a city to showcase its cultural life and cultural development. In 2010, three European cities were chosen: Istanbul in Turkey, Essen in Germany and Pécs in Hungary.
Menu at Efendy
Tonight's dinner at Efendy will feature a menu of dishes that are all specialties of Istanbul.
Turkish breads and pastries
We start with traditional breads and pastries, made by visiting Turkish cookbook author Deniz Gokturk, the mini pide boats disappearing fastest of all.
Mini pide boatsMidya dolma
Traditional street hawker dish of Istanbul Fish Market
- Boston Bay mussels in shell stuffed with pinenut, currant and aromatic baldo rice
are beautifully presented, the open shells beckoning us closer with their perfectly formed mounds of rice. Squeezed generously with lemon, the rice is deliciously al dente with a plump mussel hiding within.Patlican
A typical meyhane meze of roasted baby eggplant, pomegranate and charred pepper salad
If I have a favourite vegetable, it would be eggplant, and upon the first spoonful of the patlican
, I resist all urges to relocate the entire bowl in front of me. The roasted baby eggplant
has an incredibly smokiness, the flesh soft and yielding, heightened by ruby red pearls of pomegranate that add colour and tartness. Meyhane are gourmet pubs found in Beyoglu in Istanbul.
Cig Kofte Lamb and burghul
Cig kofte is a raw dish of lamb mince mixed with burghul, onions, tomato and pepper. The use of spices is said to help "cook" the meat. I find these to be quite heavy with burghul, creating more of a nutty and grainy texture, with less of a raw meat sensation. The shape of the patties is very striking, marked with finger-created cliffs and valleys.
Etli dolma cabbage dolma
Cabbage dolma are elegant in size, cigars of lamb mince and rice rolled in cabbage leaves and drizzled with yoghurt and red capsicum sauce.
Hervey Bay king prawns wrapped with shredded pastry over muhammara
The sweetness of Hervey Bay king prawns is a little lost in its cloak of deep-fried kataifi pastry, but to be honest I'm more obsessed with the muhammara beneath it, a thick spicy dip made from red capsicum, walnuts and olive oil.
Seven hour slow-roasted Bultarra Saltbush lamb shoulder, cracked wheat bulghur,
chickpeas and almond pilav, silverbeet yoghurtBultarra Saltbush lamb shoulder
, slow-roasted for seven hours, is fall-apart tender and served with a bulghur pilaf and a ball of tangy yoghurt mixed with chopped silverbeet.Begendi
Classical palace-style dish of dried eggplant
stuffed with beef cheek sautee, smoky eggplant and kashar cheese puree
But again, I'm more interested in the begendi, a hollowed-out eggplant that holds shreds of beef cheek. It sits on a bed of more smoky eggplant puree that I scrape clean off the plate.
Tiny cups of Turkish coffee are a dark slurry of caffeine. The incentive for most guests to drink these is the presence of a Turkish psychic downstairs, who will read the bottom of your coffee cup to find out your future. I don't get my fortune read but those that do report a mixed bag of accuracy!
Ekmek Kadayifi - Caramelised Turkish bread kadayif with marash ice cream
Sutlu Irmik - Semolina dessert, cinnamon and hazelnuts with sour cherry reduction
Kabak Tatlisi- Traditional baked butternut pumpkin dessert
We conclude with a trio of desserts. A plank of kabak tatlisi is the most interesting - a bright orange sweet made from baked butternut pumpkin. Sutlu irmik semolina dessert is laced with cinnamon and hazelnuts but the crowd favourite is the caramelised Turkish bread which is reminiscent of gingerbread, covered in a layer of milky marash ice cream.
And so I can finally add testicles to my list of "unusual eats".
What's the craziest thing you've eaten or seen for sale?
Grab Your Fork dined at the Efendy Celebration Dinner as a guest of Efendy.
79 Elliott Street, Balmain, Sydney
(corner of Darling Street)
Tel: +61 (02) 9810 5466
Monday to Wednesday 5pm - 11.30pm
Thursday to Saturday 11am - 11.30pm
Sunday 11am - 5pm
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