One of the most important dishes of the Turkish cuisine is the "Meze" (appetizer). Turkish meals are usually a social event that can last for several hours especially at dinners or during weekends. Either you serve alcohol or not during meals, it's a tradition to serve and eat rounds of hot and cold starters before the main dish is eaten. There is a huge selection of mezes in the Turkish cuisine therefore usually the table is full of several treats, sometimes they're so much that you're full and don't have any room left to eat a main dish afterwards.
Mezes are always eaten slowly together with drinks, especially with Raki. There is always lots of conversation going around the table with your friends so you spend several hours without noticing. When mezes are served on the table, you take samples from each plate you like and put it on your own plate then you start to taste them. Either you're having a fish dinner or meat dinner, you'll always have mezes first.
There are various kinds of mezes, some served hot but mostly they're served cold. Each region has its own kinds of appetizers depending on the local taste, hot spicy or not, with garlic and onions or not, with olive oil or not, etc. Some mezes are based on vegetables with lots of herbs and olive oil, some are based on yoghurt, some on meat, and there are also sea food mezes, of course. Here are some typical mezes that you can encounter in a Turkish meal: white cheese and melon, goat cheese and butter and flat bread, green or black olives, Hummus, Saksuka (fried eggplant cubes with yogurt and tomato sauce), stuffed zucchini blossoms, asparagus, small kofte (meatballs), Dolma and Sarma (stuffed pepper and vine leaves), Haydari (thick yogurt with dill and garlic), carrots with yogurt, mashed eggplant salad, lamb brain salad, cold Manti (ravioli), fresh Cacik with chopped cucumber and yogurt, Tarama (fish roe dip), icli kofte (bulghur rice and minced meat fried), Kisir (bulgur wheat salad), Pilaki (white beans in olive oil), small Lahmacun, Muhammara (red pepper walnut dip), Borek pastry, Pastirma (slices of air-dried beef meat), pickles, Russian salad, marinated sweet red peppers, fava beans puree, stuffed mushrooms, artichoke in olive oil, Mucver (zucchini fritters), pickled red cabbage, lentil pate, fried calamari, grilled octopus, stuffed or fried mussels, pickled sardines, shrimp casserole, fish meatballs, and so on.