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Borek Bakehouse

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by Lionel (subscribe)
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Published October 14th 2012

Except for the lady kneading dough by the large window, there is no signboard to this Turkish bakehouse in Melbourne. Even the popular "No Signboard" restaurant in Singapore has a signboard.


She and her display of various Turkish breads caught my eye on several walks along Elizabeth Street to the Queen Victoria Market (QVM). There's something both exciting and salivating about watching someone baking bread. I received neuro suggestions of freshness and deliciousness. Giving in to the orders from my brain and growling stomach, I finally decided to investigate this "ekmek" or bakery.



I finally found the name of the establishment on its menu. The Borek Bakehouse is more of a take-away place with limited 2-person seating against one wall. Its long display counter serves an assortment of Turkish pastries with its highlights being Börek and Gözleme.

I'm not an expert on Turkish bread-meals but I've consumed enough of both during my previous work trips to Ankara in Turkey to remember their characteristics. Being adopted by a Turkish grandma who makes authentic traditional Börek and Gözleme also helps.

Börek is a general Turkish word for filled pastries invented in the Anatolian Provinces of the Ottoman Empire, now modern-day Turkey. Interestingly this humble bread-meal connects many countries together as it exist in one form or another across cultures in Middle East, Central and Eastern Europe. The traditional Turkish recipe uses a paper thin dough called "yufka" or "phyllo" which is layered, rolled or folded around a filling of "peynirli" or white sheep's milk cheese (feta) and chopped parsley or spinach. They can be baked, steamed or fried. The deep fried "Sigara böregi" or cigarette börek with its cigar-shape reminds me fondly of the Chinese spring rolls. The deep fried "Püf böregi" or puff börek are similar to the Indian samosas with their triangular shapes.


Borek Bakehouse makes what I recall eating in Ankara as
Kol böreği" or arm börek. After a "Merhaba" or hello, the lady at the back-section kitchen was happy to let me watch her pull lumps of oily dough into long rolls and filling them with different ingredients before baking at a low temperature.

Arm börek dough

I ordered the börek gift-wrapped with cheese and "ispanakli" or spinach for AUD3. The slow baking process and dough resulted in a crispy but dense bread. Not the flakiness that grandma makes but the combination of freshly baked crispiness and hot melted cheese over spinach was still satisfying.

Freshly baked and crispy börek

I ordered a AUD3 coffee to accompany my pastry which reminded of the passable brew from Coffea at QVM and Gino's at Freo. It was time for a latte at Market Lane.

Then I decided to indulge in an order of the Gözleme after admiring the handiwork of the lady at the front-section of the kitchen by the window. A popular market food in Australia, it is a traditional Turkish flat bread folded over similar ingredients used in the börek.

Gözleme

It originated as a village meal baked on a griddle and consumed for centuries in Turkey. The word "gözleme" orginates from the word "goz" which means "eye" as lttle brown round "eyes" appear as you cook the pastry.


The lady in Borek Bakehouse was rolling out fist-sized dough into paper-thin sheets with a rolling pin before spreading ingredients atop and folding over them. The entire preparation short of the twirling reminds me fondly of the Malaysian Roti Canai.

Piping hot off the stove gözleme

I ordered the gözleme with "kiymali" or ground lamb for AUD6. The dough was still denser than the original version I had in Ankara but I enjoyed the thin and slightly elastic texture of the freshly cooked bread over the mince lamb.

It would have been tops if the breads were baked in the traditional stone floor, wood-fired ovens instead of the commercial steel ones but the sight, smells and taste served up Borek Bakehouse and its individually hand-crafted breads are enough for me to return for more.

Afiyet olsun!
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Why? Nothing beats the taste of freshly baked borek and gozleme
When: 9am till close
Phone: (03) 9329 5553
Where: Along Elizabeth Street near Queen Victoria Market
Cost: From AUD3
Your Comment
I make borek at home with fetta eaten with loads of fresh olives, tomato and cucumber. Great read! thanks. Michelle
by Michelle Coates (score: 2|529) 2218 days ago
Thanks Lionel for your heads up on this wonderfully authentic sounding establishment. I go to QVM every Friday so I will be sure to make a short detour for my morning snack! I found your review really informative! Abby.
by abbyl (score: 2|115) 2218 days ago
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