A favourite breakfast flavour in Turkey’s northern Black Sea region is a delicious blend of local cheeses melted together with coarsely ground cornmeal. It is cooked in sahan, which is a copper pan with two handles (like a paella pan). Pieces of fresh, crusty bread are used to scoop up the mixture with your fingers. This easy recipe dish is called kuymak (Kooy-MAK’) in the city of Trabzon, mıhlama (MIH’-lah-mah) in the northeastern provinces such as Erzurum and Bayburt and muhlama (MOOH’-lah-mah) in Rize and Artvin. In Giresun and Ordu people call it as yağlaş (YAH’-lahsh).
The cheese is the key to authentic mıhlama. Fresh cheeses like feta and other Turkish white cheeses won’t let you have the original taste. Aged cheeses work the best, especially the local cheeses from the Black Sea region like Trabzon cheese. High-quality kashar cheese will also work.
These cheeses are made from unpasteurized milk. Once the milk turns to cheese it is put in containers and doused with boiling water and left until the water cools completely. The cheese is then removed from the water and sliced. Sometimes salt is added and the cheese is frozen for future use.
- 6 tablespoons butter (unsalted)
- 6 tablespoons cornmeal
- 1 cup of water
- 10 ounces/300 grams Trabzon village cheese (grated, or Turkish string cheese or Kashar cheese)
Gather the ingredients.
In a copper sahan or frying pan, melt the butter completely. Continue to allow the butter to bubble for a few minutes without letting it burn.
Add the cornmeal and work the butter all the way through with a large wooden spoon.
Stir the cornmeal gently over the heat for several minutes until it changes colour to a deep golden brown.
When the oil from the butter begins to separate out, add the water and bring it to a boil.
Once the water boils, slowly add the grated cheese.
Stir the mixture well each time to allow the cheese to melt and the mixture to become smooth each time.
As you stir, the melted cheese will combine with the cornmeal.
Let it cook over a low flame, stirring occasionally until you see the butter appear on the top.
Serve hot with fresh, crusty bread to scoop it with and enjoy.
Recipe Tips of Mıhlama
- In an authentic ‘mıhlama’ a special kind of coarsely-ground cornmeal is used that has been baked in the oven before storage. You can also toast raw cornmeal in a hot skillet before using it to mimic this flavour.
- Another trick is to use raw, unpasteurized village butter or Turkish clotted cream called kaymak (kai-MAK’) in place of regular butter.
- When cooking your mıhlama, you must be patient. Stir the cheese and the cornmeal and let them melt slowly until the cheese becomes stringy and gummy at the same time. Never prepare mıhlama in a rush.
- This dish is best served hot and fresh. Reheating mıhlama doesn’t work.