The Turkish Bean Salad, known as Piyaz was one of my favourite dishes to eat on my trips to Turkey. In Istanbul, in many of the mezze restaurants, the second you sit down, you'll experience a ninja-like waiter sweep into view, proudly parading a giant tray of small meze plates to tempt you; like the creamy Turkish carrot salad or the deliciously earthy and sweet Turkish Beetroot & Yoghurt Dip. You'll point and pick (a great way to order food) at the plates that looked most appealing.
He'll disappear with his sample tray, leaving you no food - only to return a few moments later with a fresh version of what you've ordered. I love pointing and picking - if only I could do this at home! The only downside is that I usually point a little too enthusiastically, resulting in an embarrassingly gigantic table of food (sometimes including a 'sub-table' for the overspill.
Frequently on my selection is a white bean salad, much like an Italian cannellini bean salad - I absolutely LOVE beans of any kind, and this salad is amongst the best, rich, yet light - sharp and zingy and totally addictive.
Variations on a citrus based salad
Eating in many different restaurants this Turkish bean salad was slightly different each time - the bean types changed, the citrus level fluctuated, the presentation changed, but they all shared a sharp, acidic and citrus hit that gave this dish its unique personality. Acid is the dominant flavour which brings a burst of freshness to the dish. The sharpness pairs beautifully with the rich creamy beans.
In Istanbul we'd usually take advantage of the awesome seafood and this salad paired wonderfully. And we also ate this dish in other parts of Turkey where lamb was the speciality and the salad held its own against meat too. It's a bit of a star salad that I whip up regularly to much applause. It's versatile and pairs wonderfully with other mezze style dishes.
Serving and substitutes
The Turkish Bean Salad is versatile in that you can use whatever white bean you have at hand. Cannellini beans, butter beans, navy beans, great northern and lima beans are all perfect for this dish. This dish has its roots as a Persian bean salad, so any beans associated with Persian cuisine would also be suitable - think, black eyed peas, fava beans and garbanzo. But it's a white bean that I love the most, creamy and soft - perfection!
The salads I ate in Turkey all shared a similar sharpness, some more lemon focussed, some more vinegar focussed - I typically just adjust with what I have more of when I make it. The herbs for this dish seemed to vary between dill and parsley. Dill in particular is splendid, so I'd urge you to not substitute too much with other herbs to keep the authentic Turkish flavour.
Some versions of the salad featured sliced or crumbled hard boiled eggs on top, which is a fantastic addition. Give this a try!
More recipes that work well with Turkish bean salad (Piyaz)
If you like this salad, you might also like to try some of the other dishes that would work alongside it as part of a Turkish themed dinner table.
Turkish Garlic & Yoghurt Sauce
Onion & Sumac Salad
Heirloom Tomato Salad
Beetroot & Feta Salad with Fresh Herb Dressing
Turkish Bulghur Pilaf with Lamb & Silverbeet
Turkish Lime Yoghurt Cake