Ayran, Ayran So Far Away: The Turkish Yogurt Drink that will Help You Power through even the Spiciest Kebab
Thousands of years ago, nomadic Turks had to develop ways to preserve their food as they traveled. As a result, they made milk into yogurt—the word “yogurt” is based on the Old Turkish root word “yog,” which means to intensify or condense—to which they eventually added water to dilute the bitterness. And that’s how the yogurt drink called ayran was born.
Where to Find Ayran in Queens
Ayran can be found at a smattering of popular Middle Eastern restaurants in Sunnyside. In Sunnyside’s more casual Turkish restaurants, bottles of Merve brand Ayran are sold from coolers.
It’s served on its own or with grilled meats, like gyro, kebab and kefte. Miray, a server at Turkish Grill, likes it with lahmacun, a flatbread with spicy ground lamb and tomato, because the ayran diffuses some of the dish’s heat.
“Normally when they serve lahmacun, they automatically bring you ayran,” she says.
Mangal Kabob, a casual kebab restaurant, sells Merve, the most popular ayran brand in New York City.
Turkiyem Market, a Turkish grocery store on Stillman Avenue, sells three types of Merve ayran: regular, Turkish style (a little tangier than regular) and mint flavored.
Sait, who works at the market, likes to make his own ayran with Merve Suzme, a strained yogurt. “When it comes to making ayran, it’s the best.” He adds a smidge of fresh mint.