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Here’s How to Shop at Plano’s Terrific Turkish Grocery

Our dining critic is ready to walk you through the aisles of Horizon Specialty Market. But are you ready for the olive aisle?
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Horizon Specialty Market in Plano is one of the Dallas area’s best-kept grocery secrets. Brian Reinhart

Horizon Market, the Turkish grocery in Plano, is one of the best-kept specialty markets in the Dallas area. It’s loaded with delicious stuff, with imports from across the Middle East and even a small selection of Indian goods.

But this medium-sized shop is friendly toward everyone, and next time you’re in the area—like, say, at neighboring Wu Wei Din, one of Plano’s best Chinese restaurants—you should stop in. Not Turkish-American? Don’t worry: I’m here to help. Here’s your shopping guide, with a handful of recipe suggestions mixed in.

Produce

Horizon’s produce section is small and concentrated on two categories: essentials like onions and lettuce, and items that aren’t available, or aren’t as good, elsewhere. If you need chestnuts or barberries, this is the place.

Many commonplace items are better purchased at Horizon than, say, Tom Thumb. Dill here comes in abundant bunches for a dollar each, leeks are abundant, and eggplants are smaller and skinnier than the kind in most American groceries. If you think you don’t like eggplant because it is bitter, or needs to be baked for a half hour and buried in cheese, try the smaller varieties and you’ll notice a more delicate flavor and a product that’s more versatile to cook with.

Many Middle Eastern cookbooks refer to “green peppers” or “long green peppers” without specifying a variety. Anaheim peppers, available here, are generally the best substitute.

If you’re a fruit fiend, check out the jams and jellies aisle for interesting niche products (“wild cornelian cherry marmalade”!), and visit the freezer section to pick up a tub of frozen sour cherries. I’m sure this won’t be a controversial opinion: sour cherry is the best-flavored fruit in the world.

Spices, herbs, and nuts

Please just promise me this: except in last-minute emergencies, you’ll never buy spices in a regular grocery again. Those little glass jars are absurdly expensive and wasteful compared to the bulk bag offerings at Central Market, Sara’s, Horizon, or most Asian grocers. 

In addition to the usual suspects, Horizon is a good source for certain niche products: black sesame seeds, pul biber (Aleppo pepper), ras el hanout, and a variety of prepared blends. Grab a mix of herbs to serve as the base of your ghormeh sabzi (an incredibly flavorful Persian winter stew) or try the kebab spice mixes, which are well-balanced (Knorr brand, believe it or not, is reliable).

Here’s a little-known fact: Turkey is the world’s largest producer of hazelnuts. I’ll go ahead and accept your thanks on my people’s behalf for making Nutella possible.

More cooking supplies

Spicy red pepper paste—aci biber salçası—is an important ingredient in sauces, like a hotter version of Korean gochujang. But it doesn’t last nearly as long. In my experience, even a couple of weeks of fridge time after first use puts you in the fuzz-growing danger zone. The best solution is to scoop spoonfuls into your ice cube tray, freeze the paste, and toss the little cubes into a freezer bag. When you need to add a little fire to your stew or sauce, drop in a cube.

Bulgur, a tiny grain that’s similar in function to couscous, can be made into a fabulous pilaf, used to thicken a soup, or added to a veggie dish for texture. I recently sauteed some red bell peppers and onions and tossed them with crumbled feta, fresh dill, and bulgur. But bulgur comes in subtly different sizes, so you must be careful when shopping. The “fine” variety requires almost no cooking, but slightly larger “medium” versions, which look similar, will be crunchy if you mistake them. Published recipes should always specify which kind of bulgur, or include instructions on how to cook them.

The meat counter at Sara’s in Richardson is better, but on my last visit Horizon had good deals on top-quality 80/20 ground beef ($3.50 per pound) and whole lamb legs.

Coffee, tea, and juice

Look for Tamek brand juices (especially sour cherry, if you want to fact-check that comment I made earlier), Çaykur brand tea, and Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi coffee in the gold canisters.

The olive aisle

There’s a whole olive aisle. Not counting oil. You’re either already excited or scared. Unfortunately, free samples have been halted due to pandemic-related health concerns, so you’ll have to find your favorites through trial and error.

Cheese, glorious cheese

The word “feta” is legally associated with Greece, the way that “champagne” must come from the Champagne region of France. This means that most of the “feta” at Horizon is labeled “white cheese” instead. Look for the Turkish phrase “beyaz peynir” (yes, the word “peynir” is related to the Indian “paneer”).

Most of the white cheese offerings at Horizon come in large tubs, but there are a few smaller selections on the top shelf. The Bahçivan brand is good and available in a manageable size, although I should point out that the block of feta is about one millimeter smaller than the packaging. Here’s how to remove the cheese without spilling brine all over the place: cut out a thick first slice with a very thin-bladed knife, then stab your knife right into the middle of the slice, taking care not to split it, and gently pull it out.

My personal favorite feta-style cheese is from Denmark, of all places. Piknik brand, in the tall metal tube covered in folksy paintings of cows in pastures, makes a superb feta in little round wheels. It’s richly creamy and flavorful, but it doesn’t crumble or stick to your fingers. You can slice dainty little wedges and eat them with toast for breakfast.

But there are many more cheeses on the shelf. You’ll need halloumi to pan-fry: it basically never melts, so you can brown it up and use it as cheesy crispy croutons on a salad, or cut it into slabs and make a dazzling sandwich. On the other hand, if you want gooey melty cheese on toast, kashkaval is your friend. Just throw your cheesy toast under the broiler, add a little bit of paprika or Aleppo pepper, and you have one of my most nostalgic (and least healthy) breakfasts.

Sujuk

Sujuk, a firm link of spicy sausage, comes in varieties even I don’t fully understand yet. In Turkish, it’s spelled “sucuk,” but the letter “c” makes a j-like sound, so I’m using the Arabic spelling so that you pronounce it properly in your head.

Each brand is slightly different. I am slowly eating my way through them all; so far, Cumhuriyet brand sujuk is on the spicy end, while Şahin’s Kayseri Kasap Sucuk is a pure cumin bomb. If you love cumin as much as I do, make it your gateway link.

One word of caution: the thick casing is on the sausage for a reason. Keep it wrapped to prevent mold, or, alternately, devour your sujuk with shameless haste.

Another meat you’ll find in the cooler here is basturma, the ancestor of European pastrami. Turkish brands are coated in a strong cap of spices, and they tend to be salty, too. I love it, but it’s a flavor bomb, and you should not expect to pile an inch of basturma onto rye bread for a sandwich.

Frozen baked goods

Horizon Market bakes its own breads and pastries, including simit, sesame-covered ring-shaped breads that some people call Turkish bagels; poğaça, simple little rolls filled with white cheese; and spiral-shaped dessert rolls with tahini, cinnamon, and sugar (The letter“ğ” is always silent. It just means you should pause a little between vowels rather than running them together). In the little freezer opposite all these goodies, you’ll also sometimes find Horizon’s own mantı, the tiny dumplings which are filled with even tinier amounts of ground beef and spices. If you’ve ever wanted to eat 20 dumplings in a serving, mantı are your friends. In folklore, by the way, they’re meant to be as small as possible: supposedly, the ideal mantı are the width of a woman’s pinky finger. (A dotless“i” is pronounced“ih,” roughly like the vowel sound in“milk.”)

Mantı instructions: boil until they start floating, then let them go another short moment because the intricate folds required to make such small dumplings take a little while to cook through. Serve with two sauces. First, you’ll want to mix plain full-fat yogurt with a bit of garlic, salt, and lemon juice, and spoon that over the mantı. Next, melt some butter, stir in enough hot paprika that the butter turns bright orange, and drizzle that on top of the yogurt sauce.

Junk food and snacks

Moment of honesty: Turkish chocolates and candies are not that great. The Ülker brand is legendary and powerful: it owns Godiva, and it once launched a soft drink with a baffling high-concept commercial featuring Chevy Chase (who is clearly just as confused as we are). But its non-Godiva desserts are equivalent to Hershey in quality. Turkish candy bars in general are made with cheap chocolate and tend to be light on flavor.

I’m also not a big fan of Loacker, a chocolate biscuit company from the Italian Alps which has an endcap display at Horizon Market. The promise of Loacker is exciting—all its chocolate comes from Alpine dairies—but the astringent taste suggests that the biscuits spent a very long time sitting in shipping containers on their way here.

Your junk food target at Horizon Market is not really a dessert. It’s Ülker’s signature product: tea biscuits. These very gently sweet crackers are a perfect snack. My father, an early riser, will handle a stack of them while he waits for the rest of us to wake up at holidays. Horizon has seven-foot-high stacks of tea biscuit packages. Everybody loves them. If for some reason you don’t enjoy yours, spread some Nutella or peanut butter on top.

Horizon Specialty Market | 2901 W. 15th St., Plano.

Author

Brian Reinhart

Brian Reinhart

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Brian Reinhart became D Magazine's dining critic in 2022 after six years of writing about restaurants for the Dallas Observer and the Dallas Morning News.

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