local food, Istanbul
When I met VT member revontulet and a work mate of hers for dinner, they recommended to me to try Salep.
Salep is a popular winter drink in Turkey and other countries of the former Ottoman Empire. It is usually made with hot milk which is flavoured by the flour of the tubers of wild orchids. Cinnamon is dispersed on top of it.
In winter salep is available in restaurants and cafes, but also from street vendors. From shops like Koska (see my shopping tip) it can also be bought as a sort of powder to mix the drink at home.
Kokoreç, oh my, Kokoreç! :) Sold on many street corners throughout Istanbul, it is basically a flattened sandwich on toasted bread, with sheep intestines and a little pepper and spices. My friends, who are native Turks, decided to play a little trick on me one night, and tell me we would get some street food, that was made of beef. When we got some kokore? at a local street vendor near Taksim, I began eating it, and thought it was quite delicious. I never even suspected I was being dooped! :) After we finished, my friends informed me of what I had really eaten! After my initial gag reflex went away, I was like, "Hey, whatever it was, it was pretty good!". It is definately a great tasting fast food choice while in Turkey. But the question is, do you know what you are eating?!! :)
My trip to Istanbul was actually a football trip, meaning that we drank quite a few beers during our time in the city. Interesting enough we only drank Efes Pilsener beer, if I remember correctly.
The Efes Brewery is named after the Turkish town of Ephesus, which is located near Izmir. Here the first Efes brewery was founded in 1969. The company is a subsidiary of the Anadolugu group; the market leader in Turkey and many other countries in the region.
All over Istanbul, you'll see small carts with circles of bread covered in sesame seeds for sale...this is simit. Although it doesn't really taste of much, just bread that's almost stale, it is surprisingly addictive...and if you don't like it, you can always throw it to the pigeons in Taksim Square, or to the seagulls as they follow the ferries. The man who seels simit is called a simitci, and simitciler are found on practically every street corner, especially around breakfast time.
Recently, a number of cafes have taken simit on a step further, removing the hole and adding fillings such as cheese, olives and spicy sausage. Look out for Simit Sarayi, which has branches all over the city, and its copycats Simithane and Istanbul Simit. They are always popular with students, as you can get a cheap and filling breakfast here at any time of the day. The one next to Burger King at the top of Istiklal Caddesi has a particularly nice rooftop terrace overlooking Taksim Square, and many a heated discussion went on there over a simit and a steaming glass of cay.
Along the Golden Horn on the Eminönü side, right next to the Galata Bridge, you will see several make-shift stands with vendors grilling fish. You will most likely also see a long line of people at these places. What they are waiting for is a delicious Balik Ekmek, or Fish & Bread sandwich. The sandwiches are very basic - a grilled fish fillet and onions placed in between 2 pieces of dry bread. And they are cheap, only a couple of New Lira. It's quite interesting sometimes how popular, and tasty for that matter, such a simple concept can be! Until recently, the local fisherman in the area used to dock their boats at the piers, then cook & sell the fish right off of their boats. This practice has been banned, but thankfully the yummy sandwiches are still here! Stop by and pick up one with a coke, have a seat in the grass, and enjoy one of Istanbul's simple pleasures! :)
Balik Ekmek (Fish and Bread) is one thing you must eat in Istanbul, even if you are not that fond of fish (I'm not...if I can stomach it and recommend it, then I'm sure you can too!). Many restaurants and cafes along the Galata Bridge offer fried or grilled fish sandwiches with salad for about 3YTL, which is fine....but for some reason it tastes a lot better when you buy your sandwich directly from one of the boats bobbing up and down in the water just close to the bridge in Eminonu. Sometimes these boats are allowed to trade, other times it is forbidden, depending on the day, the weather and whether the police are hungry or not. Sit at one of the makeshift tables, smother your fish in lemon and salt, and wash it down with a "drink" of turshi (pickled vegetables in bright pink vinegar) if you dare!
Turkish ice cream is very different to its european counterpart...for a start, it is a lot thicker and can be eaten with a knife and fork if you wish. The reason for this is that it is made with crushed orchid root, which explains how the ice-cream sellers can throw whole lumps of the stuff into the air and pound it with a huge stick. Its sticky quality also helps them play tricks with their customers and some of them are real showmen attracting quite a crowd.
Kahramanmaras is the city most famous for this ice cream, and dondurma means ice cream. The dondurma comes in three or four different flavours, and you'll generally be given a selection of all without being asked :)
I'll just start out by saying that I am not a coffee drinker. Never really liked the stuff. So I wasn't really excited about trying Turkish coffee, but wanting to try anything and everything I could while I was here, i gave it a shot! I have to say that I was plesantly surprised. I really enjoyed it, and I had some everyday for the rest of my time in Istanbul, and continue to enjoy it to this day. The differences between Turkish coffee and other types of coffee are of course it's being quite strong, and the fact that it is very finely ground. But the big difference is in the way it is prepared. A couple of spoonfuls of the coffee are added to hot water in a "cezve", the small stovetop pot that is used to make it. The mixture is not stirred, and while heating up, it starts to rise to the top of the cezve. When it gets to the top, a small portion is poured into a Turkish coffee cup, which is small in size, similar to an espresso cup. Then the cezve is placed back on the stove until the coffee rises again, and then some more is poured into the cup. This is repeated 1 or 2 more times until the cup is full, and then it's ready to be served. Occasionally a little sugar is added to the coffee while in the cezve, but I tend to like it without. Definately something to try though while in Turkey!
Without sultans to please, the world would have been the poorer. Turkish delight, that sticky candy known in the Middle East as “lokum” or “rahat lokum” might never have been invented.
According to the legend, the candy, whose name means “morsel of contentment,” is 230 years old. The sultan, with 100 women cooped up in his harem, needed some sweet treat to keep the ladies (and their numerous offspring) happy. The cook came up with Turkish delight.
He boiled cornstarch, sugar and water until it became a thick gluey mass, threw in some pistachio nuts, added a splash of rosewater, and let the whole thing set. Then he cut it into little squares and dunked them in powdered sugar, so they could be picked up with the fingers and daintily eaten (although the powdered sugar scatters everywhere). It was a big hit (and has been the source of delight for dentists all over the Middle East ever since).
Turkish delight traveled westward in the 19th century, when a sweet-toothed British visitor shipped a few cases home. If you love lokum (as my husband does), you are in good company. It was a favorite of Napoleon, Churchill and Picasso.
Today there are entire stores dedicated to this gummy confection, such as Koska and Heci Bekir. It is worth visiting one of these shops for the visual experience alone. Hundreds of little cubes of Turkish delight are arranged on trays in pale pinks, greens and yellows, some dusted with white powder, others rolled in coconut or studded with nuts. You can buy the candy by the box, or choose a little of each kind from the display and pay by weight.
Save room for dessert!! Baklava is a pastry made of layers of phyllo dough that is filled with chopped nuts such as pistachios, walnuts or pecans. It is usually sweetened with syrup or honey. In Turkey it is sweetened with sugar. It is so sweet and juicy, and just melts in your mouth! It is prepared in large trays and then cut into square/rectangular pieces. Baklava can be served at room temperature, rewarmed, or even cold. I think room temp was best.
Although it it not certain, baklava is thought to have originated in the Ottoman Empire. It is further suggested that in its current form, baklava was developed in the Topkapi Palace kitchens.
Be sure to bring some home with you!! There are sweet shops all around Istanbul. The store I kept returning to was Ali Usta Burma Kadayif & Baklava. (It was not far from the Beyazit tram stop towards Cemberlitas on the left side of the street.)
An easy Baklava recipe from TurkishCook.com
1 glass melted margarine
1 glass of ground walnuts
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
250 g flour
750 g sugar
Knead flour, salt and a glass of water to a dough. Fold dough and knead again. Cover with a damp cloth and leave for some time.
Divide dough into 8-10 pieces. Spread starch on it and roll out as thin as possible. Place half of it into a pan, pouring margarine on each layer. Spread walnuts evenly on it and place the remaining layers with margarine between one upon the other. Cut into squares. Pour the remaining margarine evenly on the baklava. Bake in medium hot oven for about an hour.
In the meantime put sugar in a saucepan, cover with water, add one tablespoon lemon juice and boil to a heavy syrup. Pour it upon the lukewarm baklava, a little at a time, so that baklava absorbs the entire syrup. Serve cold.
Simit is a semi-tough bread that is in the shape of a ring, and covered with sesame seeds. As you walk the streets of Istanbul, you will see it being sold all over by vendors. Most of the vendors sell it out of little carts or stands, but some even have a stack of it on top of their heads! Wherever they have it, make sure you pick some up! It is a great snack to have while strolling through the city!
"Kestane Kebap", thats what the locals call roasted chestnuts here ... Especially a must in winter time ... Hot and tasty chestnuts sold almost at every corner of the city centre. Great snack that keeps you warm while cold winds blow ... :)
Kestane Kebab is sold by the street vendors. With a small metal grip the vendor puts the warm sweet chestnuts one by one next to each other. Before he puts them on the warm area of his cart he scores them with a sharp knife to prevent undue expansion and “explosion”. The roasting area has a pan-shaped metal receptacle with holes drilled into it and below it is the fire that roasts the nuts.
Also the corns are so yummy and tasty ... Either you can have them as "boiled" in hot water and spiced with salt or "roasted" as like the chestnuts on same hot plate on a slow process ...
I strongly recommend you to give a try .... :)
Istanbul is heaven for fish lovers..Some fishes are only found in Bosphorus like the Blue fish and they taste great..
Istinye Fish market is one of the best alternatives when you want to buy some fish for the house..
If you are a tourist with an average luck and need to eat outside, try balik-ekmek (fish-bread) boats in Istinye and Yenikoy..
You can have a delicious fish for 2 dollars..
The Kumpi is a fantastic "fast food" in Istanbul. In the first photo you can see me with two portions (yes one is for the wife). The Kumpi is very simply a baked potato, but not a simple potato, it is a HUGE potato, had never seen any like this...
The second photo shows a closeup of what a Kumpi looks like with some of the "mixings". Basically they slice the potato in half, then dig out the inner flesh of the potato, mix it with butter and then replace it in the skin. Then you fill the resulting "V" shape with just about anything you want, up to, but not, including the kitchen sink...
Some of the various "toppings" were sauerkraut, onions, mayonaise, peas&carrots, mustard, sliced hotdogs, tomatos, cream cheese, pickles...and, and, and. They had an entire showcase full of options. YOU pick and choose or just put them ALL, its up to you.
This made for a surprisingly delicious meal, enjoy.
Of course, while in Turkey you must try some of the many street foods. After first having simits, and then tea, we came upon this vendor and decided to try the kestanes (chestnuts). This was one thing I had never tried on a NYC winter's street but decided to give it a try in Istanbul. It was not for me - found the texture a little strange. Was too full to try the misir (corn on the cob), which I know I would have enjoyed!
The misir was 1.50 TL and the kestanes were 5 TL for 150g.