Culinary travels to istanbul



I spent a prolonged weekend in Istanbul ( luckily before the unrest thats happening now ). It was my first time there so I didn't really know what to expect food wise.

My first very positive encounter with turkish food came after my first 5 steps into the city. I arrived hungry at the airport (no veggie dish on the plane) On the 1h bus ride into town I got very hungry and realized that I would not make it  to the apartment we had rented, without eating something. Luckily in Istanbul on every corner you'll find a man selling sesame Pretzels called Simit. So first thing after I stepped out of the bus was to buy one of these Pretzels which the man wrapped into a lovely pink silk paper with tiny flowers on it. The perfect start into a unknown city!

I knew about the Köfte and Kebab but what I did not know was that they have this Meze - a selection of food served as the appetizer -  tradition. Meze are mainly vegetarian and there are a lot of restaurants serving Meze and Raki. They come in all forms, from salad like dishes to pastes and grilled vegetables and salty cheese.
There's dishes like Acılı ezme – hot spicy freshly mashed tomato with onion and green herbs, Acuka (also known as Muhammara) – a spread having both Circassian and Syrian origins, prepared with from Aleppo pepper paste, ground walnuts, tomato paste, breadcrumbs, garlic, and spices, Cacık – cucumber with yogurt, dried mint and olive oil, Fava – broad/horse bean puree, Çoban salatası – a mixed salad of tomato, cucumber, onion, green peppers, and parsley that you can find on almost all Meze menus.

Another thing I did not know is that Turkey produces many varieties of cheese, mostly from sheep's milk. Some are like feta cheese dense and salty, others more like Mozzarella or fresh goats cheese. The turkish do lovely rich breakfasts that include many different varieties of cheese (even grilled cheese is usually served). Salty pastries, bread, jam and honey and salad are also part of a turkish breakfast.
Sitting outside in the narrow streets of Galata or Cihangir neighbourhood eating one of these breakfasts is the perfect way to start the day in Istanbul.

A lovely thing I am determined to learn is the so called Gözleme sort of a crepe made of lavash bread or phyllo dough folded around a variety of fillings such as spinach, cheese and parsley, minced meat or potatoes.

Istanbul is a huge city and with close to 20 million residents the 4th most populous city of the world. There's a lot to do and see. We spent days just walking. I can't remember ever having had more blisters on my feet. Good thing there's plenty of stalls selling fresh orange, pomegranate or grapefruit juices and of course theres the chai (turkish black tea you get wherever you stop).

My biggest culinary discovery though was lokum or as it's also called "turkish delight". I've had it before but non of it comes close to the lokum we tasted in the streets of Istanbul - a real delight! But more on this in the next post.

4 days is never enough to discover this beautiful city but here's some tips :

1. Take a walk through the city with the people from istanbul-tourist-information.com
2. Rent an apartment so you have a nice place to stay when you need to get away from the hustle and bustle
3. Don't stay in Sultanahmet region. It's way to touristic. We liked the Galata and Cihangir area.
4. Do visit a hamam (but take on of the smaller ones. We went to )
5. Stay at least 4 nights this city need some time

And here the list of restaurants and food places we really liked:

1. Doga Balik fish restaurant  (reservation recommended)
2. Peymane meze and raki restaurant (reservation recommended)
3. Cafe Privato (best Breakfast in town )
4. Dinner at Açık Mutfak
5. Have a drink at Lebideria and enjoy the view
6. Buy plenty of  Lokum at Keseklers shop outside the spicemarket

Two more things I have to recommend:

Buy this record from our favorite label Honest Jon's:

And watch "Crossing the bridge: The sound of Istanbul" by Faith Akin.

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