Istanbul Part 2: FOOD FOOD FOOD

FOOD FOOD FOOD! The food, if you can’t tell already, made a big impression on me.

This post is part of a three-post series about spring break in Istanbul! Links to Part 1 (attractions) and Part 3 (love letter/CATS).

Turkish food is fantastic. Tons of seafood for the seafood lover (me), tons of meat for the meat lover (also me), tons of fresh veggies for the veggie lover (me me me), and all of it fresh and well-prepared (and super cheap!). My hosts said that Turkish food emphasizes the actual flavor of the food, which is why you’ll never have a spice like cumin or curry powder overpowering the ingredients. Anyway, enough talk, here are some great pictures of food.

Turkish Breakfast

Oh my goodness, the miracle that is Turkish breakfast. I’m pretty sure when God made Turkish breakfast he asked himself what all of my favorite foods in the world would be in order to put them together in one fabulous meal. Fresh cucumbers, tomatoes, various types of hard cheeses, cured meats, olives, sour cherries, honey, hard-boiled eggs, WALNUTS, and, a Turkish phenomenon that I have come to adore, SIMIT. Simit is a kind of crusty, sesame-seed encrusted bread that is absolutely divine toasted (or not toasted, really. It’s just divine). I was lucky enough to have experienced three of these marvelous breakfasts at the country house.

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From farthest to closest we have: cucumbers, cured meat/beef tongue, bowls of [walnuts, honey, sour cherries, olives], cheeses, tomatoes, lettuce, simit on the left and bread on the right.
Meze

These are small plates eaten with bread before the main meal. Again, I was fortunate to have experienced an incredible spread of meze at the country house. Honestly, the stuff is good enough to replace the main meal in my opinion. My favorites included fish egg paste, lentil patties, and a kind of marinated sea kelp sort of thing.

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From top to bottom we have: lentil patties, caramelized onions covered in chickpea paste, cured meat (so good), stuffed artichokes, the sea kelp-esque dish, and fish egg paste. Not pictured are the stuffed peppers, which is a shame because they were very good.
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A beautiful spread of meze in a shop near Nişantaşı.

Black Sea Food

The Black Sea region is apparently known for its seafood, and I had plenty of it here. I highly recommend the restaurant Hayvore. Super authentic food, great location (off Istiklal Street) and great service. I also had some Black Sea food near the actual Black Sea after taking a cruise on the Bosphorus.

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Main dishes at Hayvore: fish soup, fried anchovies, and corn bread.
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Dessert at Hayvore: Kabak Tatlisi, or pumpkins soaked in syrup and topped with walnuts. Have I not mentioned that I think Turkish food was made for my consumption??
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Lunch at Anadolukavağı: fried mussels, pickles, salad.

Adana Kebab

Not wanting to appear basic and go with the ubiquitous Döner kebab, I decided to try Adana Kebab, which is a different style of grilled meat. Slightly spicy and served with pickled onions, roasted tomatoes/chilis, and pita, I started eating this way too quickly before I realized I needed to snap a picture. Highly recommend Adana Ocakbaşı! They grill the meat right in front of you.

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Pide

Now, I’ve seen pide places scattered all around Istanbul, but honestly, I’ve been spoiled by the fact that I hand-made pide at the country house and had it fresh out of the wood-fire oven. Good Lord, it was delicious.

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It’s like a beef stew bread bowl and a pizza had a baby and dehydrated it (no soup). Yummm

Börek 

Really nice to have for breakfast with Çay, or Turkish black tea, this is a flaky pastry made with either meat, cheese, or potatoes and found in cafes all over the city in the morning.

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I had the cheese kind, because I love cheese. Lots of other people were getting meat, though.

Street Food

You’ll see red-and-white striped carts everywhere in Istanbul selling all sorts of street food (including simit and roasted corn). Here is some of the food I got off the street:

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Roasted chestnuts by the water in Anadolukavağı
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Balik Ekmek, fish bread, is a fish sandwich with roasted mackerel inside. You can find vendors floating on the Bosphorus grilling and selling these right in front of you beneath Galata Bridge.
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Baklava at the Grand Bazaar.

Kumpir

Loaded baked potatoes where the potato base is whipped with cheese and butter. I may have over-topped mine (it was a little salty) but once I hit the base potato layer I was happy.

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Aşure

I probably should have gone to a less touristy place to have this dish (read: NOT Taksim Square) but I wanted to try it, so there you go. It was very, very good (exactly the type of dessert I like: lots of toppings, and a grain-y, bean-y, pudding-y base). If it were a little less sweet it would be perfect. I think I will try to make this one at home.

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This is apparently an ancient dessert (aka Noah’s pudding) because it was first made after Noah got off the ark from all the grains and beans from the journey.

Lahmacun

This is known as “Turkish pizza,” but in reality it’s a phenomenon of its own. An ultra-thin, crunchy crust topped with meat, spices, and parsley (optionally chili flakes as well), this delectably light treat is best enjoyed with a cup of ayran, or salty yoghurt drink. It cuts through the meat and spice deliciously.

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Kunefeh

You can often find this treat in places that serve lahmacun, and to be honest it kind of stole the show for me. Kunefeh is essentially melted cheese covered in a thin, noodle-like pastry soaked in sugar syrup and sprinkled with pistachios. I can’t even express how insanely delicious this was. By FAR my favorite dessert.

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Technically a Lebanese place but still good: HUMMUS AND FALAFEL 

I went to this incredible falafel place by Istiklal street called Falafel Koy and found the most delicious hummus/falafel/tabbouleh platter for only 20 lira. It was absolutely delicious and a real steal. HIGHLY recommend.

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And that’s a wrap for food! Make sure to check out Part 1 (attractions to see and not to see) and Part 3 (love letter/CATS) as well!