Tag Archives: Turkish Food

Walking the Streets with Istanbul Eats

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I could not resist. Please excuse my horrible rhyme. However, my heart still beats when I think about Istanbul Eats and the wonderful day we spent in Beyoglu tasting the hidden delicacies and street food of this neighborhood’s backroads and alleyways. I have lived in Istanbul for three years, and the day was still full of surprises and firsts for me.

We started at the Turkish equivalent of an old school greasy spoon restaurant in Cihangir where we sampled eggs, sucuk (Turkish sausage),  kaymak  (clotted cream) and honey. Next we strolled over to Datli Maya, where we toured this innovative chef’s latest creation: a small bakery and cafe in the neighborhood’s old Simit shop.

We past several preserve and pickled shops. We tasted Turkish delight and baklava. We sampled some Black Sea delicacies. We indulged in the city’s infamous profiterol shop. We nibbled on several different types of durum (the Turkish equivalent of a burrito with kebab). We sipped Turkish coffee at a traditional coffee shop. We wandered through the old passage ways, courtyards and churches hidden in the backstreets of Beyoglu. We sampled an eclectic mix of street food, including the kokorec sandwich and fried sardines.

Overall, it was a fun day and a perfect way to share Istanbul with your curious and adventurous guests. I would recommend this tour to Istanbul natives as well as visitors. For people looking to get outside of Beyoglu, they also offer food tours for the Old City, Kadikoy and beyond.

They also have a fantastic blog called Istanbul Eats which reports about all of Istanbul’s best restaurants and most authentic meals. This is my guide and inspires every dining choice or recommendation I make. They also started a network of underground foodies in cities around the world (including Mexico City, Shanghai and Barcelona) called Culinary Backstreets. For natives and tourists, these websites will not disappoint.

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They are infamous around Kabatas: the kofte sandwich stand. With three permanent stations  along the shore, the Kofte sandwich is cheap, filling and delicious. The meat is flavorful. The ingredients are fresh. The stands are lively. Their scent lures you in.  As you sit down on the small chairs, you immediately place your order.  

Kofte is the Turkish equivalent of a meatball. However, there are several significant differences. The shape prevents us from translating it as a meatball, they tend to be oval-shaped and flat.  Also, they  are rich with spices and flavor and the quality of meat is much higher than anything I am accustomed to.

A kofte sandwich consists of half a loaf of bread and contains 4-6 kofte, as well as lettuce, tomato, onions, parsley, salt, thyme and red pepper flakes. It is fresh, flavorful and filling. And?! 5-7 Lira. 

Before and after concerts and football games in Istanbul, these kofte stands migrate to the entrance of these large venues to fill a void. They provide a cheap meal or snack before or after an event. Everyone knows it and seeks it out. People who never come into the city or eat street food cannot resist the temptation of these sandwiches.

I took this photo after befriending this hardworking man who ran the stand with his son. The photo was taken before the Stevie Wonder concert. The perfect start to the evening!

My Latest Obsession: The Kofte Sandwich

Turkish Flavors: Cooking with Selin

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Over two years ago, I was first welcomed into Selin’s home. She lives in an old apartment in the heart of Nisantasi. Her home contains beautiful Turkish ceramics, art and my personal favorite: glorious bookshelves full of cookbooks. She is simultaneously your guide, host, mother, teacher and friend. Her background lies in Tourism, however her company was founded because of her love of food. She hosts cooking lessons in her home and leads market tours through Kadikoy. In the four hours you spend with her, you learn where to find the best products in Istanbul and Turkey, and how to make numerous Turkish dishes you can only find in the warmth of a Turkish home.

With numerous out-of-town guests for my wedding, I arranged a day of cooking with Selin. We gathered in her home at 9:30 and sipped fresh cherry juice as we learned about her family, her favorite restaurants and the best Turkish cookbooks on the market. We moved into her kitchen to discuss the menu of the day and quickly got to work. As we chopped tomatoes, and learned how to properly smoke eggplant, we were offered special olives from Southern Turkey, a sample of pomegranate molasses and 5 different types of Turkish cheeses. Selin creates the menu based on your interests and requests. In my particular group, she was able to accommodate vegetarians and vegans, as well as eggplant enthusiasts. We prepared borek, green olive salad with pomegranate sauce, smoked eggplant mezes, green pepper dolmas, a baked beef stew, wine infused figs with kaymak and a few other treats along the way.

After 2 1/2 hours of cooking, you sit down to enjoy the fruit of your labor at a beautifully set table in the heart of her apartment. You sip on wine, share your stories and Selin answers your questions. After a lovely feast, you are sent home with leftovers. It is the perfect activity for any foodie looking to experience a slice of Turkish home life and cuisine!

Learn more about Turkish Flavors on the official website: http://www.turkishflavours.com/

Anne’s Cafe: A Very Special Breakfast in Cihangir

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I first discovered Anne’s Cafe in the Spring of 2010 thanks to a review in TimeOut Istanbul. I have been obsessed with TimeOut Istanbul’s restaurant reviews, and Anne’s Cafe ever since. Gul Anne is a wonderful host who opened her kitchen to locals, tourists and old friends. Nestled in the back streets of Cihangir, you immediately feel at home when you enter Anne’s Cafe. As you enjoy your meal, friends and family drop by to visit and share their news. Gul Anne sits at the corner table scouring the internet, updating her blog and playing music from her personal computer.

Gul originally ran a cafe in Antalya, a holiday destination located in Southern Turkey, but relocated to Istanbul when she became a grandmother. It is an intimate, colorful and lively space. There are trinkets and quotes on the walls. The kitchen is full of activity, and Gul Anne welcomes you like an old friend.

While Cihangir is infamous for its numerous intimate cafes and special breakfasts, Anne’s Cafe is usually my sole destination.  I love her breakfasts, and I do not need to look at a menu to make my order. I always start with her special yogurt dish. It consists of plain Turkish yogurt, covered in layers of honey, kiwi, corn flakes and dried fruit. It is decadent and delicious. Then, I order the “Ozel Kahvalti” or  ‘special breakfast’, which is a compilation of small plates and platters of every design and shape. These dishes are full of homemade jams and marmalade, olives, cheeses and the special treats of the day.  Cats wander in and out as you sit comfortably in the cafe. Gul works the room chatting with everyone as they enter. Introductions are made, numerous languages are spoken and lively conversations commence. Anne’s Cafe is a unique Cihangir treasure that I love to share with old friends and visiting guests. Everyone is humbled by the hospitality, delighted by the decor and fully satisfied by the special breakfast…

Address: Kılıçali Paşa Mh.  Samanyolu Sokak 9, 34433 Cihangir Istanbul  

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Each time I walk through the covered and bustling streets of a bazaar, I feel like my day-to-day experience in Turkey is put in fast-forward: the streets are abuzz with locals gathering their weekly groceries and determined to find the best deal. The produce appears to be fresher. The scent of fish seems to be more potent. The colors are more vivid. The chatter and bargaining seem more passionate.

I love bazaars. There are delicacies and treasures hidden among cheap shoes, name brand make-up and trendy bags. The olives, fruits and nuts sparkle under the strings of lights, while darkness descends throughout the city. The dirty tarps create a low ceiling, but offer a much welcomed refuge from the rain outside.

The Gultepe Bazaar is a perfect way to start the weekend. I jumped off the bus in front of Kanyon (in Levent) and wandered past the back entrance, and into the lively neighborhood that surrounds the growing metropolis. The bazaar is hidden in the back streets, but easy to find as you wander down the main street. I collected several types of cheeses, a collection of olives, nuts and dried fruits, kitchen supplies and some potted plants for less than 25 lira. They became the heart of our breakfast on Saturday.

The Gultepe Bazaar is held every Friday and spans almost a half of a mile down the narrow back roads of Gultepe. I arrived at 4:45 PM, and found the streets full of people. When my hands were full with special purchases and an eclectic mix of bags and packages, it was time for me to leave. However, crowds of people were still descending into the covered market as I made my exit around 6:15.

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The Gultepe Bazaar

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Turkish tea (chai) is served frequently throughout the day. We sip on tea during breaks at work, during long breakfasts and at the end of dinner feasts. There are ‘chai gardens’ throughout the city, and numerous warm cafes to sit, sip chai, play games and smoke hookah. The Turkish tea glass is unique and dignified. Every household (including our apartment) has a set of at least 6 Turkish tea glasses that can be ready at a moments notice to offer any guest. The Turkish tea glass is small. Some say it is shaped like a tulip, others declare it is the silhouette of a woman’s body. Either way, a steamy glass of chai can be held at the tip and enjoyed amidst any social setting, and after every meal.

Recently, Pasabahce, a Turkish glassware company released a commercial highlighting the diverse designs and models of the Turkish tea glass. The music and the images linger in my mind. As a result, I thought it would be the perfect introduction to Turkish chai. The commercial is titled ‘Çaya Şeklini Biz Verdik’, which claims ‘We gave you the shape of the Chai glass”. Whether it is true or not, the company is the largest produces of the chai glasses and certainly an innovator in contemporary design. 

Enjoy!

Turkish Tea Glasses

The Best Durum in Taksim

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First of all, what is durum? It is essentially a Turkish burrito. While the contents of a durum vary dramatically, a good durum should contain grilled meat (my favorite is chicken), tomatoes, shredded lettuce and onion, and lots of seasoning. While everyone has their own tastes, and favorite restaurants, I thought I would share my personal favorite source for durum in Istanbul.

If you begin to walk down Istiklal Cadessi, take the first left. Walk past ‘The Pita Pit’ on your left, ‘Bistro’ on your right and turn right on the street, before the Japanese restaurant ‘Tokyo’. You will find Melekler Durum Evi. There are no more than 10 tables in this small place, but it is incredible, and certainly worth the wait on a Friday night.