I would hardly call Angelo and me foodies. When we set foot in a new city, our first thoughts are where to go hear good music or what to visit. Sometimes I will look at tripadvisor and look for well rated restaurants to try, but many times we have been disappointed or the restaurants are not within our budget. Anyhow, people have been asking for more food posts, so I am trying to appease this audience. Please note that this is not an culturally scientific examination of regional cooking of Istanbul, but simply foods we tried that we liked that you might like too because it’s tasty. Let us continue …
Well the first thing that you notice while walking around Istanbul is all of the Turkish Delight shops. Now these little gelatinous candies come in a variety of flavors: pomegranate, pistachio, rose water, date, hazelnut, walnut, etc. I prefer the candies that have walnut or hazelnut that cuts through the sugary binder. It is best to enjoy the Turkish Delight with a cup of Turkish coffee. If you are a coffee fanatic like me, then you must at least in a lifetime try Turkish coffee. Now, Turkish coffee is not for the faint hearted, this isn’t your Pumpkin Spiced Latte with soy and no whip. This is straight up, wake you the f@&k up, open your eyes and shoot some caffeine in my artery coffee. The grind for Turkish coffee is on the finest that a grinder can do, so the coffee feels like powder. Then you take a couple of spoonfuls with some water into a cezve (Turkish coffee pot) and heat up over a low heat until a thick foam forms on top. Usually a teaspoon of sugar (“helps the medicine go down” sorry!), can be added to the coffee process so it’s not too harsh to drink. I believe that people enjoy Turkish coffee because it has a real earthy mouthfeel quality and you can taste pure coffee flavor. Does that make sense?
Well, I must now mention tea which is the component to the coffee. I feel like many countries I have visited, coffee and tea are separate occasions. Whereas in Turkey, many people enjoy both within the same sitting. Traditional tea or cay (with a little squiggly under the c) rhymes with chai, is delicious. It is a black tea cooked with two kettles stacked on top one other. The bottom kettle holds plain boiled water, the top is the steeped tea from the boiled water. That way it is up to the individual how strong their tea is by adding or not adding hot water. Little sugar cubes are put on the side of your cup if you like your tea sweetened.
Many of the coffee/tea houses sell pastries. I unfortunately did not write down the names, but there are many flaky pastries with savory fillings – sometimes meat, other times olive filling (my favorite). Or the apricot and pistachio combination is always delicious to try. And I must say that many of the pastries were quite light and never in our experience oily or dry. I highly enjoyed the flavor combinations that were “exotic” for my American palate.
Angelo consumed on many occasions doner kebab, which is an assortment of meats (lamb, veal, beef) cooked on a rotisserie that is vertical which allows the juices from the meat on top baste the lower meat as it rotates. I am assuming he loved it as he ate it quite a few times. Also, they have lots of grilled chicken with peppers and tomatoes. The tomatoes in Istanbul are delicious by the way! I noticed that the first day we were there how red they were, devoid of any mealy texture, yet full of flavor and sweetness. Often, grilled meats were also accompanied by yogurt sauces, salsa drizzled with balsamic vinegar, tomato salads and thin crispy charred flatbread.
For vegetarians the Turkish have a wonderful dish called a Sarma. A Sarma has a grape leaf with various fillings, sometimes vegetables, sometimes meat. The only ones I had were vegetarian with lots of parsley, spices, rice and olive oil. It is difficult to describe the flavor, a little like a dolma but different. Also in Istanbul I found many cafés serving delicious omelettes all day. You can cater the fillings to your liking, but I enjoyed the vegetable omelette with this firm salty cheese, reminiscent of Greek feta.
One last item to try if you visit Turkey is their Simit. A bread similar in taste to a bagel, they can be found on every street corner sold warm every morning for about 1 Turkish Lira. And like its cousin, the bagel, you can purchase a light cheese spread to smother on top your warm, yeasty, sesame covered bread as you walk the ancient streets of Istanbul. Hungry yet? I am now!!