Saturday, August 23, 2008

Sokak Müziği

Tünel, located around the southern part of İstiklal Caddesi, is where music in İstanbul really comes alive. Every second shop in the area sells musical instruments or is a makeshift recording studio. Music is always heard there - on the street or from some inner room of the shops. One of the most surreal memories I have of the city from last year is walking down one of the crazy twisted steep streets of Beyoğlu and suddenly being enveloped by amazing music. I was alone on that street, the music was everywhere and I had no idea where the sound was coming from. I eventually tracked it down to a studio in one of the side alleys, where some musicians were recording - it was amazing and mostly just made me fall a little bit more in love.

Music is heard not only late at night, at the tiny bars which take over the streets in summer and the meyhanes, but at all times of the day, especially on the weekends. One of my favourite films, Fatih Akın's İstanbul Hatırası: Köprüyü Geçmek (Crossing the Bridge: The Sound of İstanbul), has an entire segment on the sokak müziği - street music - of the city. Akın follows the band Siya Siyabend in what is probably my favourite section (and favourite scene!) of the movie. I remember downloading a bunch of songs off their website (available free), immediately after I finished watching the movie - they have been a perpetual feature on my playlist since.

The sokak müziği band I absolutely adore though, is one called Kara Güneş (MySpace page here). I have been listening to them for what feels like eons now (my mom loves them too!), so it was a huge, unexpected thrill to chance upon them performing on İstiklal on my last day in the city. I happily plonked myself down on the ground listening to the music, clicking pictures and having a brief chat with some of them during their break - they were, I think, somewhat amused that I knew of their existence. Of all the music discs I bought in İstanbul, theirs is the one I love and treasure most - all fantastic new stuff I hadn't heard before, with lots of santur.

For anyone even remotely into music, the sounds of İstanbul are truly worth exploring. Akın's movie is great introduction - go watch it now! For people too lazy to get the DVD, the movie is available on google video, albeit with pretty random subtitles (the very first line has Confucius turned into Cumfukius). To listen to music on the Kara Güneş or Siya Siyabend sites click on 'Diskografi' and then 'Dinle' for whichever song you want to hear. To download, click on 'İndir' and then right click and 'Save As' on the 'Link' that appears. Enjoy, and tell me if you liked.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

On rooftops. Across cities.

Coming back to the ground. New Delhi. April 2008

Pointing at the sun. Istanbul. July 2008

Monday, August 11, 2008

That İstanbul food post?

Is here.

Not my fault that Blogger is acting completely jerk like.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Mahmoud Darwish (1941- 2008)

Mahmoud Darwish (13 March 1941 - 9 August 2008)

Stunned and saddened immensely to hear of Mahmoud Darwish's untimely death. What a great loss. Darwish was probably my favourite of all the contemporary poets I have read and one of my all time favourites. Along with Faiz and Hikmet, one of the poets to have affected me most deeply. At this point, the great man's words themselves seem the most apt. RIP.

'One of the manifestations of a Palestinian poet's freedom is that he will not be tied down by the conditions placed by the Israelis. It's a sensitive issue and I might even be misunderstood saying this: that I can write a love poem and it is a form of resistance; that I can write about a tree or a beautiful morning and that too is a form of resistance.'

Below, lines from the Jidariyya:

Is what used to be mine: my yesterday, and what will be mine
My far away tomorrow, the return of the lost soul
As if nothing ever was
As if nothing ever was
A small wound in the arms of the absurd present...
And History mocks its victims
And its heroes...
He throws a glance on them and passes...
This sea is mine
This humid air is mine
And my name –
Even if I misspell it on my coffin –Is mine.
As for me — full as I am
Of all the reasons for parting
I am not mine.
I am not mine
I am not mine...

Friday, August 08, 2008

İstanbul Food Porn

One of the pleasures of being back in İstanbul was seeing all those foods that I had missed so much. Walking past baklavacı shop windows with the familiar sight of all sorts and shapes of baklava displayed by the tray - that gorgeous shade of antepfıstıklı green is a sight for sore eyes.

Then, of course, there were simits - sold everywhere, eaten every day. Most often on the vapur, which I would catch from Kadıköy to Eminönü. They just make for the best breakfasts.

İstanbul is an amazing place for on-the-go street food. Not just simits but also roasted chestnuts, fish sandwiches, döners. I would often pop by the Mısır Çarşısı (The Spice or Egyptian Bazaar) and buy hundred grams of fındık (hazelnuts), which I love so much, to munch on while I walked. The other favourite is corn on the cob - also mısır (in Turkish Mısır is Egpt, mısır is also corn) - either boiled or roasted, available at all times of day or night.

For dinner on my friends birthday we headed to Çiya - often touted as the best lokanta in the city. We walked into the restaurant and looked into cauldron after cauldron of stuff cooking, bubbling, stewing. The names all escape me now and I was also trying to get pictures of the chef with all that food - unfortunately they all turned out somewhat hazy - but I eventually chose a meatball and vişne (sour cherry) dish and meat dish with chickpeas and leeks cooked in a yoghurt sauce flavoured with safran.

If it sounds delish its because it was. We munched on very, very yummy lahmacun while we waited for the food to arrive. The meat and vişne dish was good, but the yoğurt and safran dish was truly amazing - and very unique, I can't even think of how to describe those flavours! My friend and I also shared a plate of mantı (see also Elizabeth's post on mantı) - quite different in flavour from the more regular versions mantı I had eaten in Turkey, but no less delicious.

Fish was had everywhere, as usual. İstanbul is very much a sea city and fish has a special place in its diet, as evidenced by the drain covers at Kumkapı. The balık sandwiches at the Eminönü docks are the best for a quick bite and the fish soup at the Karaköy Balıkcısı is simply to die for. Then there's always the option of taking a ride all the way up the bosphorous to Sarıyer and eating fresh fish sitting along the insanely gorgeous waterfront all the while feeling terribly jealous of those who own one of the old yalıs that dot the coast.

are another absolute favourite - especially su böreği - layers of yufka with cheese and parsley. Found everywhere, but the ones at Özsüt are particularly good.

One afternoon, at the Beyazit Meydanı, I decided to prepare for a bit of Kapalı Çarşı wandering and bought a bit of börek from the börekçi at the square - an adorable old man who I ended up having a long chat with. He cut up my börek, wrapped it up and refused to charge me for it!

I didn't make it to Hacı Abdullah this year but did eat hünkar beğendi at Havuzlu in the bazaar (bargaining makes you hungry!). Nowhere near as good as the one I ate last year at Hacı Abdullah - that is a difficult standard to match up to - but pretty good overall.

Also eaten, at some point, in the midst of all the stuffing that was happening in İstanbul - midye dolması. Again, not anywhere near as good as the ones had in İzmir, but delish none the less.

My last night in the city we went to Sofyalı 9, in the Asmalımescıt area, for rakı and mezze. I have only fuzzy memories but I do remember that the food was very, very good and we went through many helpings - one patlıcan mezze was particularly yum. I also remember my friend at one point deciding that she wanted almonds and paying 10YTL for a plate of cold blanched ones sold by one of the many vendors who keep passing though. They were very good - though she did spend a good while moaning about how easily she manages to get herself cheated into buying over priced things!

One of the many joys of İstanbul are the weekly neighbourhood pazaars, where fresh produce meet all kinds of consumer goods. The Salı Pazaar (Tuesday market) at Kadıköy is a whole beast of its own - going on for miles and miles. The fruits being sold were awesome - amazingly red karpuzlar, şeftali (peaches - you get just the best şeftali juices in Turkey and I miss them terribly!) and luscious red domatesler.

No talk of İstanbul food can be complete without an entire section on the sweets of the city. It was here that I completely indulged my sweet tooth - often having just baklava or kunefe for lunch or fırın sütlaç for breakfast. Sometimes, I would just stop at the roadside carts and indulge my sweet cravings, especially with those disgustingly sweet, amazingly yummy, gulab jamun like lokmas...mmmm....

Fırın sütlaç was had everywhere and while the best ones are at Özsüt, a particularly good one was bought somewhere at Eminönü to carry on to the boat for the trip up the Bosphorous, all the way to the Black Sea.

Baklava pit stops were made mostly at various Güllüoğlus across the city but a special trip is always reserved for the one at Karaköy. I got a whole box of goodies packed - sadly almost all finished now! and then sat and indulged in a portion of sütlü nüriye. You know its good baklava when you can see all the filo layers like that! Though I think my sweet tooth might be in recession as all that sugary, syrupy sweetness was a bit much even for me this time and I decided to just stick to the good old (also very sweet) fıstıklı from now on.

Also eaten - kazandibi, another milk pudding, also another Özsüt specialty - those guys really do make the best desserts! And while it was very, very good, it still doesn't beat sütlaç when it comes to milk puddings.

Profiteroles are famous at Inci on İstiklal - a better location for sinful indulgence doesn't exist. It's such fun popping in, gobbling down a profiterole and walking out and down İstiklal perfectly content and happy. The one pictured here was had at Özsüt again (dear lord, I sound like their publicist now) and was also excellent - with a thick dark chocolate and vanilla ice cream topping...yum!

After wandering around at the Salı Pazaar all morning, my friend and I were ravenous enough to order a kunefe each at a place she reccomended at Kadıköy. This was basically our lunch and while kunefe is amazingly, amazingly good - all that cheese wrappened in kadayıf, dunked in sweet syrup - how anyone can eat this after a meal is a mystery.

Also had to ward of the heat and the sun - dondurma! Ever since Italy I have been obsessed with pistachio flavoured ice cream and the one at Mado never disappoints. On this trip I also developed somewhat of an obsession with kara dut (mulberry) flavoured ones as well!

My friends birthday was celebrated with not only excellent food at Çiya, but also excellent cake from I have honestly no idea where. It was had with many many cups of çay and almost everyone took more then just one serving. An amusing piece of bonus trivia - cake in Turkish? Is called pasta.

And finally to end - because really, my stomach is growling now and this post is already too long - things had to drink! Well rakı is already covered and I did have my share of Efes and Uludağ limonata but more than anything, everyone in Turkey drinks çay. The apple flavoured ones cater specifically to tourists, though they are good with nargile and served up by the tray full at the nargile cafes of Tophane. There I also discovered strange white coloured banana flavoured çay - which tastes more like pudding than çay, honestly.

In all honesty, I like the sade çay the best and it's one of the things I miss the most - they just don't brew tea like they do in Turkey anywhere else. I drank ridiculous amounts of çay from those tulip shaped glasses - before meals, during meals, after meals, on the vapur, while playing blackgammon or just sitting in a çay bahçe - basically, all the time.

My last drink on my last night in İstanbul, however, was a cup of Türk kahvesi - orta şekerli - with medium sugar. Ideal for getting off a rakı induced high - grainy, slightly bitter sweet and very strong.

Right, now I am truly hungry.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008


As always, İstanbul deserves a whole post - or more realistically maybe two or three - of it's own just for the food I ate there. This particular post is just for what I ate at other places - Antalya, Silyon, Selçuk, İzmir and Edirne.

In Antalya, I stayed with my friend's grandparents. Her grandmom makes just the bestest food ever and we almost never at out the whole stay - because, really, why bother? Below, some of the yummy fare she cooked up for us...

Sucuklu yumurta - for breakfast the day we arrived after a 12 hour bus ride from Istanbul. Best breakfast ever. And we would just dip our ekmek in the pan and clean up the yolk. Yum.

In addition, there were also olives, tomatoes, jams and ufff, the yummiest peynirs.

Yayla Çorbası might just be my favourite of all Turkish çorbas - probably even beating the other favourite - mercimek çorbası.
Below - other very delicious meals eaten.

One evening we sat and made sigara böreks stuffed with cheese and potatoes. Amazing fun.

The best parts were laying out yufka bread and then rolling the böreks up. Ideally one should be as careful as possible to avoid tearing up the yufka. We, however, didn't mind the occasional tear since it meant we got to eat the torn piece of yufka - which is just amazingly delicious. We also, of course, drank copious amount of çay throughout. The böreks were piled up, frozen and then fried and eaten the next day. Very satisfying to eat them, I must say.

Perhaps the most satisfying meal, however, was at the village of Silyon, about 30 kilometres from Antalya. The village has some ancient ruins but we had not gone sight seeing, but rather on the invitation of my friends grandfather's (who is an advocate) client. (They were fighting some land related case). Anyway, Ferit (the client) was wonderful and drove us all around showing us sights in his battered car in the heat and then invited us to his house for lunch and to see his farms and animals.

The lunch was amazing - the table literally grunting under the weight of the dishes. Fresh bread, salad, bibers, çorba, yoğurtlu patlıcan and amazing pilaf with free range chicken. I haven't eaten chicken like that, well, in eons if not ever. We all ate from the same plates and had soup from the same bowls - it was truly delicious.

The first day in İzmir we went to Topçu'nun Yeri - something of a local institution apparently - to try their very famous çöp şiş. Very, very good it was.

As was the accompanying bread and the very refreshing salad with an excellent nar and olive oil dressing.

In İzmir, I also had what must be one of the best junk foods ever - kumru. It's a specialty of the region and made with a special bread - it's a sour dough, if I remember correctly - stuffed with sausages, tomatoes, pickles and a huge thick slab of melting peynir.

Best eaten with pickled chillies for that added punch.

Also eaten in İzmır - excellent, excellent midye dolması. The ones I ate in İstanbul just didn't measure up after those.

After a well spent (and tiring!) morning of exploring the ruins at Efes we returned to Selçuk completely ravenous. Our dolmuş driver had told us to try the Selçuk köftecisi, which turned out to have a long que. Totally worth the wait, though, for the extremely delish (and cheap!!) köfte.

From İstanbul, I travelled to Edirne for a day to explore the old Ottoman capital - the first in Europe - and of course, see Mimar Sinan's masterpiece. After a morning of mosque visiting, I went hunting for lunch and settled for Edirne's specialty - ciğer, fried liver.

I am not one of those people who are put off by the taste/ smell of liver - I actually really like it - and really enjoyed the meal. Especially with those fried chillies that came as an accompaniment (along with fresh chillies, tomatoes and, of course, bread).

This was, of course, not all - quite often I was too hungry or impatient or both to bother photographing what I was eating. Other things eaten - karnıyarık, many sorts of excellent pilafs, yuvalama çorbası, the Jewish pastry boyoz (an İzmir specialty again) with soft boiled eggs, excellent incir dondurma and that perennial favourite fırın sütlaç among others. And I haven't even gotten to İstanbul yet!

*Food post on İstanbul from last year here.