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.










Böreks
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.

12 comments:

That Armchair Philosopher said...

You're not the only one who's hungry.

Good lord, all that food! and great shots of each - I can only begin to imagine how much time you spent taking thousands of pictures.. more importantly, having enough self control to take a picture BEFORE you dig into whatever it was that you were munching on :)

Sigh. Its wanderlust season again. and food lust, while I'm at it..

Beth said...

Oh. My. God. This is food porn for Middle East/Near east food addicts. How beautiful, how seductive, how delicious -- and how untouchable! We had lunch yesterday at our favorite Turkish cafe here in Montreal, where they make fresh bread on a curved metal stove right in front of you...and you can have stuffed sandwiches and borek and manti...but that's the closest I'm going to get to Istanbul, anytime soon. Your post is beautiful and full of love. Thanks so much.

??! said...

You....!

Just for that, I'll have you know there are TWO hazelnut trees in the garden of this house. And they're ripening just about now. Guess who I'll be thinking of and going "Hah!" when I'm eating them?

Desi Italiana said...

Istanbul is a food-lover's dream come true. My fave stuff when I was there: baklava, the bread, the coffee, raki...and everything else whose names I can't remember but went through my digestive system.

Me likes going to countries where food is delicious. Morocco is another food heaven. But steer clear of Portuguese food (unless 1. the dish is from Brazil; and 2. we are talking about sweets, which are kick-ass over there), Spanish food (apart from the famous paella, I didn't like anything else). Nepal is eh ok, personally I'm for thick and heavy Punjabi food.

elizabeth said...

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah! If it weren't for what you're sending me, I'd never forgive you for this... ;)

Inchoate thoughts:

The one that I long for the most is the simple simit. I can find half-decent versions of many favorite foods here (and sometimes the real item--there's a Güllüoglu in SE Brooklyn) but never simit.

Asmalimescit is one of my favorite streets anywhere, though I usually go to Refik instead of Sofyali 9. And--was the patlican dish one involving strips fried in olive oil until they're melting, in a tangy vinegary tomato sauce? I love that, and haven't ever had a satisfying version outside Istanbul.

I eat fırın sütlaç for breakfast sometimes. And every other meal. Did you try the ceviz dondurma too? Antepfistikli's still my favorite, but all the nut ones at Mado are brilliant.

Hatayli folks will tell you you haven't had proper künefe til you've been to Antakya. They're right, but improper künefe is still pretty awesome.

I've been ill and haven't felt much of a desire to eat for days, but I think you've cured me.

Szerelem said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Szerelem said...

TAP: yeah, well - you'll be travelling soon and I'll be put so don't crib. Most people were most amused that I would take photos of my food! I'm glad I did though :)

Beth: Thank you so much - I'm happy you liked the post. We have some hald decent Egyptian and Turkish places around but they mostly do just the kebaps and i never get manti or other dishes I crave. And of course,I think just eating *in* Istanbul makes the food better...

?!!: Oh, darn you! You have hazelnut trees in you garden??!! What mansion do you live in?!

desi italiana: Oh, I totally agree about Istanbul being a food lovers paradise. And also about going to places where the food is yum. Switzerland and Munich were pretty meh for me and British food in general sucks so thhey really need to thank the immigrants in that country. I really want to go to Morocco :(
Oh and I think I'm totally Delhi-ized so Punjabi food? Yum!

E: Oh, but you were the one who told me to take tortuous photos of the food! Totally agree about the simit - it was the last thing I bought before leaving for the airport - they're just so good!!!
Heard Refik is really good but haven't eaten there yet - next time.

I had also put up a picture of a meal had at Zencefil (just a simple soup) which you had reccomended last year but blogger ate it up in editing, I think.

I still have a box of lokum to cheer me up but god, I miss sutlac!

. said...

I have fond memories of an unrequited love, hookahs and Turkish food. This post reminds me of what I really should have been happy with that time.

Szerelem said...

.: What is it with Turkey and unrequited love, I wonder?

starrybluesky said...

Oh my goodness ! What a gorgeous post. The food looks amazing. Have never been to Istanbul but it is high on my list ! Great photos too.

( Though I was a bit confused by the post being about Istanbul when the blog was called szerelem . Now I've got that song in my head too.

Szerelem said...

Thank you :)

(And after tracking back to your gorgeous blog, I feel slightly embarrassed that you are praising *my* photography!)

You're not the only one who's commented on the confusion of a blog called Szerelem being full of posts on Istanbul!!
The song is lovely, isn't it?!

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