A Travellerspoint blog

November 2014

Food Food Glorious Food! - Istanbul

Warning: Spoiler Alert if you are planning to do this culinary tour

I was jumping around with excitement about going to Istanbul and sampling the cuisine. I remember counting off all the things I wanted to try to Lewis on one of our bus rides on our Intrepid Trip. He raised his eyebrows in concern as I had mentioned so many and at the thought of trying them all in 4 days was pretty overwhelming. I definitely gave it a good go but it wasn't to be...I'll just have to go back and try all the things that I missed (what a great excuse!)

We started our time with apple tea, not a traditional Turkish food but it is delicious. Basically it is a flavoured cordial with a little tea in the powder that you drink hot. The flavour of apple is delicious and I can imagine it would be just as good iced on a cool day. On arrival at our AirBnB accommodation I discovered our host had an old version of the Culinary Backstreets Food Guide. I used this frequently throughout our time in Istanbul.
Our first day we had Lauchman (lamb pizza) with real meat kofte. The pizza was a thin bread covered in minced lamb and spices. It was crispy, spicy and delicious. It was served with an onion, tomato and cucumber salad. We ate it as it is done traditionally in Turkey by rolling it up but in our case with the salad inside. We were also given kofte…the proper kind with raw meat and spices in them. They were extremely spicy but tasted fairly delicious once you could get through the chilli.

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The next day we tried chicken breast pudding. The pudding was basically a milk pudding that has chicken fibres in it to help thicken it. The fibres of the chicken were barely tasted in the rich thick pudding but it was unusual to feel them in your mouth especially considering it was desert. We failed to finish it from the intensity of all the cream and sugar. A smaller piece though and it would have been amazing.

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I had pomegranate juice of-course. At first I paid 4euro for it until I discovered I was being ripped off and it should have been closer to 1-2euros. The pomegranates were juiced as you waited. It is definitely not something you would want to drink in light coloured clothing though...I can't imagine that deep pink colour comes out easily.
We had a few kebabs in Istanbul. They are very simple in comparison to what we have in a Turkish kebab at home…Meat in a bun, no salad and no sauce. It was fairly hard to find one that wasn't dry. I have to say nothing beat the one I had on my food tour (More about that to come). I don't think eatting a kebab will ever be the same.

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On one of our day tours we had a home-cooked meal cooked by our guides Mum. She has made us a feast! The stand-outs would have to be the filo cigars. The filo used for them is the same type that is used in the Borek and is a lot thicker than that used in the Baklava. It is unlike the pastry we get at home...I don't really have a good comparison to it but it is outstanding. The cigars were hot and filled with a small amount of cheese and spinach. The crunch and then the pastry was delicious! Yum! To make the filo you need a massive thin rolling pin...basically a big large stick. We saw numerous of them around the markets. We also had the tasty lentil soup and spiced beef meatballs with pilaf rice. She had made homemade stuffed dolma grape leaves which seemed bland in comparison to the rest of the stunning flavoursome dishes we feasted on.

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We also headed to the Asian side of Istanbul to a small town called Kanlica to try there yoghurt. This yoghurt is famous for it's distinctive flavour from the 17th century when it use to be made from a combination of sheep, goat and cow milk. Production has moved out of the village now but it still had a very creamy texture. It was usually served with icing sugar on top but we had honey and it was delicious. The yoghurt was thick but the honey slightly overpowered it a little for me.

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Turkish ice-cream has a completely different texture to normal ice-cream. It has lotus root in it so has a chewier texture and doesn't really melt down the cone easily. You have to pull at it to get a piece off. It is creamy though and the vanilla flavour I had was simply delicious. They do a little show and complete a little trick routine which includes ringing a bell while making your ice-cream cone. It's highly entertaining. I can't imagine I would be very impressed if I was ravenous though (But I am mean when I'm hungry. Haha)

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On my final day in Istanbul I did a food tour. It was on the final day as it was fully booked the first few free days we had. The tour was outstanding and it left me buzzing. It'll probably be a spoiler alert if you plan on completing the tour anytime soon. I was in a group of 6 (our guide Gonca, an older Aussie couple, a young Singaporean and an American lady). It was a great mix. Sue, the lovely American and l were full of questions. We started by getting Schmidt-a bread roll shaped like a bagel that's dipped in molasses and covered in sesame seeds. This is considered a fast breakfast for most commuting Istanbul people; its a form of Istanbul street food. Most sellers get their bread from the same bakery yet every person has there own relationship with their Schmit guy and will claim he is better .The bread is crunchy outside and soft in the middle. Just like a baguette they have are tough to get them apart. It's a cheap breakfast for on the go.

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We next visited the cheese man. He has been selling cheese for 74 years! The cheese comes from his family farm. No matter what type he has it Is good. We got two white cheese varieties, hard and stringy type cheese. Opposite the cheese guy is the oldest coffee roaster in Istanbul... but oldest doesn't necessarily mean best. The coffee roaster now uses a machine which takes only 10 mins instead of 40mins to roast the bean, the result burnt beans. Turkish coffee is best made in a tin pots and has to be drunken within 40mins. This is why it is difficult to buy good Turkish coffee. We headed to our breakfast spot... and stopped to see a sandwich man on the way . He uses clotted buffalo cream. This stuff is heaven! We had it with honey for breakfast. It is creamy, smooth and melts when you put it in your mouth but also doesn't leave a fatty coating. It is made by straining the cream off raw buffalo milk once it has sat for over an hour. This stuff is raw and real and would be illegal in New Zealand seen as it hasn't had any form of processing.

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We also had raw beef that had a crust of peppercorn, cinnamon, chilli and garlic crust and was left to cure and hang in a cave. This again was pretty amazing! Our breakfast was in the alley where the tea makers make tea for the stall owners in the market. In Turkey you aren't meant to have coffee with breakfast - the word breakfast means before coffee. The tea makers made us a delicious tea in the small glass cups. They use a two pot contraption to make the tea s' this is why it is clear rather than murky. We also had Borek which is layers of thick filo with butter in between and some form of filling..white cheese, spinach or meat and in our case spinach. We also had olives of numerous colours and sizes. I had a large grey one which wasn't as metallic as most I have tried before & less salty. If was fleshy & good. We also had fresh cucumber and tomatoes from her garden and and fleshy dried figs & naturally sun dried apricots. The natural sun dried apricots were brown rather than orange due to the sugars caramelising as they dried away in the sun.

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After our massive mezze of a breakfast we had a real Turkish coffee. First you have to choose the sweetness before the coffee is made... If you add the sugar after it is made it won't settle or dissolve in. You have to leave your coffee to settle before you drink it. This is so the beans gore bottom and the frothy film appears on the surface.The first three mouthfuls are the best. This is the part that has the foam with a slight grittiness from the beans. You don't drink the last part as this is where the beans have settled. . They use the grounds at the bottom for fortune telling. Fortune telling is mostly done between friends and is a way to uplift the friend and give them advice. It should make them feel better. First the cup is flipped onto the saucer and left to settle. The heat should suck some of the coffee back into the cup and create a semi- suction. The suction is a sign that your wish will come true. The side you drink out of is your inner side relating to you and the other your outer side relating to the world (i.e business, etc). Coffee in Turkey takes time. When you ask someone to coffee you expect to be there for over an hour, unlike asking for an espresso in Italy.
We also had a tea (how could you not when you are with the professional tea makers of the market!). The sign of a good tea maker is that the tea is clear rather than murky. This was a good tea maker. On our last stop our tea was less clear and more murky...they were famous for their lamb not there tea though.
We continued on to the streets near the spice makers and saw all of the different types of peppers, henna and the dry veggies hanging and waiting to stuff. Gonca explained that the Turkish love to stuff things.

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We headed to the dried fruit and nut seller and tried kayisis cekirdegi apricot kernels. These are the only ones that aren’t poisonous. The kernel is meant to be good for immunity. We had real pistachios, white mulberries and white prunes. They were delicious. They also sold interesting looking blocks of a red spice mix made out of cinnamon, pepper and sugar. They nearly looked like candy in the jar. Another unusual thing they sold was roasted corn with spices. This stuff is delicious! It has to be roasted at a very low heat so it doesn’t pop.

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We were off again to our next tasting; an intestine kebab. I was pretty worried a this point. I shouldn't have been as it was delicious! The rule to a good intestine kebab is that the intestine must be from a milk lamb. If the lamb is no longer just digesting milk it will smell and be heavy. The intestine was cooked with lamb tail fat on a rotisserie. It was then stir-fried with peppers, tomatoes , chilli, herbs and spices to remove the fat before being served on a toasted bun. The intestine just add another dimension to the delicious flavours that were mixed with it. I doubt I would have been a fan without all the extras. We also had chicken that again was cooked with secret flavours and spices. It was juicy and very flavoursome. The owner makes his own kebab stick out of chicken breasts so he knows he is getting premium quality. The spices he adds are top secret as they need it to make them stand apart from the other vendors.
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Our next stop was to try Eso Soup. This red lentil soup is superb and I can’t wait to try and make it at home. The story is that a bride needed to make a soup and had minimal ingredients in the cupboard. These were the ingredients in her cupboard. While here we also tried a form of kofte. Bulgar wheat is ground into a paste and made into a ball. It is then stuffed with beed mince in a hole and deep-fried. Our guide decided she would get us to try something a little healthy, Turnip Juice. It was disgusting and the one thing I didn’t like on the food tour. It was bright purple in colour and tart and spicy. It may be healthy but the taste is on a whole new level of bitterness.

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At the front of the shop they were cooking a sweet dish of angel hair pasta, with cheese in the centre. When it is cooked it is dipped in sugar syrup and sprinkled with ground pistachio. It looked interesting but a little oily for my liking.

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We visited a Baklava shop that still creates it the traditional way. We discovered that corn syrup is being used more and more in Baklava as it is cheaper but it also makes the baklava sickly sweet. We tried three different types of Baklava. The originally of 45 layers of homemade filo with butter between and pistachio. We learnt that you should flip the baklava to eat it. The sticky side should be towards the roof of your mouth and the flaky side down. The piece should be eaten in one mouthful rather than small bites. The nightingale is where they get a smaller piece of filo and roll it up with air and create a s small spiral. These are cooked next to each other and don't need to be cut. The result is a lighter, more crunchy baklava. Lastly we tried the dolma form which is pistachio just wrapped in one layer, as you can image this is an intense pistachio hit. Filo pastry making takes over three years to learn professionally. It needs to be thin enough to read the paper through. It gets sticky so needs to be thrown and fall without getting a crease on landing.

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Our next stop was to have pide pizza. Sadly our pide man had just learnt that his pet canary had died and he was extremely sad. The poor man made our pide with tears in his eyes. He also told us about his son and how he has just got into medical school. He was 106 in Istanbul in his exams (over 2million people sit the exam so this is pretty amazing!). We learnt how the dough is the most important part of the pide. Ours was made with brewers yeast. The kneading of the dough and butter before it is cooked are also vital and it should also has to be cooked to order. The pide was delicious with a soft base and generous toppings of cheese and beef. My favourite was the cheese by itself as the simplicity of the cheese bread combination was amazing. I found the spiced beef mix overpowered the other two ingredients otherwise.

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We headed to the Turkish Delight maker. His family has been making Turkish Delight for over four generations! Turkish delight we learnt should be soft and shouldn’t stick to your teeth when eating it. If it is sticking to your mouth it is a sign of glucose being used in the mixture. I am not usually a fan of turkish delight but this turkish delight was delicious! The original turkish delight is twice cooked and is slightly chewy. Our turkish delight maker makes his own in-house creations like fig and orange flavours. He also stocks the artificial ones as they are cheaper and of course people ask for them.

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Our next stop was for the best doner kebab in Istanbul. The guy makes his own kebab stick with secret herbs and spices just like our chicken man. He layers beef and a little lamb between layers of peppers and tomatoes. There are a lot of vegges on his stick compared to most. He then soaks it in milk and onion juice overnight to help further season and tenderise the meat. The meat and vegges on the toasted bun was heavenly. I was tempted to get seconds they were that outstanding! This was one of the first kebabs in Istanbul that I didn’t wonder where the sauce was as the filing was so succulent and sauce would have ruined how delicious it really was.

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Our last stop was to a restaurant in the conservative Fatih region. This place is renowned for it’s lamb which it cooks in a sealed underground pit. The result is lamb that is so soft and tender it falls off the bone. It is salty and delicious! We were first served piliaf that is made a special way here. The rice dish is made in a pan then put on top of dough and which is cooked in a wood-fired oven. The crispy dough is broken at the table to show the beautiful soft chicken and almond pilaf that was hidden inside. The pastry and the rice were both magical. I can’t wait to try this in a pizza oven when I get a chance! We had delicious sides of smashed spicy peppers and a shepherd salad.

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We sampled yoghurt drink with our food. I like natural yoghurt so a thinned version of this was delicious to me. Some are made salty…I don’t think that would be as appetising for myself personally.

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Our final course was warm semolina pudding with buffalo milk ice cream in the middle. My goodness this was heaven! The creamy ice-cream with the soft moist semolina granules. Yummy! I could eat this heavenly morsel everyday! I was in mourning when there wasn't another crumb on the plate to consume.

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It was at the point that sadly the food tour had come to an end. We had walked and eaten for over 5hours. It was sad as I I felt that I had made a connection with my food comrades as we battled through the market place. I can’t wait to do more of these tours. I just hope they live up to this one.

That evening we tried a wet burger (just so we had). On our final day we tried a wet burger. The burger is basically a hamburger that has lashings of sauce and is then put into a humidifier to moisten it. A soggy hamburger is not my idea of a delicious burger.

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Our final meal was a golmeze which was made right in front of us in a cute little restaurant. The restaurant had been recommended by one of my fellow foodies on my tour that day. The lady needed the dough and had the curved hot plate. We had it traditional with cheese and spinach. It was not too oily and was delicious. I wish I wasn't as full as I was from my food tour so I could have eaten more!

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Food in Istanbul even now makes me salivate. There is vegges, meat, bread, sweets! Everything is amazing. There is so much choice. The food tour was outstanding and I couldn't recommend it more. It is a great way to spend a day if you love food. It was also great to be able to taste the difference between what I had been eating over the days before compared to on the tour where things were meant to be genuine. Being in Istanbul has just made me even more enthusiastic to explore more of Turkey and try more of their cuisine. If you go to Istanbul take a healthy appetite with you.

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Posted by chellebelle 05:20 Archived in Turkey Tagged food town old chicken heaven sweets porn pudding kebab ice-cream breast backstreet cullinary golmeze Comments (0)

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