Exploring food cultures is one of the best parts of traveling and Turkey has a rich variety of traditional cuisines. Here are the main foods and dishes that stick out to me here in Istanbul.
First and foremost, there is kebab, which is offered from a variety of meats and vegetables grilled on a skewer and served over rice or bulgur.
A cheaper and faster version of kebab is called dürüm. Dürüm is served with either chicken or beef that is cooked on a large rotating skewer. The meat is carved off the skewer after you order and served on lavaş (similar to a soft tortilla) with tomatoes, peppers and pickles, then rolled up into a wrap.
Another cheap Turkish favorite is lahmacun, which resembles a sort of Turkish pizza. It is a mixture of ground meat and spices cooked on top of lavas then topped with lemon, parsley, tomatoes, cucumbers, and lettuce.
Istanbul also has a very lively street food scene with local vendors all over the city. The most popular foods include boiled or grilled corn, roasted chestnuts…
…and stuffed mussels.
To go along with the tasty street food, freshly squeezed orange and pomegranate juice is available all over.
Fish is also very popular in Istanbul with a variety of options such as fish sandwiches and fried fish skewers.
No Turkish meal would be complete without the national drink, Ayran. Ayran is made out of yogurt, water and salt and goes perfectly with any Turkish dish. I have to admit I didn’t care for it much when I first tried it but after a while it grew on me and now I order it whenever I’m at a restaurant.
Spices are a very important part of every dish here and it is possible to find dried herbs and spices everywhere. The Spice Bazaar is a market dedicated solely to selling local spices and dried herbs and teas.
Baklava is sold in many varieties here, but the traditional dessert is made from layers of phyllo dough filled with pistachios and soaked in honey. It is seriously delicious.
Kahvaltı is the traditional Turkish breakfast. It consists of a spread of cucumber, tomatoes, olives, different types of cheeses and cold meats, hard-boiled eggs, yogurt, jams, butter and honey accompanied by bread or simit (similar to a sesame seed bagel)…
… and tea or Turkish coffee. Kahvaltı is often reserved as a weekend festivity and can last for a couple of hours. It is definitely one of my favorite things to do on a Sunday morning with my flat mates after a long night out.
If you’re as interested as I am about exploring cultures through their cuisines, feel free to check out the blog that a few classmates and I are currently writing for one of our classes at istanbulfoodies.weebly.com. It is all about Istanbul’s street food and the places to find famous Turkish foods.