Food Trip Istanbul
(hello in Turkish, pronounced as meh haba, the only word I could remember… And, ofcourse used whole day long to everyone)
Holy food! How cool is Istanbul!!
We’ve spent 5 nights and 4 days in this wonderful city and I’m sure we will return. We went to Istanbul on our honeymoon (our first vacation without the kids that’s longer than 2 days) and decided to let it revolve around food 🙂 When we’re on vacation with the kids it’s hardly possible to really enjoy going out to dinner anywhere so now we really had the time to explore the cities food culture. We walked a lot trough the city and as it’s so huge we only got to experience a few parts; Fatih (the old city with all the land mark sites such as the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmed Camii) and the Grand Bazaar), Beyoglu (where we did a great food tour) and Besiktas on the European side. And Kadikoy and the Prince Island Buyukada (boat trip of app one hour) on the Asian side. It’s such a diverse city with different vibes in every part of it. People who often speak English and are always very friendly.
We never particularly like the places with all the highlights because of all the tourists and lack of the real life. We prefer to see how and where the people really live. So we loved the food tour we did with ‘Culinary Backstreets’ in Beyoglu and wandering around the Asian side. We tried many restaurants featured in the Dutch city-guide 100% Istanbul which always has great inside tips. And as we did the food tour on the second day we also got to use the book with inside tips from them.
This honeymoon was literally a food trip walking from breakfast to snack to lunch to snack to dinner… And we loved it!! The food is soooooo good! I do have to kick back on my sugar intake now because I definitely ate way to much sugar but hey, it was vacation! But Turkish people sure like their sugar; the put loads of sugar in their tiny glasses of tea, their sweets are mainly made of sugar and thus all pastry is very sweet. That was a bit much for me but the savory food was mainly quit healthy and very tasty.
What I love is street markets and there are many of them in Istanbul. The street vendors are very nice and often offer you to try some or they can prepare something for you at the spot. And everything looks beautiful! To me it’s a real joy to walk around on markets where you can find so many new species of fish, different vegetables and fruits and other foreign products. So this trip to Istanbul was such a blast!
In the old city you have to visit the Grand Bazaar but just to look around. If you want to buy things do that in the less touristic parts of town. Although I do regret not buying the ceramic stone mosaic tiles I saw on our first day. I didn’t buy them that day because it was the first thing I saw that day (and even all week) so didn’t want to carry it around all day… But they would have been great pan holders and center pieces on my table.. The sales people in the Bazaar weren’t terrible at all as I was warned. They do try to get you to come into their shops but not in an aggressive manner. They were all very good humored and friendly. We talked to some of them and they showed us their produce even though we told them up front we wouldn’t buy anything. They might have thought they could talk us into buying something though 🙂
What we loved most of all was the food trip we did with Culinary Backstreets (Hidden Beyoglu http://www.culinarybackstreets.com/culinary-walks/istanbul/) with guide Albert and fellow group member Margo. We were very lucky to have only one other person in our group as groups can be maximum 7 people (which I think is way to much for the price of the tour). We walked around Beyoglu from 9.30-15.00 and stopped for breakfast, cheese, pudding, lunch, second lunch and dessert. We got to visit places we would not have found on our own and got to ask questions about everything 🙂 And ofcourse I asked for recipes and names of things I liked. As I did all week.
We first went to Heirloom Café, a small B&B (9 rooms) that is hidden in the back streets and difficult to find. We found out that croissants were first made in Istanbul (Danerole was founded here according to Albert) so we got one for breakfast with home made plum jam and very tasty feta. We also had bread with a specific Turkish breakfast; ‘Menemen’ which is basically eggs and tomato. I asked the chef for the recipe and this is it;
Menemen – Turkish breakfast eggs and tomato
- tinned tomatoes
- green pepper
- eggs, beaten
- onion (not necessary)
- olive oil
- put a small pan on the stove and add some olive oil.
- than add the (first onion if you want them) tomato and peppers until soft and disappearing
- add the egg(s) and stir well
- serve with some bread
We also visited a small but beautiful cheese shop (Antre gourmet) where you can order a plate of cheese to try.
After the cheese we went in for some pastry, followed by a visit to the pudding shop for ‘chicken breast’ pudding (ingredients are basically powdered milk, rice starch, eggs, sugar and cinnamon) called Tauuk Gogsu. It pulls apart in a similar way to chicken (a bit stringy) and has about the same size and hence the name. It’s velvety smooth, not overly sweet and delicious.
And that wasn’t it. We went for lunch at Gram restaurant where we tried lentil puree, lentil salad, cauliflower, celeriac with orange peel, chick peas, pasta salad with walnuts and some salad with apple. After that we went to our favourite restaurant from the whole week; Kurulus lokantasi, a two story but still pretty small restaurant that is packed full of people coming there for a quick lunch between work. You sit wherever there is room on the long tables. The food is soooo good, it’s amazing! After that we went to a much bigger restaurant next to the Galata tower where we tried a few desserts (just a bite of each). Those are so surprising; young unripe (black) walnuts, a cake with tahini and the absolute winner pumpkin. This pumpkin dessert can be found in many places and is called ‘Hatay’. The funny thing is that I totally didn’t recognize it as pumpkin. In a restaurant (Ciya) we ate at a later moment that week I asked for the recipe and the secret is to use a big hard pumpkin, slice it to pieces and cook in a sugar/lemon syrop for at least 3 hours and leave it to rest for another 6 to 8 hours. I’m definitely going to try making it this autumn.
The food tour was absolutely the highlight of our week. But we did do a lot of great things ourselves! We saw (hardly) all the sights, went to dinner at posh restaurant 360 (great view from the roof terrace!) and strolled trough some more back streets.
Things I love about Istanbul:
- How people treat each other and the stray animals. The dogs are collected on regular basis and neutered and vaccinated after which they receive an ear tag and a re released back to the streets. There are huge amounts of dogs and cats everywhere and they were all friendly and mostly looked healthy. I have seen many people buying cat food and giving it to the stray cats. You can also spot bowls of food and water everywhere. People taking care of stray animals is such a sign of compassion.
- The enormous diversity of the city
- The friendly people; all you have to do is say ‘merhaba’ all day 🙂
- The great food (skip the tourist traps!!!) with free water and bread everywhere
- The many nice coffee shops with delicious cakes
- The ferry ride to the Asian side and Prince Islands
- The rice!
- The beautiful little back streets
- The metro system
- The roof terraces with wonderful views
What I brought back from Istanbul; I didn’t know that Turkish tea is the only real organic tea (not produced or processed using chemicals) in the world but is not exported. It’s an example of how a multi-cultural society can work and flourish. I bought a bag of pilav rice because we became obsessed with the very tasty rice and want to make it at home. And we bought two beautiful cook books to recreate some of the wonderful Turkish dishes ourselves. And lots of photos, memories and a desire to return one day!