My tummy and my taste buds enjoy traveling just as much as my eyes enjoying seeing new sights. Traveling, for me, is getting to know a place through the food and by meeting the people who live there. My visit to Turkey was no exception. Despite arriving in Istanbul blind (read: I didn’t do much research except for a quick Top 10 list from Lonely Planet and foods to try), I knew Turkey was famous for it’s Doner kebabs and I was set on finding the best Doner in town.
I quickly realized this may be a tough goal to have in a city filled with so many delicious dishes to try and the fact that Doner is a only one type of kebab- the way the meat is cooked. Doner kebab is a hunk of meat, usually beef, lamb or chicken, roasted on a rotating vertical spit and the meat is shaved when you order. You can choose- a Doner plate of meat with the typical fixings of tomatoes, marinated cabbage, lettuce and occasional onions and yogurt sauce or with all the fixings rolled within a flatbread, pide.
A sampling of a lunch- garbanzo soup, white bean salad, beef meatballs
Dinner at a local Doner kebab shop of Falafal, hummus and doner kebab
When in Rome, so of course I sampled kahve, Turkish coffee but was surprised by the strong bitter flavor and despite adding 2 sugar cubes to my cup o’joe, it just didn’t satisfy. But what kept me from ordering more is the pasty texture of the coffee- coffee grounds are included. No thanks. I prefer a smooth café, please.
Baklava, a popular and well-known dessert of Turkey, is a pastry made with syrup or honey and filled with pistachios or walnuts. There are many variations of this delicious dessert including, Chocolate Baklava.
After spending the morning at Topaki Palace, I was hungry. The type of hungry where you can’t really think and a staring at a menu is overwhelming to choose, especially when waiters are offering their suggestions and bringing appetizers to choose from to the table (and of course, charging you if you take them).
Lamb isn’t my favorite but in my overwhelmed state ordered Lamb kebabs when the menu said, Beef Kebabs. The food was impressive and tasty.
Lahmacun– Flatbread garnished with meat, tomatoes, parsley and onion and often folded in half. Commonly referred to as Turkish pizza.
On New Year’s Eve, thanks to a handy lonely planet guide, we came across a local restaurant known for their kebabs. Without a reservation we were lucky to get seats right away but instead of being seated at a table we had the “luxury” of sitting in front of the spit and watching the chefs grill each kebab to perfection. The food was delicious. Despite the cold outside, the hot coals of the spit made me feel like I was sitting next to a heater or a campfire.
We tried chicken kebab, beef and ribs and enjoyed three side dishes to accompany our meal- spinach and tomato salad, yogurt tiziati sauce and squash. Each dish bursted with flavor and I couldn’t resist, using my flatbread to wipe my plate clean.
I was so excited about tasting the delicious food, that I almost forgot to take a photo. Thanks to my travel pals, Victor knew I like photographing my food and reminded me!
Thankfully I was in the company of people who like to eat and enjoy relaxing over a cup of tea and dessert. Almost every day, we made a pitstop to try a new dessert. Many desserts are made with pistachio. Before my visit, I wasn’t aware how common pistachios are in the desserts and in Turkish delight candy. This must mean they grow a lot of pistachios!
Turkish delight is abundant and everywhere from souvenir shops selling boxes of the sweets to high-end sweet shops selling delights by the grams!
Simit– a tasty round sesame bread, kinda like a bagel, sold on the street by vendors with their red cart and in bakeries. A common breakfast food among Istanbulites, it’s also a great snack anytime of day as vendors sell from morning till night.
Some vendors offer Simit with nutella and is a big hit with to tourists, Who can resist sesame bread with the sweet creamy filling of hazelnut and chocolate?
Aroma of roasted hazelnuts fill the streets with numerous vendors on almost every street corner selling these tasty treats. Carefully roasting them to perfection, vendors then weigh and stack them in neat piles to sell to passer byer’s.
On New Year’s Eve, there were many vendors cooking up mussels and serving them until the wee-hours. Mussels aren’t my favorite and wouldn’t be my preference after dancing most of the night but hey, some say, they’re an aphrodisiac and maybe that just about explains everything!
Though I didn’t get off the tourist trail and find local hole in the walls, I was happy with almost all the meals we had. We had a running joke amongst us as Pillar was constantly glued to her mini Istanbul Lonely Planet guide she affectionately calls Lola as she guided us to each restaurant. Almost all the restaurants we’re listed in the guide, which means all the tourists know about them but thankfully the recommendations still hold true and the food was still delicious.
I tend to be more adventurous when sampling new restaurants.
Do you have a favorite Turkish dish? Do you like feasting on the local food when you travel?
Leave a comment, I’d love to hear from you.
Stay tuned for “Playing tourist in Istanbul” and “Roaming in the Grand Bazaar”