So as I’ve been sharing over the past few weeks with you about my experiences in the great city of Istanbul, you might have notice that with the exception of the Asian side, I shared very little about one of the most important parts of traveling in a new country… the food. Living in Italy, I’m sure you can imagine that I have access to great food all the time, and it’s true–but it’s always nice to get away from the Italian classics and experience something more out of the box, and Florence isn’t exactly known for its great variety or its exceptional foreign food. Heading to Istanbul was just as exciting for the potential culinary opportunities as it was for the amazing culture and we enjoyed every minute of it.
I mean how can you resist all those great looking vegetables and cheeses? But there is so much more to Istanbul than breakfast, beginning with the notable Turkish coffee. Strong and served in a tiny cup like in Italy, it’s similar and dissimilar to espresso. Notably the grounds are kept within the coffee, so you have to be careful to not get a mouthful of them towards the end of your cup. It was okay, but overall I wasn’t super impressed– though we only had it once, so I’d be willing to give it another chance.
Juices were huge on the streets of Istanbul, and super cheap– one thing my friend and I really enjoyed about Istanbul was the available options of street food, something that we don’t really have a lot of here in Florence. You can get all types of juices– we opted for orange which was super cheap but they also have pomegranate juice. If it wouldn’t have set me back about 8 USD I might have gotten it, but that seemed a bit much for a juice!
When we were on the Asian side we walked through the fish market and the surrounding streets– it seems every few shops there is an option for purchasing tea or dried fruits… yum yum!
Food in Turkey was amazing, and really reasonably priced. It was nice to be able to go for a sit-down dinner and feel like it wasn’t going to break the bank, even if you ate in courses! We tried a place the first night and split a bunch of different dishes so that we could taste different things. We started with hummus, what else? They also gave us complimentary pepper dip, which I’ve previously mentioned to you in the Istanbul Breakfast Club. The pita bread that we ate them with was incredible– so soft and fluffy and the vegetables were superb… we definitely could have eaten some more summer tomatoes.
Then we indulged in this pida, which was similar to a white pizza, and a meat dish that was served with vegetables and rice.
We got kebabs another night, in the Galata area… they were some four meat kind, we weren’t positive, but they were amazing! Just a little hole in the wall place but definitely delicious.
Pretzel-type things are a big street snack in Istanbul, and we couldn’t resist getting them one day… the Nutella filled ones of course!
Another night we went to a different restaurant we had wanted to try based on its great people-watching windows and low-slung chairs. We tried raki that night… it’s a Turkish liquor that has a licorice flavor. Orhan Pamuk talks extensively about it in The Museum of Innocence (see last week’s post for more on him), and the characters seemed to drink quite a bit of it. All the time. So we figured we had to try it! Ours was served in these ice bowls and diluted a bit with water.
For dinner I opted for a veggie kebab, wanting something a bit healthier after all the street food we had been eating! The pretzel-type things are far from the only option, and in fact earlier that day we had indulged in watermelon on the street. Seriously, get on that Florence! I have a feeling it would sell way better than the light-up things the street vendors throw in the air.
Who, though, could go to Turkey and NOT indulge in baklava? Yep, dessert was definitely on the list and we tried baklava multiple places. Turkey serves many different kinds of baklava– milk and walnut are available, though pistachio seemed to be the most common. Below you can see a sort of syrup-cake that I tried one day… it was pretty good, but you can’t beat baklava!
We typically got samplers so that we could try multiple kinds. You only live once right? Plus those honey-soaked fritter things were SO good.
And finally, don’t forget Turkish delight!
What about you? When you travel, are you a food-experience seeker? What’s your favorite?