After my last post, I need to talk about something more lighthearted, and what could be better than food. I did have some good food and treats in Istanbul once I figured out how to avoid some of the overpriced places.
The hostel I stayed in offered a free Turkish breakfast every morning. It was buffet style, and included fresh tomatos, cucumber, feta cheese, olives, hard boiled eggs, and fruit. I looked forward to it every morning, and would usually fill my plate like the one below. The olives were my favorite. I wish I could find olives like that back home.
One night, a group of us from the hostel went to this restaurant nearby that served a dish called testi kabab. It consists of chicken, vegetables, and rice cooked in a clay pot. The pot is then broken, and the food poured into a bowl.This girl Anya from Russia ordered it, and we got a little show when she asked if she could break open the pot. Have a look here.
Turkish Delight and Baklava
The photo at the very top is Turkish delight from the Spice Market. This treat varies comes in several forms, but a common one is basically a jello-ish cube covered in powdered sugar. They usually have a sweet, fruity flavor. Sometimes they can have a nutty flavor. Other types of Turkish Delight are like a nutty roll of nuget covered with crushed pistachios.
They give you samples as you walk in the door. My favorite thing there was the baklava. They had tons of variety, and I bought a few different pieces. The chocolate was my favorite.
Turkish tea, coffee and salep
Turkish tea is a staple of the daily diet in Turkey. The tea is usually brewed in a double broiler with the tea in the top pot and water in the bottom one. The tea itself is actually very strong to the point of being bitter, but when pouring a cup, you pour half tea, half hot water to get a nice tasting black tea. It’s almost always served in these hour glass shaped cups.One afternoon, I went to a cafe with someone from the hostel and had my first taste of a drink called salep. It isn’t like anything else I’ve ever tasted before. It’s basically a warm, heavy milk, almost yogurt-y kind of drink with cinnamon on top. It’s sweet and very delicious and nice on a snowy day like that particular one. The cup of salep is the one in the bottom of the photo below. My friend had a turkish coffee. This is good too, and when done right, the coffee grounds float to the bottom and remain there. It’s a strong coffee, so you just get a little cup and sip it slowly.
Alcohol is forbidden in Islam, but perhaps due to Turkey’s secular nature, locals as well as tourists drink. The most well known beer there is called Efes, and it’s a pretty good lager. I had a few pints, but not too much. Alcohol is taxed pretty heavily, so a 500 mL beer like the one below is about $6-$8
Okay, it’s not a food or treat, but shisha is something consumed so I’ll put it in this update. Sometimes it’s called hookah in the US, and I’ve always thought of it as a Turkish thing. I know a lot of places in the middle east smoke this as well. It’s flavored tobacco that’s in a tar like form. The tabacco goo is placed in the top of a water pipe, and a hot coal is placed on top. When you inhale the pipe, you create a vacuum that pulls the smoke from the burning tar through the water and into the pipe. The water removes the harshness of the smoke, and allows for a smooth intake of the tabacco. I was looking forward to trying it in Turkey. On one rainy afternoon, this guy Rob from my hostel and I went to this place and smoked some shisha over a cup of Turkish coffee and a few games of checkers.I’ll have more food and scenic updates in my upcoming posts on Turkey. I drank a lot of tea, and even had my fortune read in the remnants of a Turkish coffee one afternoon in Ankara. After leaving Istanbul, I still had over a week left in Turkey, so more to come.