Rating: 5 paws out of 5
Note: 9am-3pm, food is included in the price of the tour
Location: Istanbul Turkey
Link to tour: http://istanbuleats.com/walks-2/
Oh this ferret has traveled across the pond again. How did we end up in Istanbul, Turkey, well it a long possibly a boring story, but this story of our food tour is not. Turkey is know for meat on a stick but there is much more to that here. There is plenty of culture, history and interesting food here. To find this hidden treasure, you have dig deep and discover everything, sometimes a bit of help from the locals go a long way.
Link to all of the photos Link
First stop was to get some freshly baked simits. These things are amazing, simits are a cross between a pretzel and a sesame bagel that has been toasted. If you have been lucky and picked a fresh one, they are a mouthful of wonderful flavor.
The second stop was to sample some of the local olives for breakfast and pick up some cheeses. Being in New York, we do have a large selection of olives but the selection in Istanbul shops are much more diverse. My personal favorite is the big fat light green ones, they have a nice lemony taste.
The dairy products in Turkey are top notch, and because of that, they produce high quality cheeses. This white cheese kinda reminds me a bit of cream cheese with a slightly harder texture. It went perfectly with my simit and olives later on.
This was a very interesting cheese, it taste very similar to string cheese but a little saltier. No need to worry about the heat spoiling the cheese, it was quite cold this morning.
At our breakfast location we discussed many issues within Turkey and how daily life is like. We ended up in the lower level of building with a stall that makes tea and coffee. Since this was breakfast / kahvalti (Turkish word for breakfast, it actually means before coffee), I had tea with the selection of olives, cheese, and breads. After discovering one, we noticed that these stalls are all over Istanbul. FYI that tray goes upstairs with tea and coffee to the many offices.
This is the view when we looked up, where all that coffee and tea went.
With our bellies full from tea and breakfast, we headed to a local Baklava shop. Sure why not right?
The smell of fresh baklava quickly revved up my appetite for sweets.
It was here where I first heard of chocolate Baklava. I never even heard of it, all I can say is that it was good. With that we had tried various other baklava variations which were excellent and chatted briefly with the shop guys.
After that massive sugar rush sampling, we needed to have something to break that up that sweetness. Kokorec sounded like something different from baklava. OK, be prepared for what this is, small intestines wrapped around sweet breads in a sandwich. Yummy, I like this type of stuff and it doesn’t scare me. I am no Andrew Zimmerman but I am probably braver than the average American.
Finished product of Kokorec, in a nice wonderful toasty bread. They had chopped up the slices and mixed it with hot pepper flakes on the grill. The meat was chewy and had a strong fatty meat flavor. It’s something you should try at least one time. The texture might be not appealing to some, but for me it was great.
One of the most common soups in Turkey is lentil soup. Many restaurants and truck stops offer this soup or at least a variation of it. The other famous soup that Angelis suggested was the tripe soup. We didn’t get any of that soup, it probably because we were drunk enough. But all kidding aside, this soup is very tasty.
At this point, things are getting a bit tough but all the marvelous food we have eaten, how can I really stop sampling. Next stop was small pide (Pronounced “P Day”) restaurant / shop. Before we got here I could smell what might be happening, the fresh aroma of bread, meat and cheese tickled my nose. The chef was very friendly and made up a nice fresh pide to demonstrate his skills.
The pide we got was half meat / cheese and the other half vegetables mix / cheese. Pide is very similar to artisan pizza but it does not contain any tomato sauce. The pide was so good out of the oven, fresh and crispy. We noticed later, many other places will make these things fresh. It is not like New York, where many of our pizzas shops will heated up a slice. This was the place where I noticed that tomatoes in this country are amazing, and they are not even in season. I can just imagine how sweet they get by that time.
We couldn’t finish the last two pieces, and the chef didn’t want our left overs to go to waste, so he gobbled it up. It made for an interesting photo. If this guys makes pide day in and out and still loves eating it, it gotta be good.
By this time, I was on to Angelis plan on switching from savory to sweet, and back. We ended up in one of the older Turkish delight shops in Istanbul, 4 generations old. I never really liked Turkish Delight until I had them in Turkey, these are not like the ones from the states. They are also not like the ones shrink wrap and sold at the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. The texture and flavors were near perfect, it reminds me of a middle eastern fruity or/and nutty mochi. Oh by the way, candy that I hate are the rose flavor ones, the rose flavor here I liked. Normally when I have candy that is rose flavored, it is like somebody sprayed channel #5 in my mouth and I start gagging. Even though I like the rose flavor, I much preferred the double pistachio.
We are standing in front of the shop’s wonderful hard candy. I had a couple of those and lets just say there is a large bag of this stuff hidden somewhere in my apartment building.
After that we had a tea break in an abandoned caravansary. These structures are still standing from the silk route days.
Doner time, you can probably tell from this picture that this is no ordinary doner. First it is whole pieces of solid unprocessed meat, 2nd there are layers of tomato and other vegetables. This is a truly unique place.
This is a magical sandwich, the meat was excellent within a fresh piece of bread. The vegetables were very tender and infused with the meat juices. Highly recommend for fine purveyors of meat.
The next place is a Boza shop. This thick beverage is made from fermented grains like millet. The best description of what this stuff taste like, it would be apple sauce. Angelis came with his own supply of roasted chickpeas on the top. Normally they do not have this here.
Our last stop was to a local restaurant near the aqueducts. This place makes a special dish which is lamb cooked in an underground oven. You can see the proud owner preparing the dish.
My first taste of sumac was at this restaurant, it has a sour lemony taste. After having this on various meats, I was hooked and wanted it on all meats.
Let have a closer look at that lamb. Due to the cooking process, the meat is very tender and juicy. A little sprinkle of the spice and this meat is ready to go. Without the spices, the meat taste like pure lamb.
Another interesting desert
which I forgot the name of called künefe. This one is sweetened with syrupy all the way through and sprinkled with finely chopped pistachios, but on the inside has a delightful surprise. The center is filled with cheese and it was quite good.
The question here is why was this tour worth doing? A book can never really replace a local resident that lives in the area. In a small group, he/she will be able to tell you about the customs and mannerisms that will show respect to the people of Turkey. The knowledge and interaction that I gain from this tour made the remainder of my 10 days much easier.
I have included the Link to all of the photos of the tour. If I had included all the photos, this blog would be a small novel. Link