Turkish food, me gustas tu

Yum.  Turkish food is quite the delight!  On a sunny day or on a moonlight night.  Your shapes and colors are a joy to see.  Your tastes and textures sit well in me 🙂

Turkish food is full of great tastes.  In the photo above, you can see a meze (small plate dish) of eggplant (they called this one babbaganoush even though it wasn’t puree’d).  Notable in just about every meal is tasty bread; according to Janine, Turkey is the world’s leading consumer of bread per capita. Turkish folk love drinking apple tea as well.  Edit: Janine added this insightful comment on apple tea:

… i must clarify that turkish people pretty much never drink apple tea. but they are forever offering it to foreigners because they think that’s what THEY want, even though the foreigners are drinking it only because they think it’s a turkish thing.

i liken this confusion to tourists in hawaii, who feel the need to pull out any flower-patterned shirt in their closet when they go there in an effort to ‘fit in’ with local dress styles, and meanwhile the locals who work in tourism only wear flower shirt uniforms at their job because the bosses think they conform to the tourists’ expectation of what is worn in hawaii. then everyone is wearing flowery shirts and reflecting this weird fake ‘authenticity’ at each other, but it’s not what either party (tourist or local) would be wearing ordinarily. it’s odd, isn’t it?

If you have eaten one Turkish dish before, chances are the dish was Doner Kebab.  It’s a hunk of chicken or lamb, cooked on a rotating fire spit.  As Beavis and Butthead would say, “mm, yeah, fire, fire!”  Shave the meat, then serve on a sandwich or on a plate.  Sometimes we think the word kebab means skewer, but only shish kebab means served on a skewer.  Doner kebab means rotating kebab.  If you’ve ever had the Greek gyro or schawarma from the middle east, or even the Mexican tacos al pastor, these dishes came from the Turkish kebab.

Here’s a typical sit-down meal for breakfast.  Bread, cheeses, hard-boiled egg, tomatoes, cucumbers, olives.  Very healthy, no?  All fresh, no grease or even processed food!  Turkish coffee is a unique drink.  If you want coffee but not Turkish coffee, they serve you Nescafe for some strange reason.  I don’t get why the Turks love this powdered junk haha. 

Istanbul is a food lover’s city.  You can get great stuff all over.  Since there’s so much water around, you can get a lot of great seafood in Istanbul.  Just stop by any of the outdoor fish markets and grab some fish to take home.  Or get some fresh seafood served at an outdoor restaurant or street vendor.

One special street food seafood dish is served right by the ferries at the Gelata Bridge.  It’s called Balik Ekmek.  Simple and cheap – fresh mackerel plucked out from the sea, grilled right in front of you, and served in a loaf of bread.  This dude from Public Radio named Balik Ekmek to be the best sandwich in the world!

I did enjoy the mackerel.  But is it the best sandwich in the world?  No.  In fact, I found it to be not even the best sandwich in Istanbul!  This honor goes to a sandwich you can get on the streets of Istanbul called Kokorec.  Mmmmmm….

Imagine this: various lamb parts (don’t ask what they are) are thrown together, wrapped by a coil of lamb intestine.  A sausage involves sticking stuff into intestine; that is different.  Kokorec involves wrapping the intestine around the stuffing.  Well either way, it sounds rather gross haha.  But it gets better.  You stick the coil on a rotating fire spit (of course), and it ends up warm and crispy.  Then you chop it up, mix in some veggies, lemon, and spicy stuff, and serve on a load of bread.  Pure genius.

Do people eat this often?  Don’t know, maybe not.  It sure sounded like a great idea at 2am one Saturday night, after some drinking.  It toooootally hit the spot.  A couple days later, we tried some Kokorec again – this time during the day and sober – and it was just as tasty.  I think Woj even went for a 3rd or 4th time during his extended stay….  Below is a photo of Jeff and me posing with our inaugural Kokorec sandwiches, and Janine laughing at us for taking dumb tourist photos 🙂

You can get other tasty delights on the street as well.  Here is Janine tasting mussels stuffed with rice, while Jeff is tasting fried mussels with garlic sauce?  It was cool eating mussels the street food way. Eat as many as you like, then they count the number of shells and charge you later.

We even made a new friend – the street vendor dude who made our Kokorec and mussels 🙂

Istanbul is a major cosmopolitan city.  It has its share of fine, hip dining as well.  We visited a restaurant and bar called 360.  It’s super hip – in fact, I can only think of a couple restaurants in Chicago (like Japonais) that have as swank of an atmosphere.  Furthermore, 360 is located on the top floor of building and has an outside deck that gives you a great 360 degree view of Istanbul.

One thing that’s neat about Turkish food is the use of spices.  Food seems to get more bland as you go west – especially the UK and the US.  In Turkey, you could taste lots of great things due to heavy use of spices.  The food isn’t particularly spicy hot – just spicy flavorful.  They have a cool Spice Market in town too, so you can load up on your spice cabinet…

Finally, you would enjoy yourself just by eating Turkish desserts.  The most famous dessert is Turkish Delight.  But there are other ones too.  We visited a well-known dessert place called Saray and had a nice sampling of goodies 🙂

Related links:
– All Turkey trip articles on my blog: http://discopalace-blog.blogspot.com/search/label/trip-Turkey
– My full blog: http://discopalace.com/blog

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