60 degree weather makes K a happy gal. And when I travel, I walk a ton in order to allow the rhythm of the place seep into me rather than just get from point A to point B. Plus! Meandering allows one to score some culinary street side fare that rivals any sit down place. My pattern usually is to eat constantly from these snack like locations during the day, stopping for tea or coffee, and then waiting until dinner to decompress and eat leisurely.
Let me recall a few lovely aspected of Istanbul for you #34A sense of Spice, and #5 A sense of taste
Spice Market and Grand Bazar: The Sultan’s mother The Sultan’s mother built the Spice Market in 1597, and inside so many treasures awaited my exploration. In the Grand Bazar, it truly lives up to its name…21 gates, over 4000 stores, 64 streets, 2 Mosques and 500 years of history…meandering about, learning when it ignore the calls for “are you looking for? Come, let me show you” and of course, SAMPLING! felt right my my alley….so to speak. On more than a dozen times, men commented on the “beautiful blue” of my eyes and, FUNNY!, “nice shoes” (Adidas Super Gels!). Flattery will get you somewhere…
HINT: Don’t buy the yellow Turkish Saffron. My guide Salih and the man in the picture above said “it’s just coloring”…get the deep, darkest RED hued honey charcoal smelling kind.
# 5 A sense of TASTE
It’s difficult for me to write about strolling along the avenue in 60 degree weather and coming upon Simit (Turkish Bread Rings) when it is 12 degrees now in Germany and I burned my English muffin in the crappy toaster.
The bread in Turkey is considered Holy, and if a person leaves a bit of it uneaten on the streets, one believes that it will eventually be eaten (by the roaming wild kitties there? the homeless? The skinny American tourist?). I am more a fan of baguettes in France or Polish Obwarzanki…but never before had I tasted rice street food, peppered with crunchy roasted chickpeas and spices.
This heaven town of doner…a 300 year old tradition of thinly slicing meat (40 POUNDS) slowly roasted and grilled on a rotating skewer. Oh, you poor little vegetarians would weep at the taste of the naturally salty, sweetly spiced, juicy meat layered in this case with marinated vegetables. In America, they grind their meat for doners…here, they painstakingly layer it, and thus, the juices spiral together in sacred gustatory matrimony. Served either in a pita or bread and with accouterments of spices…I stopped mid-argument to appreciate the precision of this meal…which Germans appreciate as the MOST POPULAR FAST FOOD IN THEIR COUNTRY, eating about 2 BILLION dollars worth (Remember, Germany is the size of Montana!!!!!).
The Turkish word for breakfast, kahvaltı, means “before coffee” (kahve, ‘coffee’…more on that below!).Of course, only hotels with free breakfasts win my affection. Because vacation is NO VACATION unless I squeeze in a 45 minute session of buffet training (ahem: strolling to the buffet, to the table, and repeat: 12 times is quite grueling), which I am planning to medal in. A typical Turkish breakfast consists of white cheeses (beyaz peynir), olives, eggs, tomatoes, cucumbers, and MY HEAVEN AGAIN….reçel (a marmalade of whole fruits) and honey usually consumed on top of kaymak. Have you eaten it? it is like clotted creamish…cheesish pools of salty oooooyness
Salih suggested a local place, for dinner the final evening, which was perhaps the most lovely of edibles during the stay (besides the HomeCooked one). The Ottoman empire reins in the finest of Turkish cuisine, whose tributaries run outward to Portugal, Greece, Spain, the rest of the Balkans (I feel so refined to know where they are on a map!). I am now a believer in the holiness of bread here.
And the first course offered what I love best: SAMPLES. Of all the best dippy sauces Turkey wants to land in your belly. Of course, there was a hummus like one, then a beet-root one which was my favorite, a pesto-like one, and a red-pepper tomato one.
Then the two main courses: spicy lamb kebap, which was just okay-ish in texture and flavor…why? Because the Ali Nazik may be one of the most precious dishes I’ve encountered this whole fall. The flavor profiles combined tastes that individually, I am all too familiar with, but prepared together, well, transported me to Happy Land. If I could bottle it and send it to you I WOULDN’T. I would ration it until the taste perfumed my sweat. The lamb meat was roasted, and perched on top a bed of eggplant swimming in yogurt, olive oil, spices, and bread…then baked into a bubbly, “God-GET-MORE-IN-MY-TUMMY”, manner. I would claw into a harem if this dish was promised on the menu on a weekly basis…
I didn’t expect the food to SOOOO good and nourishing…….but it was….the world on a plate.