Cultural Diversity of Istanbul
As being the capital of 3 Empires in the history, lstanbul has different cuisines from various cultures. You cannot find the cultural diversity of Istanbul in any other city in Turkey. You can still come across with the traces of the Armenian, Greek, Circassian and Ottoman cuisine in this city. Considering that lstanbul is situated on two continents and the city is surrounded on 6 sides by sea, fish and seafood are onsumed much more than the general population of the country. It is possible to find different fishes in the restaurants in each season as the fishes coming from Black Sea to Marmara Region pass through the Bosporus.
The best way to get to know the culture of the city is observing the street vendors and the street food. Turkish bagets cotton candy, grilled chestnuts, grilled fish sandwich, kokorec, rice with chickpeas are a few of the street delicacies that we can count at once when imagining Istanbul. Street food never disappoints you as it is both cheap and fresh Be ready to meet with stanbul’s street foods offering tastes that can steal travelers from the best restaurants in Turkey.
My food route suggestion for the domestic and foreign tourists visiting Istanbul is a route starting from Aksaray to Sultanahmet Eminonu, Karakoy and Taksim. You can taste many different foods in the numerous food stop in a day and it will be a feast for your taste buds. My food route with my guests visiting from abroad starts with liver shish at 06:00 a m. in Aksaray Ciğeristan is a 24-hour restaurant serving liver. Making breakfast with liver shish in the early hours of the morning is a traditional breakfast of Urfa region. The lamb liver on skewers and tail fat are cooked in the coal fire and served with the skewers. Do not try to pull down the meats from the skewer with a fork. The method to eat this food is to put 2 or 3 skewers on lavash and cover the lamb liver with lavash and then push the livers with one hand and take the skewers with other hand, First, onions with sumac, fresh mint and parsley which will be serviced with the food are added to lavash and then dry spices such as cumin and sumac are added as a flavor supplement. Drinking tea after getting some liver shish is customary. Tea means black tea in Turkey. Nobody will ever ask you “Green tea or English tea?”. Turks drink tea after each meal no matter if it is breakfast or dinner Tea must be drunk from slender glasses.
The second stop for breakfast is “Boris’in Yeri” in Kumkapi. After having liver, you can make a nice finish with the cream made by buffalo milk from Thrace region and pure honey from Semdinli in this small shop owned by Mr Boris who is a Bulgarian immigrant. A breakfast with buffalo cream and honey will make you start a day like a bomb. There are also other options such as molasses with tahini, White cheese and eggs with deep fried meat.
After filling every cell of your body with joy in the early morning, you should go to Sultanahmet and visit the tourist destinations before it gets too crowded as it will take at least 2 or 3 hours. After the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Bazaar, now you are at Eminönü, You should not leave here without eating doner and kokorec.
There are hundreds of places making doner in lstanbul, but there are only few places where you get the real flavor of doner, Zümrüt Döner located at just behind the Spice Bazaar is a restaurant that you can taste the real flavor of doner. You have no chance to sit down and eat You order your meal and they wrap it and you eat standing up. The most important point for doner is the waiting time of the meat. The meat waited at the table for 20 minutes dries and becomes tasteless. In Zümrüt Döner, the meat is put in the wrap as soon as it cut and you eat it with joy while it is piping hot.
Kokorec is a typical Turkish food. You will not find it easily in the United States and in Europe. Thoroughly cleaned lamb intestines wrapped onto skewers are cooked in the coal fire. The inside stays slightly wet and surface becomes as brown as a berry, would not recommend you to eat kokorec in any place because it is an intestine. In some places, salute with tomato and pepper is cooked on the steel plate but this is not real kokorec, Kokorec must be cooked and sliced on coal fire. Kral Kokorec is one of the few places in Istanbul which properly makes kokorec.
After dinner if you feel like eating desert you have two options in Eminönü lf you want something light but yummy at the same time you should have “lokum Turkish delight), otherwise if you want your desert to suppress the taste of doner and kokorec, you should have baklava”. In my opinion, you should taste both while you are on a food route.
150-year old Ali Muhittin Hacl Bekir is the oldest Turkish delight shop known in Istanbul. It is still not factory made and offers joy to its customers with the same employees for 40 years in their old shop You will have difficulty to decide which one to choose in hundreds of kinds of delight. You can start with Turkish delight with hard consistency and then make the last shot with delight with cream Especially delight with cream slides down to stomach. Do not forget to get sugar candy to bring friends.
Hafiz Mustafa is the right place for baklava. If you felt like you were in Wonderland” in the delight shop and then be ready to feel whole a lot more. There is a wide array of Baklava which derives from Aleppo and Antep. Eating the special square baklava made from pistachio and peanut wrap is a must only if you will not overeat.
We have eaten a lot, bon appetite, now it’s time to have a Turkish coffee, Turkish coffee makes the same sense to Turkish people with espresso to ans. The most significant characteristic of Turkish coffee is in preparation which is made with water and sugar without filtering the coffee, that’s why you should be careful while drinking First smell the coffee to please yourself. Let the coffee powders sink to the bottom while the coffee is getting cold enough to drink. Foamy form of Turkish coffee is acceptable, by this means you will be able to slump. If you want to take a package of coffee with you, ask for Kuru Kahveci Mehmet Efendi. It will be easy to find the shop because of the smells of freshly grinded coffee surrounds the Street.
You may pass Galata Bridge by walking to Karakoy. Those who are interested in photography are lucky, have the chance to take wonderful photos with anglers. There are coffee shops under the bridge in which you may eat fried fish sandwich or use water pipe. lf you have a seat the back side of the bridge overlooking the Topkapı Palace, you may see ships sailing to both Golden Horn and the Bosphorus. If you still have some space for food in your stomach, my suggestion to eat a lahmacun (pancake with spicy meat filling) with a cup of s buttermilk in Köşkeroğlu, Karaköy. Antep style lahmacun contains not only a spicy meat but also vegetables like tomato, green pepper and parsley. The distinctive characteristic of this Antep style lahmacun is the garlic instead of onion. This place is assertive about its baklava and kadayıf (shredded wheat in syrup) as well as its kebabs and my favourite is the shredded wheat dessert with pistachio filling, namely Burma kadayıf.
The best shop for gourmet delicacies like olive, cheese or pastrami is Namli Gurme in Karaköy. You may find cheese from every region of Turkey in this shop. You are lucky if you are interested in olive and olive oil. In Turkey, buying olive is as the same way as a food festival in which you taste all of the olives in the market and then buy one. If you don’t like processed meats like salami or sausage then the pastrami i just for you. First taste it and then you may take a pound of vacuum pack home. And finally lstiklal avenue! No matter you how you get Istiklal Avenue, by foot or by funicular both from Karakoy, you will be welcomed with glorious cuisines of not just lstanbul but Turkey. You can find laz meals of Eastern Black Sea in Klemuri that most of the Turkish even doesn’t know about it, pita bread with fried meat and eggs in Nizam Pide Salonu, fireside Adana kebabsin Zübeyir Ocakbaşı Armenian and Cherkess cuisine in Ficcin. Especially in the evenings Turkish raki tables in Asmalımescit, Fish Markets and Nevizade streets are bursting at the seams. It is possible to find olive oil dishes with Aegean herbs, sea foods like calamari, octopus and crabs in wine bars of this region. Our local drink raki accompanies the convivial, musical and everlasting dinners. Turkish coffee ends up the dinner, but the tripe soup offal restaurants lend a hand to those who have a little too much to drink. Tarihi Cumhuriyet lskembe Salonu also maintains its quality level for years, the tripe soup of this restaurant acts like an antibiotic with plenty of red pepper flakes and garlic. Istanbul acts as a miniature form of Turkey. You have a chance to find different tastes from different regions. There are lots of cultural tastes that I could not mention in this article. Haricot Bean Restaurants in Nurosmaniye, traditional restaurants that offer the most beautiful examples of Ottoman cuisine, Siirt and Bitlis style Büryan (meat cooked in underground pit oven Restaurants in Fatih.. one can find countless Turkish flavors in lstanbul.
by SEMİH DİKEN