We're on a mission to discover some authentic Turkish foods and in the video, below we track down the best Turkish delight, Balik Ekmed, Dondurma (Turkish ice cream), Kunefe, Durum doner, Durum kebab and Baklava. All in the name of science =)
Turkish cuisine is known for its seemingly infinite breadth of flavour imparted by herbs and spices such as mint, parsley, cinnamon, cumin, garlic, and dill. What’s remarkable is that even with the wealth of flavours, the Turks are able to maintain a balance of tastes, never overpowering. If you missed the previous blog post where we had an amazing dinner of meze style Turkish specialities check here.
A great selection of traditional Turkish delight is available from Karakoy Gulluoglu but if you want some high-end stuff check out Alipasazade VIP Bazaar across the river in Fatih. In the previous video just before we did the Bosphorus cruise you will see where we sample some of the incredible delights we purchased from Alipasazade. Yum!
The 'traditional' Balik Ekmek is a sandwich of a filet of fried or grilled fish (typically mackerel, or other similar oily fish), served along with various vegetables, inside a bun of Turkish bread. The version you find around the touristy area is rather awful and if you want to experience a modern twist on this classic do yourself a favour and visit Balık Dürüm Mehmet Usta. They do a fantastic Balik Dürüm which is grilled mackerel carefully boned and served rolled in a flatbread which is then grilled. You won't believe it has the same origin as the Ekmek!
We've been avoiding the traditional Turkish Ice-cream ( Dondurma) stands in the tourist areas as they are notorious for ripping you off. Our first taste of this rather unique treat was at Çerkezköy Delicatessen where there is no surprise and the quantity and quality fantastic. Two things distinguish Turkish ice cream: hard texture and resistance to melting, brought about by the inclusion of the thickening agents' salep, a flour made from the root of the early purple orchid, and mastic, a resin that imparts chewiness.
At a later point in our visit to Istanbul, Lisa was tempted to get some ice-cream from a vendor in Istiklal street and although mighty entertaining he refused to disclose the price of the ice-cream until the very end. Eventually, they insist that you pay about 10 times what you would expect to pay at a deli/delicatessen and we refused and walked away. Interesting situation and best avoided so make sure you know the price BEFORE they entice you to take hold of that ice-cream cone!
Kunefe is a traditional Arab dessert with a history that goes as far back as the 10th century. A sampling of kunefe is mandatory when you’re in Istanbul, not only because of its role in Turkey’s culinary history but because it is really, really good. It's made with cheese and shredded Kadayif dough soaked in sweet syrup. If you find baklava too sweet, you must try this sweet cheese pastry. What makes this dessert different from others is that it must be eaten hot, right after it is cooked.
The most popular variant of Doner Kebab in Istanbul is a mixture of lamb and beef, with the fat melting away - marinating the leaner parts of the meat to result in succulent, flavorful, melt-in-your-mouth layers of charred meat. There are several ways of serving Doner Kebab – on a plate with a side of onions, tomatoes, pickles, and yoghurt; rolled in flatbread; and or just as is – with no sides or garnishes. We had quite a few and they honestly varied in quality so the best advice would be to get pointers from locals or check reviews online.
Baklava is Turkey’s most popular dessert, bearing historical significance which goes as far back as the 8th century. Several countries claim to be the birthplace of this sweet dessert, but no historical account seems reliable enough to be taken as fact. One well-embraced fact, however, is that baklava is a definite must whenever in Istanbul. It consists of layers upon layers of flaky filo dough bound by rosewater syrup or honey and filled with ground nuts in the middle.