Rusch Meyer, a German film maker produced this short video about Turkish food using our band Turku's live recording of Fidayda. There is no narration, just yummy video.
People sometimes ask me where they should go to eat in Istanbul.
At the bottom, you see some frames with pics and words. We have salatalar (salads) kebaplar (kababs) tatılar (desserts), çorbalar (soups), pilavlar (rice type dishes), and yemekler (that just means foods. If you click on it, you see it is divided into 'etli yemekler' (meat dishes) and etsiz yemekler(meatless dishes)).
If you've gotten a handle on your Turkish alphabet with the phonetics, you might find it fun to try and pick out the english words on the page. there are quite a few. remember that they might have Turkish suffixes stuck onto the end.
The word "Yöre:" is indicating the town or region that the food is from.
You may see some odd characters on the page. there are 2 kinds of turkish keyboards. When you go to an internet cafe there and try to send emails home, they might see some weird characters. depends on their encoding. The weird 'a' looking thing on their page is a g. Sometimes an undotted i shows up as a strange 'y'.
If you find the otlar page, it has pics and names of many of their herbs.
The "Günün Menüsü" page refers to special dishes made that day.
|I've found a great blog on food in Ankara by Steven Bartus, an English teacher at Bilkent University. There is a google map with the restaurants he's reviewed. Reading his blog, you'll learn alot about the different foods and types of restaurants in Turkiye. Some of the places are chains, so you may see them in Istanbul, as well. You can check it out here.
Culinary Backstreets Istanbul is a great site with some fun food blogs.
|One of the (very) few things that some travelers dislike about Istanbul is the fact that you can't escape the cigarette smoke. That is changing. There is a ban, effective in 2009 that prohibits smoking in bars, restaurants, coffee houses and the gardens of schools.
The new law prohibits smoking in all enclosed public areas. Smoking on buses, airplanes and large offices is banned, as it is on taxis, ferries, trains and some open-air locations such as stadiums and playgrounds.
This is a big improvement that I think will have a positive effect on tourism.
|The most famous area to go for fish is Kumkapi. It's packed with cafes, all with competing bands. It is a tourist trap, but it can be fun if you do just a couple things to keep from getting ripped off. Every cafe has someone outside trying to hussle you in. They may offer a free raki with your dinner, or some such thing. If they don't give you an itemized bill at the end, demand one. Take note of the price of everything you order and make sure that's how it shows up on the bill. If not, call them on it. If they bring out an appetizer tray for you to pick from, don't be shy about asking the price. If you order a fish, know the price. If it's market price, ask before they bring it to you.
We used to prefer the Balık Pazari next to Çiçek Pasaji. It wasn't so touristy. But it really has gotten bad since they got their new fancy sign and are no longer a back alley.
We went to a place there called Degustation, which took it's name from a famous place which used to be on Isteklal. We had been there a few times on previous trips, but this time, when the bill came, our jaws dropped. They tried to charge us 260 lira ($206 at the time) for three people. (a few appetizers, 2 local variety fish, 3 beers) They even charged us for bread, which ALWAYS comes free with meze. (usually free with any meal. I've had whole loaves of bread set in front of me when I'd only ordered a bowl of soup)
We raised hell with the manager, and they brought it down some, but it was still outrageous.
What's for dinner? Actually, there is a dish called döner (pronounced almost like 'dinner') that you see everywhere. It's meat that's layered on a rotisserie spit and sliced off like gyro. You can get it as a sandwich or on a plate as a meal. Here's a list of some more common dishes to help you wade through the wonderland of Turkish cuisine...
|For the longest time, we never saw a supermarket in the old neighborhoods of Istanbul, where you'll probably be staying. And you'll probably not have a kitchen, or even a microwave, though you may have a mini-fridge in your hotel room. The restaurants are very inexpensive, though. And don't forget to pick up a Turkish cookbook to take home for those times when you really miss Istanbul. (*update*...We found a couple grocery stores on the street behind our hotel. For about 25 cents each, we brought home a million packets of lentil soup mix. (ezogelin corba) It's pretty good and easy to make; and one of our favourite snacks in Istanbul.) We like the little convenience stores that dot the neighborhoods. It's good to keep snacks and drinks in your room and these C stores are great for that. They're cheap and you can get paper quarts of cherry (visne) or orange (portakal) juice and alot of the American junk food (candy bars and chips) that you're used to. Some have Turkish baked goods and other fun and interesting things. Most of the pre-packaged stuff has a picture of the product on the package, so try some new stuff! If you need any kind of medicine, look for an eczane. One handy thing to know is that it's the law here that when a drug store closes, it must put up a sign telling you where the nearest 24 hour eczane is located.|
|Turkish cuisine is fabulous. Don't
just stick to the first restaurant you find that you like, because they tend
to specialize. One place might make pizza type things (not exclusively,
but especially) or do mostly seafood, or feature food from a particular
region of Turkey. Some specialize in "Meze" which are appetizers
and these can be really fun. They bring out a large tray piled up with little
dishes of appetizers. Many people skip the menu and entrees and just sample
everything that looks good on the meze tray. Kumkapi neighborhood is famous
for it's seafood restaurants. It can be pricey and chaotic, but it's always
interesting. In warm weather, the shops open up and put tables outside this
pedestrian street. It's one restaurant after another, each with it's own
band playing Turkish music. You have to run the gauntlet of hosts trying
to drag you into their shop, or entice you in with offers of free Raki with
your meal. (check your bill after) We'd just as soon go to the market near
Çiçek Pasaji off Isteklal Caddesi and have midye tava (fried mussels) if
we want fish. That's a neat market to walk through anyway, without the tourist
trap of Kumkapi. One dish you should check out is lahmacun. It's cheap (around $2) and pretty much the same no matter where you get it. It's just a little thin pizza looking thing with finely ground meat,spices, and some veggies.
Is it hard to be a vegetarian in Istanbul? Not as hard as it is to be a non-smoker. I think I could be a vegetarian in Istanbul easier than I could in the US. So many good eggplant dishes, beans, and the like. One favorite is Çiğ köfte. It was traditionally raw lamb meatballs, but I understand that this is not legal in restaurants anymore. Now, it is made with bulgar, and it's very tasty. Just wrap it up in a lettuce leaf for a quick lunch.
Oh, I could talk about Turkish food all day, but I really encourage you to experiment fearlessly when it comes to food in Istanbul.
|Many people asked us why we were going
to Istanbul during Ramadan. We've been twice during Ramadan; and though
we wouldn't visit most Muslim countries at that time, Istanbul is no problem.
Quite the contrary. Every night during the month of Ramadan there is a festival
at the Hippodrome. It's very colorful and you'll be able to hear great live
music. You can also try Turkish festival foods that you can't get other times of the year. The restaurants are all still open during the day, and we had no
trouble getting fed. It would be considerate to avoid
walking down the street munching away on something. Also, if you venture out into the country-side, you may find more closed restaurants.
I recommend a book called, "Eat Smart in Turkey" that has a very complete explanation of Turkish Foods. You can find it in our Turku Guide Library.
|The area of Fatih mosque has much to offer if you're hungry or figuring you'll be hungry sometime in the next few days. On Wednesdays, there is a large market in the streets with produce, clothing, and household goods for sale. Out one gate of the mosque is an area of shops selling cheese, produce, nuts, honey, fish, and other yummy things. One of our favorite lunchtime fish restaurants is there. Try the karides guveç, a shrimp cassarole with cheese. Make sure you walk around Fatih Camii. In the back is a beautiful cemetary and a turbe, or tomb. Standing there, look up at the walls of the Camii and try to spot the built-in bird houses. There are green parrots living there, very high up.
Heading out of the opposite gate, wander out to find the bronze horse sculpture. There are a few hookah bars in old houses, and at the end of the block, a charming little coffee shop. From here you can see the end of the aquaduct. Follow it downhill on the left side. You will soon run into Kadınlar Pazarı (Lady's Market). It is famous for butcher shops, but there are also many restaurants and shops selling kuruyemiş, or dried/preserved fruits and nuts. If you walk through, and up the hill, you end up at Zeyrekhane, a very nice restaurant in an ancient Byzantine church. We had lunch there one day, looking out over Istanbul; and watching a boy exercising his pigeon flock up on a neighboring rooftop. *sigh* Writing this now, I'm ready to go back.
|Mama said 'don't drink the water!'
For the first few trips, I wouldn't even brush my teeth with the tap water in Istanbul, even though an expat friend told us that it was ok. Then, we were there for a whole month, and I said, screw it, and drank plain old tap water out of the apartment. No problem. I still order bottled water at restaurants; though, many of them bring you bottles of water automatically.