Istanbul For the Hungry — A Foodie’s Guide to the City’s Cuisine

Few places boast an entirely unique cuisine. Many are, at best, derivative of other, more exciting cultures. Istanbul is that other, more exciting culture, a melting pot of influences bridging two continents that have come together to give this city a flavor all of its own. Turkish cuisine is exported all around the world in the most commonly enjoyed form of the kebab, but Istanbul has many dishes which haven’t enjoyed such ubiquity. It’s a city, nay, a country with flavor, and these dishes beg to be sampled on your holidays to Turkey.

Simit

Simit is a carb-enthusiast’s dream, a crunchy round ring of bread which looks like a relative of the bagel, it’s usually dusted in sesame seeds and dipped in molasses before being bakes. Enjoy with a fragrant cup of tea as a portable, exquisite breakfast.

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Mezes

Sure, you’ll find mezes in other places in the world than Istanbul, just as you can find chorizo outside Barcelona and gumbo outside of Louisiana. But it won’t taste the same as this delicately prepared tapa that usually incorporates the more vegetarian dishes of the Turkish diet in miniature, such as halloumi, falafel and eggplant, as well as a few meat choices like minced lamb and pork.

Tavuk göğsü

Tavuk göğsü is a signature Turkish dish made with chicken and milk that was served to sultans of the Ottoman Empire. And it’s a dessert. Presumably they were unwilling to compromise on their immediate requirement for both chicken and pudding, so the two were fused and this interesting blancmange-like concoction was born.

Tantumi

This delicate wrap is perfect for scarfing down on the hoof, and hails originally from the south of Turkey. Finely chopped beef, tomatoes and herbs are rolled up in lavas to make a juicy little bundle of joy. Just be aware, eating it tends to get messy, quickly.

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Istanbul… so many people talk about the history, about the sights, but it’s a city that’s all about flavors too. To focus solely on the attractions is to miss out. Immerse yourself in the city’s gastronomic culture and you can enjoy the full Turkish experience.

Images by henribergius and Screaming Chicken Studio, used under Creative Commons license. 

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