Tastes of Istanbul – What to Eat in This Turkish City

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Flight Network Foodie  

Istanbul is a dream destination for foodies, as the cuisine is creative, flavourful and shaped by a wide range of influences including Central Asian, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, Caucasian and Balkan traditions. The fertile Anatolian heartland and the Aegean Sea offer plenty of fresh produce and seafood. Along with the quintessential experiences of visiting the Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sophia and the Grand Bazaar, enjoying the cuisine of Istanbul is a must during your visit.

So what delicious Turkish dishes should you feast on during your trip to this city that spans across Europe and Asia? Here is a preview of the tastes that you have to look forward to:

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Meze

Meze is not a specific dish, but rather a style of eating. Similar to tapas in Spain, Meze is a series of small appetizers that are shared and enjoyed, often with alcoholic drinks. A restaurant that specializes in Meze will be called a meyhane and you will usually be presented with a choice of several different small dishes. Each member of your dinner party can choose their dish and the food is placed in the middle of the table and shared.

Meze is a really fun way to try many different types of food at one meal! Some examples of the most popular meze plates include fried eggplant with tomato sauce, pinto beans, artichoke, grilled eggplants with yogurt and much more.

Simit

This is a ring-shaped type of bread that somewhat resembles a bagel with sesame seeds yet is crisp and crunchy. It is one of the most beloved foods of the Turks and they eat it for breakfast or buy it on the go from street vendors. Check out the very popular fast food chain “Simit Palace” where you will find warm freshly baked simit filled with cheese or stuffed with other fillings.

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Kuyu Kebabi

The word Kuyu means “well” and this meat dish consists of an entire male lamb (without inner organs), suspended over a well in the ground with a charcoal fire at the bottom. The lamb is very slowly cooked, leaving the meat incredibly soft and tender. Pine tree branches are used to flavor the meat, giving it a distinctive woodsy aroma.

To get a taste of this authentic Turkish tradition from the Black Sea Region, head to a traditional restaurant in the district of Fatih.

Baklava

The Turkish love their desserts and tasting baklava is essential during your visit. It is a delicate pastry made with paper-thin phyllo dough, syrup and rather hazelnuts, walnuts or pistachios. There is nothing quite like the way the pastry melts in your mouth and the delicate sweetness of the syrup complements the rich nutty taste.

Head to one of the well-known baklava spots such as Güllüoğlu or Köşkeroğlu and have a freshly baked square. You’ll fall in love and want to eat it every day.

Delicious Baklava!
Delicious Baklava!

Manti

Try this hearty dish, sometimes called Turkish ravioli, for a comforting and filling meal. It consists of hot dumplings made with dough and filled with ground beef or lamb, onion, salt and pepper. Manti can be ordered with spinach, salmon or sometimes chicken and it is usually served with yogurt, tomato and garlic sauce.

Lahmacun

A simple and easy dish that is hugely popular, Lahmacun is a thin dough that is topped with a tasty mix of spicy minced lamb and finely chopped peppers. It is baked in a pizza style over and topped with lemon and parsley.

Halil Lahmacun is a chain restaurant that does this dish very well. Try it with Ayran, which is a refreshing yogurt drink that is the perfect thing to wash it down with.

Durum

This is one of the tastiest meals you will find in Istanbul. It consists of spiced lamb simmered on a skewer over coals, then wrapped in flat bread with onions, parsley, tomatoes and sumac (a citrus-like spice).

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These succulent and savory rolls are served with pickled chilies. You will absolutely love the spicy, salty, meaty taste with a slight hint of citrus. Be warned, they are addictive!

Honey

Did you know that Turkey produces some of the best honey in Europe? You will find many honey shops on the streets of Istanbul with glowing pots of sweet golden nectar for sale. Make sure that you bring some home with you as a souvenir. Also, if you want to try some during your visit many of the shops offer pots of fresh yogurt with a scoop of delicious honey on top – the perfect sweet treat.

These are just a few of the delicious foods that you should try during your visit to Istanbul, so that you can get a taste of the culinary traditions of this great Turkish city.

About the Author: Kelly Dunning

A Canadian freelance writer with a love of art, culture, literature and adventure, Kelly loves exploring foreign lands and expressing her experiences through the power of the written word. She and her English boyfriend Lee run Global-Goose.com, packed full with guides, stories and inspiration for those who dream of travel. They have been location independent and travelling the world digital-nomad style since 2011, with no address, no car and no fixed schedule.

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