Food of Istanbul
One of the best ways to experience a different culture is through its food. At Isla, we love sourcing out the best nutritional and organic foods around the world, but sometimes the best palate pleasers are not quite so healthy! As I jetted off to Istanbul, I made it a point to test out the best gastronomical options the city had to offer and these are some of my favorites:
Turkish Tea & Coffee
Both staples in the Turkish culture, tea and coffee are more than just drinks; they’re social occasions. While coffee is usually only reserved for after a meal, tea is served throughout the day. Offering tea is a sign of hospitality, and many shopkeepers offer it to draw you in to look at their goods. I love how both are served—coffee in small brightly painted porcelain cups and tea in tiny tulip-shaped glasses.
A typical street snack in Istanbul, Simit is a large circular sesame bread, kind of a cross between a pretzel and a bagel. As you wander the streets of the city you’ll see many carts piled high with these treats, and they make a perfect snack to pick up if you’re on the go.
Most everyone is familiar with this sweet treat made of layers of phyllo dough and chopped pistachios or walnuts. In Turkey, the baklava is sweetened with sugar rather than honey and is melt-in-your-mouth delicious! Definitely not calorie friendly, but it’s usually served in small bite-size portions, so I didn’t feel guilty sampling some for dessert.
A sweet gummy candy, Turkish Delight has been around since the days of the Ottoman Empire. Known as lokum in Turkish, meaning “morsel of contentment,” it can be found in a variety of flavors and colors, my favorites being the ones rolled in confectioners’ sugar or coconut. You will see hundreds of these little cubes arranged in piles in all the markets, and most vendors will let you taste one for free.
The Turkish version of clotted cream, kaymak is best served with honeycomb and crusty bread for breakfast (known as Bal kaymak). The most indulgent, delicious piece of heaven, this is now my favorite breakfast food ever! Subtly sweet and airy and gloriously simple, I was taken to a happy place every morning the minute this hit my table.
Another delicious way to enjoy kaymak is over stewed quince for dessert, known as ayva tatlisi. The light subtleness of the cream mixes perfectly with the sweet, syrupy glazed fruit.
Typical Turkish Breakfast
A healthy way to start the day, a typical Turkish breakfast includes farm-fresh staples such as cheese, tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, and bread. And of course it’s always served with a glass of strong Turkish tea. A great Mediterranean way to fuel up for the day, and the healthy options made me feel less guilty for indulging in the heavenly bal kaymak!
Fresh Pomegranate Juice
Everywhere you go in Istanbul, you will see fresh fruit juice stands. The most popular juice is freshly squeezed pomegranate juice, which is extremely nutritious and refreshing! Pomegranates are a superfood, high in antioxidants and vitamins A, C, and E. I enjoyed a frothy glass outside the Hagia Sofia sitting amid Byzantine ruins, and it was the perfect pick-me-up to continue on my sight-seeing tour.
All Photos ©2012 Britta Duncan