All the things you need to eat in Istanbul

Photo via Getty Images/berkay

All the things you need to eat in Istanbul

Foodie City Guides

All the things you need to eat in Istanbul

Istanbul is an easy city to fall in love with. The stunning centuries-old architecture, the glistening of the Bosphorus against the city lights and the cauldron of ancient cultures make the city formerly known as Constantinople a captivating place. As Susan Moody described it, it’s ”the constant beating of the wave of the East against the rock of the West.” And as lovely as all that is, what really keeps me returning to Istanbul – and the rest of Turkey – over and over again is the food.

I could go to Istanbul for a week, do nothing but eat and be happy. The Turks are masters of meat, eggplant and yogurt; their dessert options are vast and decadent; their brunches are fit for sultans; and good luck finding better octopus anywhere on the planet.

Turks are probably most famous for their kebabs and doner (not to mention coffee), and you should absolutely get those things on a visit. But here are nine foods you probably won’t find back home that you need to try in Turkey.

Manti

As far as I’m concerned, few foods on earth are as perfect as manti. Often described s Turkish ravioli, these tiny handmade dumplings are filled with ground meat and topped off with cold, creamy yogurt sauce, tons of garlic and, occasionally hot, rich tomato sauce. Challenging to make and incredibly difficult to make well, manti is that perfect mix of hot and cold, simple yet decadent. Protip: manti is best homemade, but if you don’t know any locals, try getting it from a restaurant that serves nothing but mant, as it’s so difficult to do right. 

Raki balik

You should not leave Turkey without having a raki balik meal. Raki is a clear aniseed-flavored liquor similar to ouzo, usually drunk mixed with water. When you go out for raki balik, you order a bottle and drink glass after glass of the stuff from a chilled tableside bottle. Balik (fish) is what’s for dinner, but the real highlight of the dinner is plate after plate of traditional hot and cold mezes (small, shared plates) that you munch on throughout the night as you continue to sip raki. This is gluttony at its finest – in slow motion. Protip: go with a big group so you can order more food. 

Islak burger

Islak burgers, or “wet burgers,” are kind of like a cross between White Castle and sloppy Joe’s. First soaked in tomato sauce from bun to beef, then steamed in a glass case, islak burgers are a favorite of late-night partygoers in Istanbul’s Taksim Square. They’re best eaten when you’re too intoxicated to know better and young enough that you’ll be able to recover the next morning. But man, are they delicious.

Turkish pizza (pide)

View this post on Instagram

#TurkishPide #5cheeses #yumyum #iftar #thesavouryrevolution

A post shared by Ani (@anisa101patel) on

There are two foods that are often described as Turkish pizza – lahmacun and pide. In my opinion, the first is a lousy description. While similar in aesthetic, lahmacun has no real resemblance to pizza when it comes to taste. This open-faced wrap consists of a thin bread similar to lavash covered in a layer of minced meat, tomato, onion, spices and herbs. You add some raw lettuce, tomato and onion into the middle, roll it up and eat it. Pide, on the other hand, is more or less oblong-shaped pizza. Considering Turks are masterful bakers, the dough is invariably great, and pide are topped with anything from cheese and salami to egg and ground beef. 

Menemen

View this post on Instagram

Herkese merhaba🤗 Öğle yemeği olmayanlar için menemen, hem pratik hemde doyurucu bir öğün olacaktır. Yanında 1 su bardağı ayranla birlikte öğünümüz tamam demektir💪😋 Dipnot; (tavsiyemdir) içine ekleyeceğiniz bir tutam kuş üzümü ve tarçınla farklı bir lezzet yakalayacaksınız. Herkese afiyet olsun🌸 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . #fittarifler #sagliklitabaklar #fitfikirler #diyetisyenonerisi #diyetisyenfatma #diyetisyenneyer #diyetisyen #onlinediyet #healthy #healtyhfood #saglik #saglikliyasam #beslenme ##temizbeslenme #menemen #ogleonerisi #diyet #diyetteyim #zayiflamamgerek #kiloalma #kilokoruma #kilpverme #yasakyokporsiyonkontroluvar #diyetmotivasyonu #diyethesaplari #fityemekler #sagliklisecimler #anaogun #ogunleriniziatlamayiniz

A post shared by Diyetisyen Fatma Şişman (@diyetisyenfatma) on

In Turkey, brunch is a proper feast, often served with small dishes of eggs, sausages, cheeses, honey, breads, olives, jams, and any number of delicious bites. But the center of a proper Turkish brunch is menemen more or less scrambled eggs cooked in sautéed tomatoes and peppers – kind of like Turkey’s version of shakshuka.

Börek

For a quick breakfast to go, grab one of these savory, flaky, delicate pastries. Börek can come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but are most often lasagna-like or rolled, and layered or stuffed with minced meat, cheese and/or spinach. They’re best eaten fresh out of the oven.

Kaymak

As the excellent blog Istanbul Eats says, “In our imagination, kaymak – the delicious Turkish version of clotted cream – is the only food served in heaven, where angels in white robes dish out plate after plate of the cloudlike stuff to the dearly departed, who no longer have to worry about cholesterol counts and visits to the cardiologist.” And that description seems right on. Spread the light, airy cream over a piece of perfectly crusty baguette-like bread and top it off with honey. Perfection.

Tavuk göğsü

Turks love their meat, and they cook it extraordinarily. But they’re also masters of dessert. Tavuk göğsü (meaning, simply, chicken breast) combines both meat and dessert in an after-dinner treat that is chicken dissolved in sweetened, boiled milk. We know it sounds gross, but fear not. This is the one dish you can’t say “tastes like chicken.” It’s more similar to rice pudding, which by the way, is also outstanding in Turkey.

Turkish ice cream

Alright, to be fair Turksih ice cream isn’t that great. There are way better desserts – künefe, baklava, puddings of all sorts, to name a few – but Turkish ice cream is definitely the funnest of them all. Thanks to salep, a flour made from orchid root, and mastic, a resin that imparts chewiness, Turkish ice cream is both stretchy and resistant to melting – which doesn’t exactly make for a great tasting sweet snack. But it does make for a spectacle as magician-like street-side vendors put on a show doing all sorts of tricks for customers. It’s totally worth buying a cone just to take part in the show. 

Latest

More Eat Sip Trip
Home