Walking Food Tour of Istanbul

Istanbul is the perfect destination for food lovers. Every street corner catches your attention as interesting smells and sights promise something exciting. Food, in Turkey, is street performance, an art show, an attraction – not just for feeding your belly. You will see that people are eating all the time, everywhere. There are no set times of the day to enjoy a good meal, a Turkish coffee, honey laden sweets, or a little pizza.

With thousands of eateries featuring so many different kinds of dishes, it is easy to get lost in the bazaars. So I made a good decision of booking a Food Tour with  Turkish Flavours on my first day in Istanbul. I met Ms Taciser, a knowledgeable and charming Turkish lady, in front of the Spice Market (also known as the Egyptian Market) at 9:30am. She gave a briefing about what was to come – about 5 hours of walking through the Spice Market, a ferry to Kadıköy on the Asian side of Istanbul, tasting at the famous street Eminönü and historical Kadıköy market, followed by an Anatolian lunch. Little did I know, we are about to embark on a 35 COURSE journey, eating our way through some of the best eateries in Istanbul.

Here are some of the highlights of our culinary walking tour of Istanbul…

At the entrance to the Spice Market, are vendors selling all of your daily grocery needs, the first one being cheese. Turkish people eat many different kinds of cow and sheep’s milk cheese (known as peynir) for breakfast, as appetizers, and in cooking. Read introduction to Turkish cheese for more details.

sheep and goat cheese

In Turkey, table olives are consumed in large quantities, raw, cooked, preserved, olive oil, olive soap, etc. Turkey is noted for its wealth of varieties—over 50 in all. The most common Turkish olives are grown in the Marmara, Aegean, Mediterranean and Southeast Anatolia regions. The key varieties are the Memeli, Donat, Ismir Sofralik, Ayvalik, Ekiste, Elebi, Erkence, Gemlik, Memecik, Trilya, and Uslu.

spice market Istanbul

Stores filled with moulds of fresh spices are also abundant. You can find practically any spice on the planet here, but most Turkish households don’t use a lot for cooking. The commonly found Turkish spices include oregano, red pepper, paprika, dried mint, allspice, cinnamon, cumin, sumac, sesame seeds and black cumin (nigella) seeds.

Stop for dry fruits, coffee, Turkish sweets and apple tea, before making your way out of the spice bazaar.

food tour nuts

I tried for the first time – fried mussels with tarator (midye tava), a popular street food made with fresh mussels. This is one of the rare seafood dishes eaten in Istanbul, aside from the “fish-only” restaurants.

fried mussels

This stop for Turkish pizza (known as pide) is worth alone the entire tour! The flatbread stuffed with ground beef, lamb or cheese and spices is satisfying with a glass of tea at breakfast, and Ayran (yogurt drink) at lunch. Go to the stall around lunchtime and smell the fresh dough rising from the oven.

pizza Istanbul

The sweet shop, Gazianstep, located next to the pizza place, is hard to pass by without a stare. Honey soaked tulumba, fresh kadayif, and a dozen kinds of baklava, are just a few items the bakers prepare each morning. sweet shop Istanbul

Then we will take a ferry to Kadıköy on the Asian side of Istanbul from Eminönü, the famous shopping street in Istanbul. There were good opportunities for taking photos of vendors selling fresh fish, peddlers making coffee over charcoal, and dried spices hanging like beads. We made about 15 more stops as we strolled through the busy markets and historic sites. Finally, we stopped for lunch at the New York Times acclaimed Ciya restaurant in Kadıköy market. Here we met the owner/chef and tasted about 10 more dishes! (Click here to read more on that).

istanbul coffee

 

This walking food tour was unlike any other I have done before. It gave a very good overview of Turkish cuisine, exposing me to many different kinds of dishes. My culinary knowledge expanded so well this day, that I knew exactly what to order during the rest of my stay in Turkey. I was even able to help other travelers make choices at dinnertime!

The Taste Istanbul Food tours starts at 9:30 am and ends around 2:30 pm. Cost is $125 per person, which includes continuous tastings, English speaking guide, round trip ferry tickets, and a hearty lunch. Do not plan to eat before or after the tour!

~ This tour was sponsored by Turkish Flavours. 

20 Homemade Tea Recipes

Tea production, tea brewing, tea ceremonies and tea drinking, are an integral part of many different cultures. Every region favors its own variety of tea leaves, depending on what is locally grown and available, as well as regional flavors. Here is a mind boggling glossary for tea lovers and wannabe’s from around the world. What better place to experience it than in the Spice Bazaar of Istanbul?

Tea_and_spices Istanbul_spice_market

 

1. ISTANBUL TEA

Istanbul Tea includes herbs (golden flower, roses, hibiscus) and fruits (orange, apple, strawberry) that gives sweet and sour taste. Istanbul tea can help you get the daily vitamins that your body needs by drinking a cup every day.

How to make the tea : For one glass of hot water, put 1 teaspoon of the tea, wait for 3-5 minutes, strain it and drink. You can also cool it down and add ice to make ice tea.

2. ANTI-STRESS TEA
Anti-stress Tea includes herbs (melisa, chamomile, amaranth, rose, hibiscus and also cannabis tea) and fruits (orange, rosehip) that calms and relaxes. Anti -stress tea can help you to get a better quality time of sleep.

How to make the tea : For one glass of hot water, put 1 teaspoon of the tea, wait for 3-5 minutes, strain it and drink. You can also cool it down and add ice to make ice tea.

3. OTTOMAN TEA
Ottoman Tea includes herbs (green tea, amaranth, cardamom, rose) and fruits (apple). Ottoman tea is good for digestion. You can drink it after a heavy meal to feel comfortable. It also helps your metabolism to be stronger.

How to make the tea : For one glass of hot water, put 1 teaspoon of the tea, wait for 3-5 minutes, strain it and drink. You can also cool it down and add ice to make ice tea.

4. APPLE TEA
Apple Tea includes natural apples. You can drink it by itself or you can add it into other teas such as black tea, green tea. You can also boil it to use it for different purposes as fruit salads, deserts and alcoholic or non- alcoholic beverages.

How to make the tea : For one glass of hot water, put 1 teaspoon of the tea, wait for 3-5 minutes, strain it and drink. You can also give it a boil to make it stronger and faster. After straining it, you can drink the tea and with the left overs you can make apple pie as mixing the leftovers with powdered sugar and laying on the pie-dough.

Cup-of-tea-circle

5. ORANGE TEA
Orange Tea includes natural orange peels. You can drink it by itself or you can add it into other teas such as black tea, green tea. You can also boil it to use it for different purposes as fruit salads, deserts and alcoholic or non- alcoholic beverages.

How to make the tea : For one glass of hot water, put 1 teaspoon of the tea, wait for 3-5 minutes, strain it and drink. You can also give it a boil to make it stronger and faster. You can also cool it down and add ice to make ice tea.

6. LEMON TEA
Lemon Tea includes natural lemon peels. You can drink it by itself or you can add it into other teas such as black tea, green tea. You can also boil it to use it for different purposes as fruit salads, deserts and alcoholic or non- alcoholic beverages.

How to make the tea : For one glass of hot water, put 1 teaspoon of the tea, wait for 3-5 minutes, strain it and drink. You can also give it a boil to make it stronger and faster. You can also cool it down and add ice to make ice tea.

7. VANILLA TEA
Vanilla Tea includes vanilla beans and black seylon tea.

How to make the tea : For one glass of hot water, put 1 teaspoon of the tea, wait for 3-5 minutes, strain it and drink. You can also boil it with milk for 4-5 mins, strain it and put cinnamon powder on top to have “hot milkshake” . You can also use the boiled vanilla tea “milk” for your pudings to have “vanilla tea puding”.

Flowering-tea-1

8. GREEN TEA -JASMINE TEA
This tea includes green tea and jasmine flowers. Green tea is very good for immune system and jasmine flowers have a calming effect on the body.

How to make the tea : For one glass of hot water, put 1 teaspoon of the tea, wait for 3-5 minutes, strain it and drink. You can also cool it down and add ice to make ice tea.

9. JASMINE FLOWERS TEA
This tea includes white jasmine flowers. Jasmine flowers have a calming effect on the body. You can drink it by itself or you can add it into other teas such as black tea, green tea. You can also boil it to use it for different purposes as fruit salads, deserts and alcoholic or non- alcoholic beverages.

How to make the tea : For one glass of hot water, put 1 teaspoon of the tea, wait for 3-5 minutes, strain it and drink. You can also cool it down and add ice to make ice tea.

rosehip

10. RED TEA
Red Tea includes herbs (hibiscus,rose) and fruits (cranberries, rosehip, pomegranate) that gives sweet and sour taste. These herbs and fruits gives strength and boosts immune system. Red tea is also written on many article as being effective on heart.

How to make the tea : For one glass of hot water, put 1 teaspoon of the tea, wait for 3-5 minutes, strain it and drink. You can also cool it down and add ice to make ice tea. After cooling down the tea, you can pour it into empty ice tray to make red ice cubes. These red ice cubes goes really well with both alcoholic (such as vodka) and non-alcoholic (such as lemonade).

11. GREEN TEA
This tea includes green tea leaves. You can drink it by itself or you can add other teas into it such as orange, lemon, apple, jasmine tea.

How to make the tea : For one glass of hot water, put 1 teaspoon of the tea, wait for 3-5 minutes, strain it and drink. You can also cool it down and add ice to make ice tea.

Turkish_tea

12. TURKISH TEA
To make Turkish tea you should use Caydanlik which is a small tea pot-brewer (demlik) on top of a kettle. Pour 3 cups of water into the larger kettle. Put the Turkish tea leaves and 2 tbsp of water into the teapot and place it on the kettle. Bring the water in the kettle to boil over medium heat. Then turn the heat off. Wait for the water to settle*, then pour half of the boiling water from the kettle over the leaves into the brewer. Let it brew for about 5 minutes**. Then pour the brewed tea into tea glasses using a small tea strainer. Fill in half of the tea glasses with the brewed tea and the rest with the hot water. Serve Turkish tea with sugar cubes.

* If you pour boiled water immediately over tea leaves, the tea will lose its vitamins. ** If you extend brewing time, the taste will get bitter. Also freshly brewed Turkish tea should be consumed within half an hour of brewing time.

13. LINDEN TEA
This tea includes linden flowers. Linden tea is very good for respiratory system especially on winter. Some of the articles say that linden helps losing the fat stocked in the body.

How to make the tea : For one glass of hot water, put 1 teaspoon of the tea, wait for 3-5 minutes, strain it and drink. You can also cool it down and ad ice to make ice tea.

14. SAGE TEA
This tea includes sage flowers. Sage tea is very good for respiratory system especially on winter. Some of the articles say that linden helps losing the fat stocked in the body.

How to make the tea : For one glass of hot water, put 1 teaspoon of the tea, wait for 3-5 minutes, strain it and drink. You can also cool it down and ad ice to make ice tea.

15. WHITE TEA
This tea includes white tea. White tea leaves and buds are allowed to wither in natural sunlight before they are lightly processed to prevent oxidation or further tea processing. White tea is very good to lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, stronger bones and it is antibacterial, antioxidant and antivirus.

How to make the tea : For one glass of hot water, put 1 teaspoon of the tea, wait for 3-5 minutes, strain it and drink. You can also cool it down and ad ice to make ice tea.

16. POMEGRANATE TEA
This tea includes pomegranate buds or/and flowers. Pomegranate tea leaves and buds are dried under the sun. Pomegranate tea is very good for relaxing both nerves and stomach.

How to make the tea : For one glass of hot water, put 1 teaspoon of the tea, wait for 3-5 minutes, strain it and drink. You can also cool it down and ad ice to make ice tea.

17. ROSE TEA
This tea includes rose buds or/and flowers. Rose tea leaves and buds are dried under the sun before its open. Rose tea is very good for relaxing both nerves and stomach.

How to make the tea : For one glass of hot water, put 1 teaspoon of the tea, wait for 3-5 minutes, strain it and drink. You can also cool it down and ad ice to make ice tea.

18. JASMINE BALLS
This tea includes jasmine balls. Jasmine flowers have a calming effect on the body. One of the ball can make a bowl of tea for 3-4 people. You can add more hot water on to make more tea at a time.

How to make the tea : For one glass of hot water, put 1 of the ball, wait for 3-5 minutes and drink. You can also cool it down and add ice to make ice tea.

19. GREEN TEA-LEMON-MINT
This tea includes green tea, lemon peels and mint leaves. These three herbs are very good together for immune system, stomach and respiratory system.

How to make the tea : For one glass of hot water, put 1 teaspoon of the tea, wait for 3-5 minutes, strain it and drink. You can also cool it down and add ice to make ice tea.

Indian chai in Kolkata

20. CHAI
This tea includes black seylon tea, cardamom and ginger. Home of the CHAI is India.

How to make the tea : For one glass of hot milk, put 1 teaspoon of the tea, wait for 3-5 minutes, strain it and drink. You can also cool it down and add ice to make iced CHAI.

~ Courtesy of Ucuzcular Spice Team. The shop can be found at the world famous Spice Bazaar in Istanbul, Turkey.

Top 7 Street Foods of Istanbul

Over the years, I have heard two opposite words of travel wisdom – “Avoid street food” and “Must try the street food.” Even so, I don’t feel conflicted. Street food is a cultural experience in itself. It gives one a chance to learn about everyday life, what people eat when they are rushing from home to work, and often times showcase culinary customs that aren’t found in the modern day restaurants.

In the bustling streets of Istanbul, Turkey, you will find street vendors not only selling food and drinks to the hurries pedestrians, but artists putting up acts for spectators to enjoy before they dig into their purchases. Here are some of the common street foods you will see on in Istanbul.

1. Simits – A circular pretzel bread made with flour, molasses and sesame or poppy seed. It is a little chewy on the inside and crispy on the outside. Archival sources show that the simit has been produced in Istanbul since 1525. Simit is generally served plain, or for breakfast with tea, fruit preserves, honey or cheese. Find them at limit trolleys and baskets for 1 Turkish lira, and fancier Simit Saray bakeries for a little more. Tip: Buy simits in the morning while they are warm and fresh.

img_3010

2. Dürüm – A local name for Turkish wrap. Most people are familiar with doner which refers to the shaved meat cooked on a rotisserie. You can get the meat (typically lamb, but some places have chicken) rolled inside a Turkish flatbread, sprinkled with sumac, raw onions and parsley. Dürüm and Ayran (salty yogurt shake) make for a great on the go meal for about 5 liras, and is generally not served with any side.

turkey-streetfood6

3. Orange Juice – Fresh squeezed orange juice (plus some other fruits depending on the season) can be found on Istiklal Street for only 1 Euro. Restaurants in Turkey generally don’t serve fresh juices, so this is where you want to stock up on Vitamins (another name for juice).

juice stands istanbul

4. Dondurma – Also know as Maras ice cream, it is gummier than the ice cream you may be use to. It is made with milk, sugar, salep (flour used in desserts), and mastic (natural gum), and available in few flavors like pistachio, vanilla, strawberry and chocolate. The best part about the ice cream is the magic show that the vendors put up before they serve it to you. They will stretch it, drop it, make surmountable mounds and tease you until you have a good laugh! Best place to watch the ice cream show is near Sultan Ahmet Square or The Blue mosque and costs about 7 liras.

turkish ice cream 

5. Türk kahvesi – Street vendors prepare coffee the traditional way, in copper jugs over charcoal. Turkish coffee refers to the style of preparing it as the coffee beans themselves come from other countries namely Yemen and Brazil. The roasted beans are finely ground and simmered over medium heat in a special coffee pot called cezve. Once it comes to a boil and starts foaming, the foam is removed and put in the coffee cups, while the water is allowed to boil for a second or event third time, to extract flavors. Next time, you have a backyard cookout, tell your guests you just put a pot of coffee on the grill and watch the look on their faces!

 turkish coffee

Turkish coffee at weddings: As well as an everyday beverage, Turkish coffee is also a part of the traditional Turkish wedding custom. As a prologue to marriage, the bridegroom’s parents (in the lack of his father, his mother and an elderly member of his family) must visit the young girl’s family to ask the hand of the bride-to-be and the blessings of her parents upon the upcoming marriage. During this meeting, the bride must prepare and serve Turkish coffee to the guests. For the groom’s coffee, the bride-to-be sometimes uses salt instead of sugar to gauge his character. If the bridegroom drinks his coffee without any sign of displeasure, the bride-to-be assumes that the groom is good-tempered and patient. Indeed, as the groom already comes as the demanding party to the girl’s house, in fact it is the boy who is passing an exam and etiquette requires him to receive with all smiles this particular present from the girl, although in some parts of the country this may be considered as a lack of desire on the part of the girl for marriage with that candidate. Source: Wikipedia

6. Tarihi Osmanli Macunu – Street vendors make to order the traditional Ottoman candy  with five flavors of thick taffy spiraled around a stick. The artist makes the candy when you order it and it is captivating to watch him roll the different colors with such ease.

ottoman candy

 

7. Kumpir – Best known as make your own baked potato. You select your choice of endless toppings on an enormous baked potato. Hot dog slices, corn, peas, vegetable salad, pickles, pickled beets, green and black olives, yogurt kısır (bulgur), spicy red-pepper sauce and condiments are some of the garnishes. The best place to try Kumpir is Istanbul’s Bosphorus-side village of Ortaköy.

Other street vendors sell roasted chestnuts, waffles, corn on the cob and sliced watermelon.

Know of another street food from Istanbul you love? Leave a response below and share your ideas with our readers…

Zeytinyağlı Biber Dolma Recipe

One of the most popular dishes in Turkish cuisine is Dolma, meaning stuffed. The Turks stuff all sorts of dried and fresh vegetables – eggplants, okra, peppers, zucchini, grape leaves with meat, rice and nuts. More than often, dolma is served as an appetizer, but it can also be eaten as light entree. Here is the recipe for one of my favorite dolmas, roasted and stuffed bell peppers, provided by Selin Rozanes of Turkish Flavors cooking classes and food tours in Istanbul. Slight variations can be found in Macedonian, Indian and American cuisine as well.

Turkish mezzo

Aromatic Rice Stuffed Bell Peppers with Olive Oil Recipe

Zeytinyağlı Biber Dolma

  • 6 large green bell peppers
  • 1 cup rice
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons currants
  • 2 tablepoons pine nuts
  • 1 table spoon dried mint
  • 6 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 1 tomato
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon allspice
  • 2 cups hot water
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup fresh chopped herb – parsley and dill

Turkish stuffed peppersFilling (Same filling can be used for grapevine leaves):

Put the currants in hot water to allow them to swell; drain and put to one side. Soak the rice in hot salted water for 30 minutes. Rinse under cold water and drain.

Heat ¼ cup oil in a deep pan and gently sauté the pine nuts until golden. Add the chopped onion and sauté until soft. Add drained rice, currants and spices, stirring gently to ensure the rice grains are evenly coated. Add the 1 cup hot water, salt, and sugar, stir once and continue cooking for about 10 minutes or until the cooking liquid is absorbed and steaming bubbles appear on the surface of the rice. It is important not to stir the rice during this time. Remove from the heat, cover the top of the pan with a cloth, replace the lid and set aside to cool for 20 minutes. Season with freshly ground black pepper. Add the herbs and combine gently with a wooden spoon. The rice stuffing is now ready in to vegetables of your choice!

Stuffing the vegetables:

Carefully cut a thin slice from the stem end of peppers and take out the seeds. Stuff the peppers with the rice mixture with a spoon or your hand. Cut small pieces from 1 tomato to cover the top part of peppers. Press the tomato slice down a bit so that it won’t come out.

Place the dolmas in an oven safe dish which is at least as tall as dolmas. Pour 1 cup of boiling water on top.

Sauce:

Whisk together ¼ cup olive oil, hot water, sugar and salt and pour over. First let it boil for 5 minutes on stove. Then, bake it in a 350F oven for 35-40 minutes until rice is cooked and tops are browned. Check them regularly if you don’t want to burn the tops. Set aside to cool. Serve at room temperature.

Zeytinyağlı Biber Dolma

~ Recipe courtesy of Selin Rozanes, founder of  Turkish Flavors. The Istanbul based culinary company organizes food tours, cooking classes and team building activities. Check them out on Facebook Turkish Flavours and Turkish Cooking Classes Istanbul and Twitter Turkish Flavours.