The minute you land in Istanbul you’ll be amazed by its magical atmosphere and beauty, as well as (more importantly?) the smell of spices drifting through the air. The good news is, it’s not difficult to find something tasty to eat in this superb city, we’ve got the the insider’s guide to the best kept foodie secrets in the Turkish capital. Be prepared, the best places to eat are found in dark narrow alleys, on the fourth floor of abandoned looking buildings, without any signs of life. Enjoy our Istanbul Food Guide. And remember, if there’s something we’ve missed please let us know in comments.
Image by @ lwy
The first and foremost (m)eating you have to taste is the infamous kebab (this is found in a variety of dishes, consisting of grilled or broiled meats, usually lamb or beef, on a skewer or stick). You’ll probably find numerous kebab corners all around the city, but we reckon the best place is to enjoy this delicious meal overlooking the magnificent Golden Horn, Bosphorus and Galata areas. Head for Hamdi Restaurant in Eminonu which has been serving mouthwatering Turkish dishes since the late 60s.
Tip: Make sure that you book a table on the top floor near the big glass window to enjoy the panoramic view.
These tiny pasta treats (kind of Turkish dumplings) are served with a generous spoonful of yoghurt, melted butter and ground-up red pepper. One of the best places to savour manti is at Marko Pasa restaurant in Taksim. There, the manti are freshly made, right before they’re cooked.
Tip: Highlight of the restaurant is the making of the food in the front window, so that people can watch how they are cooked.
Wandering around the city, you’ll find it tough to find a place NOT selling these treats from the sea. It is a cherished treat and that’s something all Turks agree with. Eat them fried with garlic sauce or, even better, stuffed with spicy rice, pine nuts and more rarely with raisins. Mussels are brought to you by a waiter that grates the zest from a lemon right on your dish as it is served. Head for the fish market, Balik Pazari for the tastiest.
Tip: Buying mussels from street vendors is not recommended, because you might be unlucky to experience some side effects, you can probably imagine what we’re getting at.
Baklava is a rich, sweet pastry made of layers of filled with chopped nuts and sweetened with syrup or honey. This divine pastry is available in every confectionery, but for the ultimate baklava go to Gulluoglu in Karaköy. There you can taste as many of the twelve different original recipes as you like.
Tip: Ask the shop owners to let you watch the ritual of baklava making. The baklava masters start making the filo pastry by taking an oath on baklava, which is really funny!
Turkish coffee is a ritual. Made in a special pot called a cezve, finely ground coffee is boiled, usually with sugar and served in a cup where it’s allowed to settle. (This is a very important bit!) Coffee and drinking it is so important in Turkey, breakfast is known as Kahvalti, literally meaning “before coffee.” While walking to Eyüp, a stop at Pierre Loti café is a must. Have an aromatic Turkish coffee and admire the view over the city and Golden Horn.
Tip: To find your fortune, all you need is a simple cup of coffee. When you’ve finished your cup, tip over the residue onto your saucer and read what the future holds for you.
Ps. If you’re feeling adventurous, the Kokoretsi (actually a Greek speciality, but also served in Turkey) is definitely one to try. Made mainly from goat or lamb intestines, it’s usually wrapped in offal and filled with whatever bits and pieces are available, we’re talking hearts, lungs and kidneys.