Turkish Cuisine is most known for its fragrant, nutty desserts, succulent meats, and lavish breakfast platter. But what do people eat when they’re hitting up the beach? Obviously not hotdogs and cotton candy.
Turkey’s many beaches have an abundance of food on offer, from the universally popular stuffed mussels to more unusual creations like melon icecream bowls. You’re likely to buy your beach food from one of three places: open-air cafes selling popular dishes all day, usually located just back from the beach; mobile food carts and village locals selling hand-cooked goods and cold drinks from baskets; and seasonal cafes set up on the sand.
Gözleme is the standby dish of Turkish beach-goers, delicious for breakfast, lunch, snack or even dinner. Gözleme is made by rolling out thin sheets of dough, stuffing the dough with various fresh ingredients (traditional varieties include spinach, spinach and white cheese, yellow cheese, and cheese and potatoes), and baking it for a few minutes in a tandoor oven. You will often see people carrying plastic tubs full of ready-made gözleme on the beach, and cafes selling oven-hot gözleme to order ring almost every watering hole. Average price: 3-7 Lira.
Papery, savory gözleme is the perfect follow-up to an afternoon swim, best enjoyed from a shaded tent where you can get a little respite from the sun.
Almost every outdoor cafe will serve up a side of fresh vegetables, or a simple mixed sheperd’s salad (Çoban Salatası). Garden-fresh cucumbers and sun-ripened tomatoes are perfect when accompanied by a glass of cold, salty Ayran, especially after a swim (or sweating in the sun).
Ever seen a man walking around with a cloth-covered dish? He’s probably selling Midye – steamed mussels stuffed with mixed pilaf and eaten with a squeeze of fresh lemon.
Each town has their “midye barons”, the most famous probably being Bodrum’s Sarı Kardeşler Midyecilik, so well-known they even have their own facebook page. PriceL 0.5-1 Lira/mussel
If you’ve ever traveled to Turkey – anywhere in Turkey – you’ve probably noticed how popular (and prevalent) ice cream is. Of course the tourists go for the blocks of ‘Turkish Ice Cream’ sold by men in red Ottoman caps. But even beyond Istanbul’s most crowded thoroughfares, ice cream is everywhere, usually for sale in bright glass cares featuring twenty to firty flavors, from raspberry to blackberry to strawberry to chocolate to fudge to hazelnut to walnut to pistachio to caramel to…well, you get it.
But Turkey’s beaches offer something unique: ice cream scooped into a melon bowl. The melons used are not as sweet or sugary as cantaloupe, and at least make your dessert choice seem a little healthier. Price: 5 Lira
If you do want to skip the ice cream, and just go for the fruit, several beaches have stands selling cactus fruits ( hailed – without much scientific backing – as “Nature’s Viagra”) for around 2 Lira. But beware – make sure yours is completely skinned before handling it yourself, or you could get cacti spikes embedded in your skin (trust me on this one).
And if you’d rather avoid the prickles, most beaches (along with almost every street in most cities) will have a nearby cafe or stand selling fresh-pressed orange juice. Many places will also make grapefruit juice, pomegranate juice, carrot juice, and mixed juice for about 1.5-3 lira a cup, fresh-squeezed while you wait.
Steamed Corn (“süt mısır”) is also a popular snack, both in town and on the beach. Look for small stands with closed stainless steel containers covered in white cloth or… a corncicle. Popular toppings include vinegar, butter, salt, pepper, hot pepper, lemon juice, and pomegranate sauce. Price: 1.5-4 Lira
If you’re more than a little peckish, and fruit and corn just won’t cut it, despair not! Turkey’s most famous beach food is of course fish! A quick dinner can be made of balık ekmek (Fish sandwich, literally “fish bread”, see the video below), but fresh fish is often best grilled and served with a squeeze of lemon, a tart side salad, and a glass of raki. The dinner is so popular that it’s simply known as “rakı balık” – raki and fish. A trip along Turkey’s coast cannot be said complete without a dinner of rakı balık, preferably on a terrace as the sun sets over the sea.