Tag Archives: delicious

Turkey’s City Street Food

If you’ve been around the beach, you know the basics (or can find them here: Turkey’s Best Beach Food): gözleme, ayran, stuffed mussles, melon ice cream bowls, steamed corn, fresh fish.  But what can you eat when you hit Turkey’s urban streets?  Here are some of the must-try simple street snacks (or full meals) you’ll find in almost every urban center:


Head to the nearest wheeled glass cart labeled “halk ekmek” (“people’s bread”) or the small shop by the bus stop and grab a few simit for a simple start to the day. At first glance a simit may look a bit like a bagel covered in sesame seeds.  Cracked open it can be eaten with soft spread cheese.

3077558355_04f058d2be_mTired of simit?  Ask for a poğaça instead.  At 2/1 lira they’re still quite cheap, and come with a variety of savory stuffings  like olive (zeytin), cheese (peynir), or spicy sausage (sucuk).

salepFinish off your breakfast with a glass of strong Turkish tea or salepa traditional drink made with powdered orchid root and flavoured with cinnamon.

Lunch/Quick Dinner/Midnight Snacks

Turkey’s most popular savory street food is the doner kebab (here known as durum) with long strips of lamp of chicken rolled in flatbread with tomatoes, shredded lettuce, and the occasional french fry (curious about what defines a kebab? read our post here). But if you only know the doner… you’ve barely dabbled in Turkish street tastes!

7793420340_cf56c7e319_zOnly got 10 minutes for lunch? One of Turkey’s most popular “fast foods” is lahmacun, a flatbread topped and backed with minced meat and a garlic-tomato paste, almost always paired with a cool glass of ayran (salty yogurt).  Almost any neighborhood will have a lunch joint with 2 lahmacun + ayran lunch specials for about 5 lira.  Don’t forget a squeeze of lemon!


If you’re seriously on the run, grab a tantuni or “Turkish burrito”.  Tantuni are wraps composed of ground meat cooked on a wide metal plate with spices and oil then rolled up with slices of onion, tomato, cilantro and lettuce.  Take it with a hot green pepper if you can handle extra-spicy.

Hit by 3 am hunger pains? Head for a kokoreç stand.  While chopped sheep intestines might not sound appealing during the day, this savory, spicy and complex flavoured sandwich is sure to satisfy your midnight cravings.

19271026726_4d83c7aa55_zLooking for something a little more sophisticated?  Pideoften nicknamed “the Turkish pizza” is a boat-shaped oven-baked bread topped with everything from spinach and feta to chicken and tomatoes to ground beef and cheese. Expect fresh bread hot out of the oven, with the juices from the toppings just starting to sink into the dough. Ask for a side of tomatoes and sliced cucumbers with a sprinkling of lemon.


Vegetarian? No worries. bulgar-based Çiğ köfte is savory, sometimes spicey, and always delicious, whether eaten alone or in a wrap. Each region has it’s own recipe for Çiğ köfte though, as a rule, the ingredients include and bulgur, chopped cilantro, onion, tomato paste, spices, crushed garlic and salt.  Again, everything is better with a slice of lemon!


2037583738_eb5fcd9dfb_zIn winter warm your hands and your soul with a cup full of hot roasted chestnuts (kestane) and served in a paper cone for 2-5 lira per portion.

Don’t forget that Turkey has great regional varieties in cuisine – while in Kayseri you’ll have to try the kayseri mantisi; in Bursa, iskender kebab, and in testi kebab in Cappadocia.

Hungry for more? We know you are… Check out these pages extensively covering Istanbul’s street food scene, and share with us you favorite street foods from around the country.

World’s Best Street Food: Istanbul Edition

Beyond the Doner: Real Turkish Food


Culinary Back Streets: Istanbul’s Best Street Foods


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Exploring Turkish Cuisine: What Exactly is a Kebab?


Two types of Kebab: Adana (back) and Beyti (front)

In the US we tend to think of a “kebab” as a grilled food on a stick: sizzling sliced of red meat and onions over the charcoals, vegetable kebabs, Hawaiian kebabs with speared pineapples and fish.  In most of Western Europe it’s sliced meat in a pita. But in Turkey you will encounter plenty of things called a kebab that look nothing like what I described above.  The meat may not be skewered; there may not even be a grill; there’s often not a pita.  In fact, some Turkish kebabs, like Tesli Kebabi, come in a baked clay bowl and look more like a stew.  Others, like the simit kebab, are sliced and wrapped in lavash under a dressing of sour yogurt.


Traditional Çöp Şiş

So what exactly is a Turkish kebab?

When you think of a kebab, the image that comes to mind is probably that of  Shish kebabs (Çöp Şiş or şiş kebap in Turkish) or shashlik (mixed meat and vegetables skewered and grilled).  But those are only two variations of kebabs. Kebab itself actually refers to a type of meat preparation – usually.

“Kebab” style meat – sliced meat layered on an upright spittle, then slowly rotated until cooked through, and carved off in thin slices – was invented by a Busa native named Iskender in the late 19th century. Kebabs can also refer to chunks of meat skewered and grilled, or a meat stew. Kebabs are traditionally made from lamb, but you can also find chicken kebabs, beef kebabs, and mixed meat and vegetable kebabs.  That is to say – there’s no one all-encompassing definition of a kebab. Each region has a few famous varieties; we recommend you try them all to determine for yourself what a kebab actually and truly is.

Some of our favorites from around Turkey:

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Filed under Turkish Cuisine, Turkish Culture

Turkey’s Best Beach Food

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.

Spinach Gözleme


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.

Gözleme tent at Kaputaş Plaji

Gözleme tent at Kaputaş Plaji

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.


Fresh Vegetables and Ayran

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.

Sari Kardesler Midye Stand, Bodrum

Sari Kardesler Midye Stand, Bodrum

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

Kavun Dondurma – Melon Bowl Ice Cream

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).

*Really* Fresh Juice

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.

There are also plenty of fresh fruit and vegetable stands (and fresh fruit juice stands) selling local organic produce by the side of the road.

There are also plenty of fresh fruit and vegetable stands (and fresh fruit juice stands) selling local organic produce by the side of the road.

süt mısır…delivery bicycle?

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

Rakı Balık

Rakı Balık

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.


Filed under Beaches, Day Trips, Turkish Cuisine, Turkish Culture, Turkish Riviera

A Sampling of the Turkish Table

Turkish cuisine is one of the country’s great markers of pride.  At first it may be hard to see why – compared to complicated French dishes, fragile Chinese delicacies, and American extravagance, the Turkish table seems simple.  What passes as ‘Turkish food’ in the US and Western Europe often appears as street food a festivals – doner, kebabs and sticky baklava. But this is as much Turkish cuisine as Domino’s Pizza is Italian.

Turkish people take their food seriously.  Cooking is an art, passed down from generation to generation.  And while western franchises are becoming more popular, even shopping mall food courts offer great Turkish classics.

The great secret to Turkish cuisine is in the fullness of taste and complimentary parings.  Turkish food – real Turkish food – is never bland.  Nor is it ever smothered in spice.  Ingredients added always compliment and draw out the food’s full flavor.  There is doner, and there is döner. Somehow even bread with fish tastes magical when paired with the right spices – mild savory fish, flaky white flesh paired with sour sharp lemon, the soft crunch of fresh shreddedlettuce, a bite of sliced onion, just enough red pepper to pique the roof of your mouth, juice seeping into a warm loaf of crusty golden-baked bread. The following is a small sampling of simple foods common across Turkey.

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Gözleme: Gözleme a often (erroneously) translated as “pancake”, but it’s more of a flatbread. The dough is rolled around a rolling pin until it is very thin, then folded over cheese, spinach, potatoes or less-traditional ingredients like bananas and honey before being baked in a flat tandoor oven. It is often served with fresh cut cucumbers and tomatoes, and a side of cold ayran (salty kefir-like drink), and tastes best at 3pm after a long ocean swim.



Turkish breakfasts in the home are usually a bit simpler, but always involve breads accompanied by jams, honey or tahini; black and green olives, a cucumber-tomato salad, usually two types of cheese (mild yellow and soft white, or crem), and some kind of eggs. Oddly enough, breakfasts and egg dishes often come with friend potato wedges.


Eggs with Sausage (Sucuklu Yumurta): The Turkish sausage know as “sucuk” (pronounced “soo-jook”) is made with garlic and sometimes hot red pepper.  Sucuk-making is an art and while grocery stores will sell it packaged and processed, the best sucuk is stuffed by hand and can sell for upwards of 40 Lira.


Menemen is an egg dish made by sautéing red and green peppers (and often onions) in a pan, then covering the peppers with scrambled eggs and covering for a minute or two until the eggs are almost done. It’s often served as part of Turkish breakfast, or with either fried potato wedges or lavash, a Turkish flatbread puffed up in the oven.


Köfte. Often referred to as “Turkish meatballs”, köfte more resemble small hamburger patties. They can be served with pilaf, in a sandwich, covered in yogurt sauce, or on bread and topped in tomato sauce and peppers, or in one of a hundred other ways.


Sosli köfte/Kofte with sauce. This dish was actually from a red-boothed restaurant in a mall. You know a nation takes their cuisine seriously when the mall food is this good (and still under $5)



Kayserı Mantası/Mantis from the city of Kayseri. Manta are sometimes (erroneously) translated as “ravioli”, which is a shame. Manti are basically thin squares of dough stuffed with meat, cheese or vegetables and then either boiled (somewhat like ravioli), steamed (kind of like dumplings) or baked. Kayseri Manta are tiny manti stuffed with meat, boiled, then covered in a sauce of yogurt, smoked red pepper, and mint, best accompanied by some aubergine. These we (again) had in a mall.


Midye/Stuffed Mussels. Usually sold from street carts in seaside towns and snacked on by beachgoers or downed with Efes beer, midye are mussel shells filled with rice pilaf packed around the actual mussel. To eat you slide off half the shell, use it as a scoop to pick up the packed pilaf, and give a liberal squirt of lemon. In Bodrum the “Brothers Sarı” (“Sarı kardeşler”) dominate the midye business, with the seven brothers all operating around different peninsula ports.


Cakes and sweets. Though not every cup of tea is accompanied by a plate of cookies and cake, it’s quite common to serve something sweet to visiting guests. Sweets are usually more aromatic and nut-heavy than in the US or UK. My favorite are cookies made with almond or hazelnut flour, sugar and egg whites – somewhat similar to a meringue.


Nut sweets. See above – nuts don’t often make their way into main courses, but they do feature heavily in Turkish cuisine, especially in desserts and dry snacks.


Baklava: It’s not just Greek and Italian! In fact, Turkish friends were really skeptical that I’d ever had Baklava before coming to Turkey. Here, there are basically two kinds: that made with honey and walnuts, and that made with pistachios. There are also the related pistachio, honey and phyllo dough rolls. Compared to baklava in the US, Turkish baklava tend to be less sweet and more intense in nutty flavor.


Kebabs: Here, you see two kinds: The traditional ‘Adana Kebab’ on the far side of the table, and the stuffed and rolled ‘Beyti Kebab’ in the forefront.  While we often think of kebabs as just grilled meat on a stick, in Turkey kebab refers to a certain kind of meat, and kebabs can be prepared in dozens (if not hundreds) of ways, including in dishes like stews.

IMG_0405.JPGSütlaç: Sutlac is a traditional Turkish dessert much like a rice pudding.  Underneath the burnished skin the pudding is thick and creamy, and may be spiced with nutmeg or cardamon

There’s much, much more to the Turkish table, and I’ve left out some of the most common dishes (like pilaf and pide), so check back for “A Sampling of the Turkish Table: Part 2” and “A Short History of Turkish Cuisine”

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