Tag Archives: turkish culture

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


1 Comment

Filed under Exploring, Turkish Cuisine

Exploring Ephesus… And More Surprises in Turkey

Following our post last week, Matador Travel Network featured 17 surprising (and interesting) facts about Turkey this week.  Scroll down to number three!


1. It has one of the world’s oldest and biggest malls.

Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar, or Kapalı Çarşı, dates to 1455 and was established shortly after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople. Over the centuries it has grown into a warren of 61 streets lined by more than 3,000 shops and currently occupies a nearly incomprehensible 333,000 square feet. You’ll never possibly be able to explore it all, but that doesn’t keep people from trying — according to Travel + Leisure, the Grand Bazaar was the world’s #1 attraction in 2014, drawing over 91 million people.

2. You might find chicken in your dessert.

The signature Ottoman treat is tavuk göğsü, or chicken breast pudding. It’s a strange blend of boiled chicken, milk, and sugar, dusted with cinnamon. And it’s delicious. Look for it on menus across the country.

3. Turkey is packed with cultural heritage.

In fact, there are 13 spots in Turkey inscribed on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites, and a whopping 62 on the tentative list. They range from a Mesolithic temple (Göbekli Tepe) to a Biblical city (Ephesus) to a World War One battlefield (Gallipoli), and help make Turkey the sixth most-visited tourist destination in the world.

 Read the full article here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Exploring, Turkish Culture

Is It Safe to Travel in Turkey?

Between recent attacks on government offices in Istanbul, protests over educational content, clashes between protesters and the police, instability in neighboring Syria, and Turkey’s perceived image as a Muslim nation with limited freedoms, many Americans and some Europeans have expressed fear over the idea of stepping foot in Turkey.  Right now, from watching the news, it [may] seem like a dangerous place to travel, and certainly not an ideal retirement destination.  But are these misgivings unfounded? And is it actually safe to travel (and live) in Turkey?

The Short Answer: Yes, probably.

The Long Answer: Yes, probably, as long as you keep your wits about you and act in a respectful and civilized manner.  Provided you act as you wish visitors to your community to act, you should not come against any major problems.  Turkey actually has a very low crime rate, and no inherent cultural dislike of individual foreigners. Keep an open mind, be attentive and adjust to your surroundings, talk to people as equals, carry a sense of curiosity, and you should be fine.


While Syria does indeed border Turkey, the border is now closed, and that corner of Turkey is very far away from popular destinations, all of which are largely unaffected by the conflict.  For comparison: Kobani is 972 kilometers from Antalya; San Diego and LA are respectively 28 and 217 kilometers from Tijuana – and yet no one avoids them because of their proximity to a city with such a high crime rate and documented illegal refugees and contraband trafficking. Proximity does not equate actual danger.  We do not recommend visiting southeast Turkey for the time being, just to be on the safe side, but most of the country is largely untouched by the conflict in Syria.  Most Syrian refugees who have moved away from Turkey’s border towns have found shelter in Istanbul and Ankara; some locals have attributed a perceived rise in pick-pocketing to their arrival.  While there is not yet enough evidence for such correlation, it is still always good to watch your belongings and carry your purse in front when in larger cities or crowded areas, regardless of which country you are in.

For an August, 2015 update, please see: “Is It Still Safe to Travel in Turkey?”


Continue reading


Filed under Health and Safety, Turkish Culture