Istanbul street food, sorry it took me so long to discover you.

08.10.16 11:00 AM By Putri

Being from Jakarta, the capitol of Indonesia(and street food district), I grew up eating street food as part of my daily diet. When I moved to Québec City where street food is inexistant, I didn't know how to feed myself for the first few months after my arrival, seriously.

We went on a trip to Turkey and spent a week in Istanbul. When we arrived in Istanbul, I got this striking sensation of ‘comfort’. The complex sound of a busy neighborhood, the countless amount of people, the soul-sucking blue sky and scorching heat, the smell of chaos (a mix of car exhaust, food, and whatnot), and endless rows of vendors that sell useless stuff in bright colors somehow felt so familiar. It reminded me of back home.

And it only felt more and more like home when I saw endless row of small eateries, street vendors, and snack stalls. I almost burst into tears of joy and got emotional, but a piece of authentic pistachio baklava apparently was an effective cure. One bite and my emotions slowly calmed down, my tear docs were instantly blocked, and my appetite was increasingly opened. 

Here is our roundup of Istanbul street food that we ate and made us developed a deep sentimental connection with :

Turkish cuisine is definitely the champion of the grilled meat (kebabs)
We had the most finger licking chicken kebab ever. Chicken kebab is mostly made of white chicken meat (breast) and I am not a big fan of it, it tends be dry and tasteless. But the kebab I had was succulent on every bite with a nice taste of smokiness and spices. Another Turkish grilled meat trademark is their donner. Donner is a type of kebab slowly cooked in a vertical rotisserie. Most donner made of beef but somehow I always tasted a hint of lamb in it, Nico said I was delusional. After few donners from different stalls, I finally asked the guy if there was any lamb meat in the donner. He said the donner itself is all beef BUT they used lamb fat to keep the meat juicy and give more flavors to it.  Ha!! I knew I was not delusional, at least not when it comes to food!

The best grilled food we had was kokoreç, spiced and grilled sheep intestine, served in bread with tomatoes, just like a sandwich with bad-ass filling. The intestine is flavorful and a bit spicy, and grilled into perfection. The intestine becomes crunchy and chewy, it’s awesome. Honestly, I can imagine eating it with rice instead of bread… yummm.. 

Kokoreç rolls

Kokoreç, the badass sandwich that I couldn't enough of. 

·      Baklava
The first time I ever tasted baklava was in Quebec City. The baklava was super sweet, moist, chewy with strong smell of artificial rose flavor, and a sprinkle of crushed nuts that did nothing but getting stuck between my teeth. It was traumatizing. But in Istanbul, every other store is Baklava store and they display their 101 varieties of baklava with pride on their clean and wide window shop, it literally made me forget about the traumatic Quebec City baklava I had. Their baklava, ow mah gawd! Any baklava from Quebec City doesn’t even come close. There are fancy baklava stores and there are also those nameless and cheap ones, they both offer some serious palate-gasm baklava, it just seems so natural for them. Apparently, there are particular name for each particular shape/look of baklava but I was having a temporary brain paralysis to remember any of it. All I remember is fistikli baklava, or pistachio baklava. A green sticky roll of satisfaction.

See how they are really generous with pistachio, me like!!

A pot full of green magical dust,.. kidding, its actually a pot full of powdered pistachio, which I found quite magical. I could sprinkle it on everything I eat, 

Bird nest baklava

What do you mean by I put too much baklava pics??

Ozmanlizadeler in Sultanahmet is one of the upmarket Turkish delights. It has been in this sticky sweet business since 1879, and is known for selling the best and the freshest Turkish delights. 
Cart parade 

     Simit, circular bread encrusted with sesame seeds. Some carts offer a thick slab of Nutella for 1 Lira. Everything is better with Nutella.

Sut Simir, or milk corn on cob, boiled then grilled for 1$. Not recommended for those  whose gaps between teeth as wide as the Bosphorus strait like I do. You know how it is, the corn will get stuck between your teeth and it can be annoying. Taste wise, this corn is pretty good tho. 

Kestane kebab (roasted chestnut). Served in brown paper bag in 3 different sizes, cute!

·      Balik ekmek. 
     While the British has their famous comfort food made of fish; the fish and chips, the Turks have this awesome fish sandwich. Aside from the interesting look of the floating vendors, Balik Ekmek is also known for its fresh and generously proportioned fish fillet, moderately spiced and grilled into perfection. Just like any other sandwich, a bed of crispy salad, fresh sliced tomatoes, onions, and of course a piece (or seven if you have burning tongue fetish like I do) of their green and long pepper is piled between the buns too.

Floating Balik Ekmek vendors with its signature look
The authentic Balik Ekmek can be found next to the water, especially along the waterfront neighborhoods of Eminonu and Karakoy for a dollar or two, max.

·      Lahmacun and pide
Lahmacun is known as Turkish Pizza by tourists. Its not totally wrong, but its far from the truth either. Okay, maybe in general Lahmacun is rather pizza-esque, I mean with the thin flat bread base and toppings, it does sounds like a pizza, but lahmacun has no tomato sauce nor covered in melted mozzarella. In fact, I find lahmacun’s topping is more tasty. The classic (for the first experience, I always take the classic version) topping usually consists of minced meat (beef or lamb, or mix of both) seasoned with typical Turkish spices, onion and pepper, and grilled in super hot wood-fired oven. For serving they usually add few slices of fresh tomatoes, a heap of fresh parsley, and a sprinkle of freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Pide is very much like lahmacun. The main difference is the shape of the bread base. Pide has this boat-shaped flat bread. 

·      Midye Dolma – stuffed mussels with seasoned rice, served in their shells and often sprinkled with lemon juice.

I have been told by most of the people I met on the trip to try this awesome stuffed mussels. Its fun to eat, sold from a tiny cart, and prepared fresh daily. Unfortunately, I skipped this one because I am allergic to some particular shell food and I didn’t want to take any risk to get swollen as big as a pregnant manatee or worse; an unconscious pregnant manatee from eating this mussels.