I have really been looking forward to this trip. Not only do I have 2 ½ days of pure eating ahead of me, but I’ve never been to Istanbul before, indeed anywhere in the Middle East. Probably the closest I’ve ever got is Mangal in East London, which I love, but I know that I’m in for a quite a few edible surprises
We touch down in Istanbul and head straight to the apartment in Beyoglu. The adventure begins immediately as we hear the sound of prayers from the mosques echoing down the quiet back streets around our apartment. We come up to a busy side street where we are bombarded with all sorts of amazing food, such as deep-fried mussels on a stick with tarator (walnut and tahini sauce) and curious-looking kokorec (intestine sandwich). We spot a man with a cart piled high with roasted lamb heads and it is clear that one of these absolutely must be eaten. He splits them carefully, pulls off the meat, places it neatly in a container and tops it with dried oregano, Turkish chilli and salt. This for me was a real highlight.
We get a sweet tooth and decide to hunt down the local sweet shop. We find them serving slow-roasted quince and kaymak (fresh buffalo milk cheese), and what a treat it is. This something we want to eat every day in Istanbul.
We head to a famous breakfast place, Ortaköy Kahvaltı Evi, for the Turkish breakfast, also known as the full Turkish. This consists of a variety of different dishes: fried eggs with dry Turkish sausage; honey and kaymak and tomatoes, cucumber, olives, & sheep’s cheese. The most exciting moment, however, was when they present us with two savoury fresh doughnuts each – one to eat with strawberry jam, the other to eat with homemade chilli sauce and sheep’s cheese. Unbelievable. And of course, the legendarily powerful Turkish coffee, a great way to start a big day of eating.
We head to Karakoy Fish Market where they proudly display the pumping red gills and shiny eyes to show how fresh it is. This gets us in the mood for the local fish soup, so we move on to the famous Karakoy Balikcisi that is right by the market. The soup is thickened and flavoured with yoghurt and Turkish chilli flakes and has just small flecks of fish - so simple and delicious.
The rest of Friday’s eating consists of cag kebap, a horizontal lamb breast kebab with buffalo yoghurt, grilled peppers and lavash bread, liver kebabs, and salep (orchid root) pudding with mulberry syrup and tahini. Finished off, of course, with more industrial strength coffee.
The final morning in Istanbul. Stevie and I both feel this day has to be started simply, so we opt for kaymak, honey and strong black tea.
We go for a wander through the streets in Bospherus (North of the European side of Istanbul) and get a bit lost looking for a restaurant that no longer exists. On the up-side however, we come across (and consume) a really amazing lamb and egg pide (flatbread) that is made by a guy who puts an extraodinary amount of care and love into what he is doing, even down to the way he puts the egg on the pide.
We then take a quick cab ride to the seaside where we eat manti, teeny tiny little Turkish pastas stuffed with wild greens and topped with yoghurt and a buttery tomato sauce. We decide that this absolutely had to have pride of place on the Dock Kitchen Turkish set menu.
For our last meal in Turkey, we catch the ferry to Kadikoy where the first stop is Ciya Kebab. We sit and watch the chefs use the bread oven with unbelievable skill (no mean feat) and of course, we have to have a cheeky pre-dinner snack of an amazing pistachio and beef kebab. Another thing we will be trying to recreate at the Dock very soon.
We then go to world-famous Ciya Sofrasi, where the chef Musa Dağdeviren kindly orders for us. We eat some really delicious food, and it really helps us finalize the menu. My stand-out dish is the quince stuffed with lamb and sweet onions, which I have to eat after spotting them cooking them across the road at Ciya Kebab. Yet another thing we will be recreating for the Turkish menu…
All in all, Istanbul is an amazing city if you want to eat well (and we really ate well).