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What to Eat in Istanbul

Although Turkish cuisine is known world-wide and often imitated, you’ll find its pure taste in Istanbul. The top things to you must try eating here are a blending of diverse cultures that have pleasurably affected the local food offerings.

Relish these genuine Turkish entrees and dishes below by allowing them to encompass your senses in sweet and savory flavors that will tickle your taste buds.

Turkish Breakfast

A Turkish breakfast is a slight contrast from a European breakfast. Coffee is usually not offered as a morning wake up call. A morning hot cup of tea is the drink of choice and can be just as strong as coffee in getting those eyes open. This breakfast always includes sliced cucumbers and/or tomatoes. White bread is most often served, but rye or other grainy bread is available for a healthier fare.

The rest of your morning offering will be similar to a European breakfast but might be cooked or presented differently.

Foods that are always a staple on the breakfast menu are soft boiled eggs (yumurta) or an omelet, old cheese (kasar peyniri), white cheese (a type of feta cheese), green or black olives, or sometimes both, butter, jam, honey and kaymak, which is a thick, rich and creamy variety of clotted cream; simply scrumptious slathered on bread.

Two of the customary dishes that are served to spoil travelers and native Turks alike are borek and sucuklu yumurta. Borek consists of a filling of diced meat and/or vegetables plus cheese enveloped in a phyllo-like thin dough and then cooked or baked for a delightful breakfast sandwich.

Sucuk is ground beef made into a dried sausage with an assortment of spices like cumin, red pepper, sumac, and with garlic added. This is cooked with eggs to create sucuklu yumurta and is a delectably rich and filling breakfast.

Try relishing your Turkish breakfast in popular areas along the Bosphorus like Bebek or Rumelihisari. The are many competing eateries here to choose from which keeps prices down.

Menemen

The dish of menemen originated in the 1920s in the Menemen neighborhood of Izmir that is found in the Aegean Region. The main ingredient of this dish, tomatoes, was first cultivated in this district of Izmir. Menemen is an omelet with a mouth-watering Turkish flair and Turks enjoy this for their breakfast. Roasted peppers and onions are combined with boiling tomatoes and simmered completely. This mixture is then blended with eggs, pepper, ground red pepper, and parsley.

Being a simple conventional dish, it is easily prepared and somewhat frugal to make. There are many variations of this omelet, such as the addition of ground meat (sucuk), sausage, occasionally chicken, cheese, eggplant, and mushrooms.

Some of the best places to order this comforting and delectable dish are Mehtap Cafe in Emirgan, Lades Muhallebi in Beyoglu, Kale Cay Bahcesi in Rumelihisari, Bebek Kahve and Sutis in Beyoglu.

Iskender Kebap

Iskender kebap is a doner meat entree. Doner is made with pounded tenderized meat that has been seasoned with beef fat (suet) and locally grown herbs and spices. The meat is skewered, then vertically grilled on a spit. The aroma is like no other and immediately has you longing for a taste. The doner is then sliced or shaved thinly and offered on pita bread called pide, which has been buttered and drizzled with tomato sauce. A dollop of yogurt will be placed alongside, and if you wish, your waiter will gladly present you with extra butter and tomato sauce to add some additional enjoyment to your meal.

The birthplace of this succulent saucy dish is Bursa. Kazim Erdem (a master chef) does it up best in the cozy, but humble Bursa Kebapcisi in Beyoglu on Atif Yilmaz Street.

Kunefe

Kunefe is a Turkish dessert that will please pastry lovers, being a cheese pastry that is traditionally Arab. With an easy blend of water and flour, kadayif is formed, being thin strands of dough. Unsalted cheese is spread and enveloped in two layers of kadayif.

This is offered immersed in warm syrup. Ground pistachio is then sprinkled atop of this golden amber dessert. It is a delight to your senses with so many contrasting textures and tastes. The crunchiness of the pistachios and the crustiness of the dough meld with the hot, creaminess of the cheese, which calms the heavier sweetness of the syrup.

Simply satisfying on so many levels, especially for the dessert lover and the sweet tooth.

Baklava

Baklava shows the exquisite and tasteful passion of a creation ensconced in a Turkish dessert. This is a dessert that not only requires the proper quality ingredients but the talent for crafting this superb sweet treat.

The ingredients are a phyllo dough, that must be rolled to the perfect thinness and then adds nuts and syrup. The nuts have to be the pure harmony of hazelnuts, pistachios, and walnuts that come from various regions in Turkey. Chopped nuts are distributed over the phyllo layers with the top layer of dough drizzled with melted butter, then baked and finally drenched in a sugary syrup.

You need to find just the right place to enjoy your baklava where it is skillfully prepared and the freshest offering. Two of those places are Koskerglu and Gulluoglu, which are both in Karakoy.

Lufer

Fish is ranked in the top five choices of what to eat in Istanbul if you ask the locals. When determining the type of fish, lufer is an excellent pick depending on your personal preference. Lufer is a very large, but flavorful type of fish from the Pomatomidae family, and is easily cleaned and eaten as well. The sarikanat or young lufer is even more delectable if it is offered.

The weekend tradition celebrated by local Turks consists of raki, a strong libation that tastes of licorice because of the addition of the spice anise.

Kuru Fasulye

When enjoying kuru fasulye served alongside plain rice (pilav) and pickles, I feel like I am one of the local Turks, savoring this traditional and cultural dish.

The dish kuru fasulye contains haricot beans, which you may think do not sound very celebratory or merry. When cooked just right with a few other high-quality ingredients, this dish’s texture is creamy and smooth to the palate and doesn’t disappoint.

The haricot beans are cooked with tomato paste, tomatoes, and butter and might be served as is or including pastirma, slices of dried spiced beef.

The restaurants across from Suleymaniye Mosque are the best places for this luscious, comforting dish.