Istanbul Street Food: Richness in Simplicity

By Marya Javed

In all my travels, I have learnt that to really get to know a place, you must, one,  get an apartment (and not stay at a hotel). Two, you must walk around on the streets. And three, you must eat off the street! Please don’t get me wrong, every once in a while, a nice pampering hotel environment and cabs are great, but for the curious tourist, these three rules hold!

This year in June me, along with my husband and sister, visited Turkey. They say, “if one had but a single glance to give the world, one should gaze at Istanbul”! The sights and sounds of Istanbul are nothing like you’ve ever seen before- it’s a melting pot for so many cultures. You see the mosques and the churches, the conservatives and the liberals, the artists and the businessmen all coexisting in what is a visual and sensory treat of a city!

Going by our principles, we got an apartment off istiklal. The small grocery stores with their fresh olives and cheese, the fruit stalls, the friendly housekeepers- it all made us never want to leave. I have a habit of reading travel blogs before I visit a place but I realized not many have written about Istanbul’s vast variety of street food. Here are my top 3 favorites:

  1. Stuffed mussels

With a small size sold for 0.5 liras, and a large for 1- this street food is a winner! The mussels are stuffed with rice and a slight spice, with lemon squeezed on top! You stand at the stall; the stall owner keeps presenting you with mussels until you stop. And believe me you have to try real hard to do that.

  1. The Turkish ice-cream

I love ice-cream! I’ve tried many sorts- but I assure you, you have tasted nothing like Turkish ice-cream before. The texture of this ice-cream is sticky and elastic- like caramel, it bends and lengthens however much you want! The coolest bit- the ice-cream vendors dress up in their Turkish costumes and play a little “catch your ice-cream” game with you before they give you your ice-cream! I for one, couldn’t decide what I liked better- the ice-cream or the act! Ice-cream at most places should cost 10 liras.

  1. The Turkish breakfast

Not from street vendors as such, but from little cafes off istiklal, you can get the traditional Turkish breakfast! Their staple dish being eggs cooked in a pan, and then served in the same pan! They can be fried or scrambled with your choice of meat, cheese and vegetables! They serve it piping hot in the pan, along with freshly baked bread. To get a real flavor of Turkish breakfast, order some whipped cream and honey on the side, with Turkish tea! Turkish tea is strong, but that’s just how I like it.

So next trip, go to Istanbul and be blown away!