Published on July 28th, 2014 | by Geckos Tales Team
Turkey’s most glorious street food in pictures (and words)
Read time: a bit over 4 minutes
Turkish kebabs certainly make up the bulk of the country’s street food contingent, but there are plenty more lesser-known urban delicacies to be sampled between (or during) kebabs.
I know, because when I was in Turkey I ate the place, and myself, to within an inch of our lives. I’ve lost the weight now, but I haven’t lost the appetite for Turkish food. In fact, I had a kebab on the first day I returned home from Turkey to Melbourne.
But that’s enough about kebabs, let’s take a tour of Turkey’s finest alternative street food offerings. Like corn. I like corn.
Like kebab shops, grilled corn stalls are everywhere in Turkey. Istanbul’s full of ‘em. There isn’t a whole lot to say about the corn, other than the fact that if you are the type of person that likes corn, then this stuff’s for you. The vendors will often have some pre-grilled cobs on display, so make sure you get them to grill a fresh one for you. They’ll throw on a little salt, and bingo – corn.
These things are also everywhere. You likely won’t go a day without seeing a bloke with a little wheeled cart stacked high with these pretzel-like bread concoctions. Simit are essentially just rings of crusty bread covered in sesame seeds, and they make the perfect snack for when you’re on the move (or sitting still). You can also get them with fillings, such as Nutella. Mmm.
I was looking as these little closed-shell mussels the entire time I was in Istanbul wondering what the deal was. I’d always been taught that if you cook mussels and the shells don’t open, they’re bad. And you don’t want bad mussels, because they play host to the kind of evil that leaves you toilet-ridden for days.
Eventually I asked my Turkish mate Gus, who’s a chef in Istanbul, what the mussels were about. As it turns out, the mussels are cooked first, then opened and stuffed with aromatic, spicy rice, and then closed for display. Makes sense.
Upon learning this, I proceeded to eat a thousand of them.
If you’re in Istanbul, get down to the Karaköy or Eminönü shoreline (either side of the Galata Bridge) and grab one of these delicious fish rolls. The fish are caught right there, the fish are cooked right there, and the fish are eaten right there – it doesn’t get much fresher than that. Or delicious. Don’t be tempted to chomp on balık-ekmek at one of the restaurants under Galata Bridge – you’ll pay a higher price for what might be an inferior sandwich. And if there’s one thing I hate, it’s inferior sandwiches.
You can’t move without seeing börek or gözleme stands around Turkey and coincidentally, you usually can’t move much once you’ve taken advantage of aforementioned stands either.
Take any combination of spinach, cheese, minced lamb/beef and potato, wrap some tube-shaped bread around it, cook it, and you’ve got yourself a börek. The same ingredients are present in gözleme, but the mode of transport (shape of bread) is circular, like a pizza, and folded into delicious slabs, as pictured above.
‘Turkish pizza’ to most tourists. Take one part pizza-esque base, add minced meat, onion and red/green pepper, cook, and eat. Repeat as many times as necessary. The best part about lahmacun (and most other foodstuffs on this list, come to think about it) is that they’re often insanely cheap – three lira (roughly US$1.50) for a pizza is pretty epic. The one pictured is folded in half – usually they’ll be laid out flat. FYI.
Pide is very much like lahmacun, in that it is basically the Turkish equivalent of a pizza. The main difference is the shape of the bread – which many would describe as “boat-shaped”. This “boat-shaped” flat bread (with a Cornish-pasty like crust), is topped with minced meat, onions, veg and spices. It is delicious.
I made it through six different foods before mentioning kebabs again – go me. These are an obvious choice for streetfood, but there are so many different types that it can be hard to know which kebab is best for pounding the pavements, so I’ll tell you: doners (in a pide) and durum (in a wrap). Above is a picture of me devouring the former.
Both contain meat carved off the huge rotating skewers you see everywhere, salad, a few chips and as much chilli sauce as you like. Make sure you ask the doner in a pide/roll, else you might get it on a plate with rice (which is delicious, but not ideal for aforementioned pavement-pounding). Durum comes in a wrap, so you’re all set.
Whet your appetite? You can tuck in to all of the above and more on one of Geckos itineraries in Turkey.