10 Delicious Foods to Taste in Istanbul, Turkey
Food is a large part of Turkish culture. While nothing beats a homemade Turkish meal, Istanbul is full of amazing foods, most of which are available for very affordable prices. As a Turkish-American, I have been to Turkey on numerous occasions and have tried it all. While I recommend you to somehow finagle your way into a homemade Turkish meal, here are the top foods you should try in Istanbul.
1. Turkish Breakfast
Turkish breakfast is the best way to start off your day. It consists of freshly baked breads, cheeses, olives, pastries and cured meats. In addition, breakfast is usually served with a cup of tea, which usually turns into 2-3 cups by the time breakfast is over. Most cafes serve breakfast but if you would like an amazing breakfast experience with a great view of the Bosporus Sea, check out Lokma restaurant.
2. Döner Kebab
Döner is a meat cooked on a vertical rotisserie, normally with lamb and beef but can also be with chicken. This is by far the most popular street food in Turkey. You can have the döner served in a plate on top of rice, inside a half baguette (yarim emek), inside a pita (pide) or as wrap (durum).
3. Grilled fish sandwich (Balık Ekmek)
If you end up near the Galata bridge, make sure to try the grilled fish sandwiches. They are fresh from the sea and extremely affordable. Additionally, you will have an amazing view of the Bosporus sea while snacking on your yummy fish sandwich.
This is basically a Turkish version of a grilled cheese sandwich. You can have it with just cheese or add additional items, such as sucuk (dry, spicy sausage consisting of ground beef) or tomatoes, to give yourself a heartier meal. While very simple, Tost is very tasty and a good snack to have when you are on the go.
5. Baked Potato (Kumpir)
While I know you think of baked potato as an American dish, think again. Kumpir is essentially a baked potato on steroids. The baked potatoes are loaded up with every condiment you can imagine, ranging from hot dog slices to corn to olives to beets. They are then topped off with butter, cheese and different mayonnaise-based sauces. While not the healthiest meal, it is extremely tasty.
6. Kızılkayalar Hamburger
Kızılkayalar is a restaurant that serves...soggy hamburgers. I know it sounds gross but it is delicious, especially after a long night of drinking. To give you more proof, Anthony Bourdain visited Kizilkayalar in Taksim Square on his show No Reservations. He loved it.
Best described as a Turkish bagel, but it is so much better. This is a circular bread typically encrusted with sesame seeds. It is crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside. Many street vendors sell these, typically for around 50 cents. You can also go to cafes that focus on simit such as Simit Sarayi where you can get different varieties and fillings including sucuk and olive paste.
Borek is a baked or fried pasty made of thin flaky phyllo dough than can be filled with cheese and / or meats. There are many different varieties but all of them are fan favorites.
9. Turkish “Pizza” (Lahmacun)
Lahmacun is a round, thin piece of dough with minced meat (usually beef or lamb) and minced vegetables (onions, tomatoes, parsley) on top. It is often served with lemon juice and wrapped around vegetables including pickles and onions.
No day is complete without having Turkish coffee. If you are not a big coffee drinker, I recommend asking for sugar (they will ask you if you would like sugar in the coffee) as it is strong and bitter. Once you are done, ask someone to tell your “fortune” with the coffee (they read the inside of your cup from the remains of the coffee). It’s gimmicky but fun.
Istanbul is filled with amazing, delicious and affordable food. Next time you are in Istanbul, do your stomach a favor and try all these wonderful Turkish creations.