You’ve finally purchased your plane ticket and arrived in the metropolis that serves as a bridge between East and West. What, then, do you typically consume for sustenance? You may be disheartened to learn that even ten years in Istanbul wouldn’t be enough time to sample all the interesting delicacies the Turkish cuisine has to offer. However, if you’re looking for a fast cut to the kitchen, here are 12 of the city’s most famous and popular meals. You may want to bring a camera since you’ll want to document this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for your friends and family.
Köfte (the name of the meal) at Sultanahmet Köftecisi, an appendix (name of the restaurant)
1. Sultanahmet Köftecisi, Where to Get Köfte
One of the world’s greatest köfte can be found at Sultanahmet Köftecisi, one of the oldest restaurants in Istanbul.
Of course there will be copies, but there can only be one original. If the köftes you’ve tried elsewhere have been overpowered by spices, try this simplified version (and not just chili). Spread a thick layer of the hot sauce on top if you want.
All you can get for a main course is some fancy meatballs and some lamb shish cooked with delicate thighs. Buttery rice will bring you back to the comforts of home, while crispy French fries will satisfy your fast food cravings.
The sütlaç and semolina halva at this simple, upscale fast food restaurant are a milky or non-milky dessert lover’s dream. Juicy meatballs at a reasonable price may be found at this tourist-friendly suburb restaurant.
2. Iya Sofras’s homemade cuisine
Don’t leave Turkey without eating some traditional fare. Iya Sofras is a great place to eat authentic handmade Turkish cuisine in Istanbul. Musa Dadeviren, the renowned Turkish chef, is the owner.
Iya’s menu is always evolving. Sure, there are some boring old standbys that will make you exclaim “ooh!” like the Ezo Gelin soup with its hearty helping of lentils or the tamarind sherbet. The red kidney beans, carrots, garlic, and onion in the roasted chard root give it a chili-con-carne vibe, and you can tell that a lot of care went into making it.
Intriguing options abound for carnivores, such as filled chard or minced pork in a creamy celery covering. Pomegranates, turmeric, and veal are all brought together in the bold Hannar-i Goşt dish.
Even the sweets are superb. The walnut dessert, with its green walnut shell treated with limestone, is a mind boggler, as are the tomato and eggplant desserts, but there are also more conventional options like evaporated milk with figs and cheesy künefe. The addition of silken tahini to their pumpkin pie gives it a unique flavour.
3. Erzincanl Ali Baba Bazaar, Kuru Fasulye
Kuru fasulye, a stew cooked from dry white beans, is one of Turkey’s most beloved dishes. A trip to Turkey to sample some of the country’s many delicious variations on this common bean could convince even the most ardent sceptic.
At Erzincanl Ali Baba, you can get some of the greatest kuru fasulye in all of Istanbul, if not all of Turkey.
It’s up to you to specify how much sauce and how many beans you’d like in your dish. Try ordering a dish of rice, some pickles, and an ayran to drink to blend in with the locals. You may savour the sweets with a cup of Turkish tea while people-watching near the Süleymaniye Mosque.
4. Ca kebab at ehzade Ca kebab
You’ll want to snap shots of the cook in this little, crowded alley. It’s not only that he wears a brilliant red fez and a moustache, giving him an air of Ottoman authority; it’s also the way he gingerly bends over the wood-fired oven and pulls out the perfect shish of beef.
Faintly greasy, but very tender Unlike döners, which are cooked vertically in an electric oven, ca kebabs are grilled horizontally on a grill, and the chef can be seen inserting a skewer, trimming the meat, and then inserting the skewer again into a section that has been cooked to perfection.
Although ca kebab isn’t really a sandwich or wrap, it comes with lavash bread so you may build your own. First, form a wrap with only the meat, then add the other ingredients. So, proceed in this fashion.
Onions, which are both tasty and nutritious, and sumac, which has a tart flavour, will be served. Add some salad and some spicy ezme to your wrap if you want. The ezme will be tamed by the yoghurt and ayran. At least, until you come to the pistachio-filled “Kadayf Dolmas” of Erzurum, a traditional delicacy doused in honey and syrup.
5. Karadeniz Döner Asm Usta’s kebab
Do you really need us to define “döner kebab” for you? Before Turkey was even on the map, döner was a household name across the globe. At Karadeniz Döner Asm Usta, however, the meaning of this typically Turkish food is completely transformed.
There is a döner in the vertical oven that is larger than Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Seeing the chef use his or her secret method to cut into the tender flesh is a sight to see. If you want to eat, you should probably go there before lunchtime since they go fast. Even the bread is exceptional.
The fact that it is still a popular destination means that parking will likely be difficult to come by, but luckily getting lost in Beşiktaş’s alleys is half the pleasure.
6. Iskender Iskenderolu’s kebab
Iskender kebab, a meal with magical powers, was created by a gourmet wizard around the turn of the nineteenth century. Great-grandfather of Mr. Iskender, who still operates the restaurant in Istanbul today.
If the hands making your Iskender kebab are the grandkids of the culinary genius who originated this meal and should be knighted in every nation, you know you’re eating the greatest of the best. This is why the name “Iskenderolu” means “the sons of Iskender” in its literal form.
On top of a bed of grilled bread and doused in acidic red tomato sauce lies a mountain of döner kebab, known as an iskender. To its right is buttery rice, and to its left is thick yoghurt that can be picked up with a fork (or bulgur rice).
Afterward, the chef will add a finishing touch of hot butter to your meal. You possess a wonder so bewitching that it has enthralled a whole country.
7. Beyti Restaurant’s Karşk Izgara (Mixed grill)
Like the idea of joining the ranks of such notable individuals as Nixon, Demirel, Arthur Miller, Ludwig Erhard, Li Xiannian, and others in the realms of entertainment, politics, and space exploration? In the 1980s, Mr. Beyti, creator of the Beyti kebab, founded his restaurant, which has a fusion of modern and Ottoman style and, more significantly, some of the city’s finest kebabs.
You may eat a little bit of everything from kebabs to köfte at the mixed grill (Beyti Usulu Karşk Izgara), so there’s no need to feel guilty about not sampling everything. Furthermore, any bottle of red Turkish wine will go well with at least one of the meat selections.
Vegetarians may choose from appetisers like artichokes and celery, as well as main courses like eggplant rice and eggplant parmigiana. only to mention a few.
8. The grilled turbot at Balkç Kahraman
This is one of the top seafood restaurants in Istanbul, frequented by A-list celebrities from across the world and often featured in the cuisine sections of local publications and magazines. More so with the delicately flavoured turbot, a highly sought-after fish.
It takes practise to master the art of grilling fish, especially when you consider how simple it is to overcook one side while leaving the other uncooked. Turbot, on the other hand, is a different species entirely and demands expertise that most home cooks lack.
Whether you’re coming alone to enjoy the evening or with a large group of friends, this fish may be ordered in single servings or by the kilo. All that is done to this enigmatic fish is to serve it with onions to amplify its savoury qualities, a touch of rocket for a burst of freshness, and a slice of lemon to bring out its tangy undertones.
The hot appetisers and the fresh-squeezed cranberry juice are in a league of their own. Elegant fisherman-boat-inspired decor is the backdrop for a milky kadayf sweetened with pixie dust if you’re in the mood for something sugary.
9. Büryan Kebab, Siirt eref Büryan, 1892
Boneless or on the bone, depending on your preference, büryan is a pit-roasted lamb that is so sweet and tender that the word “succulent” may not do it justice. And if you’re looking for the greatest büryan kebab in Istanbul, you should go to the Siirt eref Büryan 1892 restaurant in Kadnlar Pazar, one of the city’s bustling marketplaces.
Because of the lengthy cooking period and mild seasoning, it exudes refined sophistication. It’s much more delicate than custard, and it almost dissolves in your tongue. Even though you’ll be kicking yourself for not getting any büryan, spice lovers can also check out the Adana kebab.
The vegetarian platter has bulgur and seductive, smokey eggplant that would make even the meatiest dishes green with envy.
There are several options for those who like a spicier meal. In contrast to its silky texture, hummus takes on a delightful saltiness when paired with meat or pastrami. The aubergine salad and tzatziki provide some colour to the table, but the savoury kibbeh (with bulgur on the exterior and hot meat on the inside) and paçanga börek (a pastry packed with pastrami, olives, and peppers before being fried) are the actual kiss of the chef.
The restaurant Siirt eref Büryan 1892 serves delicious, sweet pastries topped with ice cream.
10. Meze by Lemon Tree, where you can have authentic Turkish tapas
Mezes are meant to be shared between friends, and Lemon Tree’s meze menus do a great job of encouraging that spirit. Start your evening off well by ordering the “Fixed Turkish Meze Plate” and sharing any six of the freshly made mezes between you and your dining buddy. After that, choose between two hot appetisers, such as shrimp casserole in a creamy tarragon-lemon stew or deliciously fried calamari with walnut-tartar sauce. Hot hummus with pastrami is available for carnivores, while baked pastry loaded with cheese, mushrooms, and aubergine will satisfy vegetarians.
You may swap the sizzling appetisers for a family-style main dish if you’d rather not indulge in the starters. It is really difficult to decide between the buttery soy-sauced octopus, the monkfish braised in cheese, vegetables, and red wine, the lamb chops with almond pilaf and salad, and the other available meat dishes.
Then, for dessert, pick from fresh fruits (if you’re trying to be healthy) and either chile-sauced, nutty bananas topped with clotted cream and honey, or hazelnut pudding with tahini and mulberry molasses. Tea and coffee are complimentary, but alcoholic beverages are not.