There isn’t any better way to discover the true soul of a city or a country than walking around and allow yourself to surrender to the local culinary temptations. It requires a little spirit of adventure and a good appetite. Street food is part of Istanbul’s life and it is virtually impossible to walk for more than one block without coming across a small stall, a street cart, a little hole in the wall kebab shop or a tiny traditional bakery where a huge selection of little (or not so little) sweet or savoury snacks and unlimited lunch options are available. Here is a selection of what I enjoyed most, and I think it’s worth trying.
Simit or Turkish Bagels are the iconic bread rings encrusted with black sesame seeds that have been produced in Istanbul since 1525, and very often sold in the street, where they are still available today in red carts. An ideal snack on the go, perfect paired with a glass of Turkish çay (or Tea).
2. Mısır and Kestane Kebab
Mısır or corn on the cob , mainly available in summer, and Kestane Kebab or roasted chestnuts, available in winter. Chestnuts were first brought to Europe from Sardis, on the West coast of Turkey and they were called the ‘Sardian nut’.
Durum meaning roll in Turkish, is a flatbread wrap filled with doner kebab. Everybody knows these lamb or chicken pieces roasting on a rotating vertical spit, but my favourite is Dürümzade’s chargrilled minced lamb, served with tomato and red onion.
4. Pomegranate juice
Lahmacun or Turkish pizza is a round, thin flatbread topped with minced lamb, minced tomatoes, onions and parsley, then baked, served sprinkled with lemon juice.
6. Islak Burgers
Islak Burgers or wet burgers, soaked in a tomato-based garlic heavy sauce before being displayed in a steamy glass case. They look dreadful, orange, very oily, but they taste delicious, and they are addictive. You can find them at Kızılkayalar on Taksim square.
7. Balik Ekmek
Balik Ekmek (fish in bread) or grilled mackerel fillet sandwich served with onion, lettuce, lemon and chilli paste on request . You can find a few restaurants selling it beneath Galata Bridge.
8. Halka tatlisi
Halka tatlisi or Turkish deepfried churros, soaked into a sweet syrup, sprinkled with coconut and ground pistachios.
9. Tukish çay
Turkish tea, everybody knows Turkish coffee but Turkish tea (çay) is the national drink, brewed samovar-style poured into a little tulip-shaped glasses.
10. Fresh Pinapple