Istanbul is a foodie’s paradise. I ate so many delicious foods in Istanbul that it is hard to pick favorites, but here are a few things that really stand out in my mind:
Lahmacun – Round, thin piece of dough – almost like pizza – topped with mincemeat and spices and baked in a wood-fired oven. Usually topped with parsley, a squeeze of lemon, and sumac, then rolled up and eaten like a burrito. Lahmacun is delicious and cheap – usually costing only 2-4 TL ($1-2).
My favorite lahmacun was on the Asian side of the city at Halil Lahmacun, Guneslibahce Sokak 26, Kadikoy.
Ayran – The perfect drink to go with Lahmacun. It is a slightly salty yogurt drink. Sounds weird, I know, but I loved the tanginess of it.
Sour meatball soup at Çiya Sofrası, Caferağa Mah. Güneşlibahçe Sokak No. 43, Kadıköy. Çiya Sofrası is reputed to be one of the best restaurants in Istanbul, and I was not disappointed. There were many traditional dishes to choose from, but I went for the sour meatball soup, which had little meatballs made with with bulgar and lamb and a delicious broth flavored with sumac, which gave the soup an almost citric sourness.
Kumpir – Kumpir is a baked potato that is split open and mixed with butter and cheese and your choice of toppings. On the suggestion of the Kumpir stand’s owner, I had mine loaded with yogurt, a couscous-like bulgar called kisir, corn, peas, olives, hot dog slices, hot sauce, and tons of pickled veggies. Kumpir is one of the most unique street foods in Istanbul, and is delicious (although I think I would skip the hotdog slices next time). The inside of the potato is soft, creamy, and rich and then you get the acidity of the pickled vegetables and a bit of a kick from the hot sauce. There is a whole row of Kumpir stands near the mosque in the village of Ortakoy, which is situated on the Bosphorus, so you can enjoy your Kumpir while sitting on a bench, gazing across the river.
Fresh pomegranate juice – This was delicious and squeezed right in front of me for less than a dollar. There are juice stands all over the city, but I went to one near the Hagia Sofia more than once.
Fish sandwiches - There were throngs of people lining up for these sandwiches, which were sold out of boats parked on the old town side of the Galata bridge, so I followed suit.
The the sandwiches were simple – just a roll with fried fish, lettuce, onion, and a squeeze of lemon. Worth trying (and a bargain for 5TL) but I didn’t love it – it was a bit on the dry side for my tastes. Tartar sauce, please!
Manti – A delicious ravioli-like dish. The dumplings were stuffed with spiced ground meat and topped with a dill and yogurt sauce.
I don’t even know what this was called, but it was so delicious! I spotted a man slicing off pieces of this fried, sweet dough from a giant coil in Galata. It was crispy on the outside, but gooey on the inside. I am drooling just remembering eating this, and I don’t even like sweets!
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