Bold, savory, refreshing, mouth-watering, amusingly foreign. Turkey has some of the most interesting dishes that I have ever tried by far. During my stay in the Turkish largest city I had the chance to tickle my palate by tasting local dishes made from fresh and exotic spices from all over the world, thanks to its historic significance as a main entrepôt.
However if I got the chance to go back to Istanbul but only had one day I would not want to miss the following delicacies:
Shish Kebab, Derman, the Grand Bazaar
Their lamb and chicken shish kebabs are arguably the best in town. We found this modest food stall after asking one of the shop owners inside the Grand Bazaar. “I always go there because it’s finger-licking good!” claimed the mid-aged antique shop owner.
He did not lie.
As this is a small restaurant, it would be better to go here about fifteen minutes before lunchtime to secure a seat. They will first serve chopped pickled red cabbages before the main course. Eat like a local: sprinkle some more salt if you like, although I chose to add no more salt since it was already quite salty and sour. Then roll the shish kebab inside your bread and let the tenderness melt in your mouth. See if you crave for more.
Döner Kebab, a small restaurant across Tarihi Asmalı Simit Fırını, Salma Tomruk Caddesi, Edinerkapı
Döner kebab is in abundance in Istanbul, but many of them taste rather bland. Learning from our experience with Derman we knew we had to find a place off the touristy areas. It was a fortuitous moment when we found this small kebab house near the Chora Church on a chill day in the city. Initially we only wanted to seek refuge from the cold weather and had lunch. It turned out we had probably the best and most mouth-watering döner kebab that we had ever tasted in Istanbul.
The owner knows no English, so a little knowledge in saying numbers in Turkish would definitely help.
Sütaş Ayran, everywhere
Ayran is the preferred drink for Istanbulites after having their meals. Its sour and salty taste helps tone down the rich and heavy flavors of kebabs, pide, lahmacun, and other delectable Turkish cuisines. Each ayran tastes slightly different from the others, but my favorite was the one made by Sütaş. Its perfect consistency and the considerate amount of added salt added is refreshing and not overpowering, even for those who are not keen on this beverage.
Despite having tried a multitude of Turkish dishes during my 8-day stay in Istanbul, there are still lots of succulent dishes that need to wait for my next visit to the city, one day.