I remember arriving in Istanbul on a cold cold afternoon. I was wearing every single bit of clothing in my wardrobe in a futile attempt to ward off the cold (that based on everyone else’s attire, only I was feeling). Atul met me at the stop where the airport bus dropped me, laughed at my snowman attire and then walked me to the artist’s house in Beyoglu that we were to stay in. We were in Istanbul!!
What you mustn’t miss if you are in Istanbul in winter.
1. Sahlep, in a lane outside the Egyptian spice market, as we walked towards the Blue Mosque.
2. Midye dolma
3. Kuru Fusulye
6. Turkish coffee over coals
7. Boza, the sweet fermented drink
A beautiful, creamy, tangy sweet drink, laced with cinnamon, perfect for the winter. You would never imagine that the drink was made by fermenting bulgur, millet, barley or chick peas or that a sweet sour cinnamon warm drink could be anywhere so yummy. even better when you bite into one of those roasted pieces of chickpeas. I can completely imagine why this ancient drink was such a favorite with the Ottoman. It’s been found to have several health benefits including balancing blood pressure, increasing milk production in lactating women, facilitating digestion and ahem..enlarging breast sizes!
8. Tursu Suyu or Pickle juice
9. Balik Ekmek or Fish sandwich
10. Cig Kofte or Veg kebab.
These delicious kofte translate into English as seasoned raw meatballs but the variations I had and loved were purely vegetarian. The traditional meat version, made out of uncooked beef or lamb that is kneaded together with bulgur, tomato and pepper pastes, herbs and spices, is still offered at several grill restaurants in the neighborhood of Fatih but the vegetarian version has finely ground bulgur marinated with scallions, parsley, tomatoes, garlic, tomato paste, and mint leaves and kneaded into kebabs. Isot pepper, locally produced by farmers of Şanlıurfa, in the southeast of Turkey lends the Kebab its smoky flavor and rolled into a lettuce leaf with a squeeze of lemon and pomegranate molasses, this one will send you to a healthier heaven.
11. Sweets at a local sweet shop:
12. Seriously good Baklava.
Having never been a major fan of Baklava before, Istanbul did manage to make a convert of me. So much so that I actually found myself getting back to Mumbai and baking Baklava on the very next night itself, jetlag notwithstanding. But then I realised that the composition of a real good Baklava is rather a specific thing. Butter from Gaziantep and Pistachios from the Antip region. Crisp, golden outside, moist syrupy inside, flavourful nuts and the perfect proportion of butter to syrup. My favourite ones were those I picked up at Guluouglu (I actually found the shop in the Spice Market to be better than the Kadokoy one) and the ones from Sakarya Tatlicisi in Beyouglu.
13. Adana Kebab
14. The ridiculously good Turkish Breakfast
16. Doner Kebab
17. Durum roll – Tantuni
18. Tres leches cakes
19. Turkish delight
22. Manti or tiny filled dumplings in a yoghurt sauce
24. Menemen (scrambeled eggs) or Sucuklu yumurta
25.Midyetava or batter fried mussels.