Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Touring Turkey - Turkish Food Rundown, Part 1

If I have not mentioned this before, I didn't have a bad meal the entire time I was in Turkey. Whether it was a local spot or a higher end place, everything I tasted was flavorful and often unique for me. My favorite part of Turkish food was that fact that there were elements that I recognized from other Mediterranean cuisines yet some distinctive cooking techniques (at least to me anyway). I'll highlight some of the food we ate in Istanbul in this post.

Unfortunately, we didn't get a chance to really sample as many restaurants I would have liked. This time around jet lag hit both Husband J and me pretty hard. We didn't venture too far in the evenings from our hotel, but we still had some great meals at Pasazade and Imbat in the Sultanahmet (the old city) during our first three days in Istanbul. Let's talk food!

Bread. I think I could live off of bread. At Pasazade we had three types. Sesame seeds are pretty common sight on Turkish bread, especially on Simit, which is a bread resembling a wheel that's often eaten for breakfast. The rectangular bread below was spongy and perfect. Do you ever have to tell yourself to stop eating the bread before the meal comes? That was me here. We had this wonderfully unexpected spread of feta with peppers to go with it. That could have been my meal.

Meat! Although popular as a take-out option, Turks eat kofte anywhere.

Kofte with yogurt sauce
A mix of lamb and veal meatball (more like meatloaf, I guess) topped with yogurt sauce accompanied by roasted tomato & pepper

Meat and fruit. Ottoman cuisine often uses either fresh or dried fruit as part of a side dish or garnish for meat. The most common types of fruit used are apricot, plums, dates, apples, grapes and figs.

Mistanya Kuzu Firin
Baked lamb marinated with fresh spices serve on mashed artichoke + potato with a cranberry chestnut sauce

Chicken with apple, quince and apricot on mashed potatoes

I was totally expecting the fruit to make the dish quite sweet especially with the chicken, but it really melded with the herbs and spices it was stewed in. What a way to include an extra food group in the meal! I'm used to sweet and salty flavor profiles, but the balanced mix of fresh spices and fruit flavors were intriguing. I'd never had anything like this.

Vegetarian dishes are common, and veggies are often mixed with tomato, spices and served in their natural juices. Here's a prime example:

Roasted spinach roots

Pasta..well, sort of. Manti is by far my new favorite Turkish dish. I also had the best manti I had the whole trip at Pasazade. Manti is essentially folded triangles of dough filled with minced meat (often lamb) mixed with onions and spices. It's often served with a garlic yogurt sauce (Pasazade's included spicy tomato sauce) and a dash of dried spices such as oregano or red pepper powder. AWESOME!!

Of course we saved room for dessert.

I had described Helva before. This one was a lot lighter than the helva we had at our hotel. Some helvas are made with flour and others with nut butter, so drastically different textures. Pasazade's was made of semolina flour, eggs, and sugar with a comforting vanilla flavor and topped with vanilla ice cream. At least that's what the restaurant says. This helva seemed crumbly, which would be the consistency of a helva made with nut-butter (like tahini or sunflower seed butter). Who cares? It tasted great.

Irmik Helva
The ice cream was off the hook. I have no idea what they put in all of the dairy products in Turkey. All of the yogurt, ice cream, etc. were phenomenal. Husband J says it's because they don't have the pasteurization requirements we do in the U.S. What do you think?

Turkish Delight
Turkish Delight is an invention of the Ottomans (what isn't? :)). It's actually a generic name for a variety of bite-sized sweet treats made of gelled starch and sugar. Sometimes Turkish Delight will include dates, walnuts, pistachios or hazelnuts. They are dusted with powdered sugar, so beware if you are wearing black!

I hope you enjoyed the quick run down of Turkish food. The funny thing is that I have MORE to show you when we get to Cappadocia, which we will be next week. Turkish food has so many variations. I've got a Turkish restaurant in my neighborhood, and I'm dying to know if their manti is any good.

Pasazade and Imbat are in Sultanahmet and a little pricier than some other restaurants that will literally drag you off the street to get you through the door. Both restaurants are totally worth it and a great value given the level of food and service. Imbat has a gorgeous rooftop view, which we didn't see because it was raining at night (our great luck with weather!)

Ibn Kemal Sokak 5/A
Sirkeci, Istanbul

Hudavendigar Cadessi 34
Sirkeci, Istanbul
On the roof of the Orient Express Hotel

All dishes pictured are from Pasazade with the exception of the lamb dish.


Hannah {Culture Connoisseur} said...

I don't think you understand my yogurt sauce addiction. It is intense and deep rooted. This post has caused me to relapse!

lavenderpug said...

i've heard great things about the food in turkey and this post certainly confirms that!

Tiffany said...

Oh, yum! Everything looks delicious! What was Turkish Delight like? I've always been curious about it!

BigAppleNosh said...

Yum - I loooove Turkish delight! :)

Sarah Got A Passport said...

What's your favorite Turkish restaurant in NYC? I think the last one I went to is Ali Baba in Murray Hill. They have manti stuffed with ground lamb. I also love kofte and fruits in my savory dishes :)

Try Anything Once Terri said...

@Tiffany - I think of Turkish Delight as having the consistency of a vanilla Starburst. Super chewy but not overpowering with sweetness and lots of powdered sugar.

@Sarah - Honestly, my trip has totally turned me on to Turkish food. I'll definitely be trying Turkish restaurants in NYC now. I'll have to take your advice re: Ali Baba!

Micah and Catherine said...

Everything looks delish. I love turkish bread. It was everywhere in Australia.


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