One thing that makes or breaks a holiday is the food – the more popular holiday destinations are also linked to the good food. The definition of good food would vary – for some may be the great cuisine, Michelin stars and resturants, while for others it maybe the variety of the local cuisine and of course there are those who look for their home fare where ever they go!!! But, most of us would rate a destination based on the ordinary, easily available, affordable local fare. And on these counts, Istanbul rates really high.
Being the popular tourist center that it is, it caters to all levels of eating. There are large number of resturants of all shades and grades, many with outdoor seating much as in many European cities. Ananth and I had a couple of the dinners at such establishments – one a little flashier than the other, which advertised its mention in the “Lonely Planet”. Food was average and nothing to really rave about – of course, we just may not have chosen the best one. But, the kebabs that are familiar to us and are everywhere tend to be bland for our palates! THe most popular kebeb is the Doner kebeb – these large cylinders of rotating meat from which slices are sliced off and served inside a local bread. It was interesting as these cylinders were about a meter in diameter in the morning when we set out, and down to a 10-20 cm in the evenings. The best meal we had, however, was a warm wrap on the street side.
The street food was of great variety – fruits, nuts, tea, Turkish coffee, wraps and Simit. Everything was clean, often on mobile carts and some very familiar to us – like the bhutta. In the far East, I always saw it steamed – but here it was roasted on coals – but how differently. Simit – a local bread – with a variety of fillings was probably the cheapest food available. I found the weakness for Nutrella rather interesting!!
The markets were also full of foods – beautifully displayed. The Spice Market had every spice on earth on offer – including most of the Indian ones and saffron from all the growers around the globe.
There were also the healthier options – fruits and dry fruits – the latter had a wide choice of seeds, variations of our pumpkin seeds, a g ood time pass and you have to painstakingly crack the seeds to get the insides!!
One thing to note – no deep fried food anywhere. It is not part of their cuisine. But, it is the only place outside I have been to (outside India, of course) where sweets (mitai equivalent) is a big part of the food – baclava shops everywhere and people buy a piece and it on the go!! I failed to get a photo of the display – it was impressive. Being in the Mediterranean region, they also have the large variety of vegetables, olives and chesse all of which goes to make a rich, but healthy eating culture!