Food in Istanbul (Part 1)

Let me see… I went to a Palace that was not open today. I realized much too late that I forgot to replace the SD card into the camera so today’s photos were all taken using the phone. I climbed a VERY LONG flight of stairs followed by taking a VERY STEEP uphill walk that leads to nowhere just out of curiosity. I walked almost 1 kilometer and climbed two levels of stairs for 10 times, then walked 1 kilometer back just to buy a pair of jeans.

I think I did a lot of nothing today…

I’ll leave those nothings for more detailed posts in the future. Today’s update, I’m gonna show you my meals…

Yesterday’s Dinner:

I was wandering along Istiklal Caddesi (some sort of high street in Beyoglu area) looking for dinner. But most of the restaurants that I saw, including those on the side alleyways, seem to be beyond my budget. 40 Liras might be US$ 13 (cheap) for you, but it’s RM 60 for me (fucking expensive).

And then as I was sleep deprived, I did not last very long before I felt myself going to collapse anytime soon. So I approached those pushcart vendors,

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Grabbed a bit of everything from them, and headed straight back to the apartment.

You’ve already seen this on Instagram/Facebook.

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Kestane, Simit and Misir

These are basically the only things sold by the street vendors that I’ve seen so far. I think I’ve easily encountered over 100 different pushcarts throughout my walks so far, but the items they sell are either of these 3. So I consider these Istanbul Street Food’s Three Gems.

Kestane (10 TL for 150g) – Roasted Chestnuts. Simit (1.25 TL per piece) – Turkish Donuts/Pretzels covered in sesame seeds. Misir (3 TL per piece)- Corn, you can either have it boiled or roasted over coal fire like above.

All in all, I spent 14.25 TL (Turkish Liras) / RM 20 to fill my tummy and also to learn that Turkish street food is not for old people with weak teeth. The chestnuts and corn retains certain crunch in them, and the simit requires some strong gum strength to tear it apart when biting.

Today’s Breakfast:

I noticed one thing from yesterday’s walk. There is a certain cafe chain called Simit Sarayi that exists in every street and every corner. Sarayi means Palace, so… Simit Palace?

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Simits
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Look at all those breads!

I don’t know if this applies elsewhere or not, but here in this cafe chain, simit is not just donut shaped. It can be in any shape. As long as it is bread covered in sesame seed then it is a simit.

You’ve also seen this on Instagram/Facebook. Here’s what I got:

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From bottom right: Spinach Boregi (4.50 TL), Cheese and Pepperoni Simit (4.25 TL), Carrot Juice (5 TL)
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Spinach Boregi
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Cheese and Pepperoni Simit

Boregi is flaky and resembles something that is made of puff pastry. I prefer this more than simit to be honest.

As I was seated and enjoying my breakfast, I noticed a lot of suit wearing and briefcase carrying people coming in, grabbing a piece of bread and a cup of drinks, and left. I presume they are the Turkish working class. So, I reckon this Simit Sarayi is sort of “where the Turkish locals really eat“… 🙄

Today’s Lunch:

At this point of time, I have already done close to 4 kilometers of uphill/downhill walking and climbing of stairs. I have just made it down from the Galata Tower and was totally famished. I basically just barged into the first restaurant that came into my sight. That’s how I found myself inside Ozturk Pide.

This is a small and neat restaurant. One thing I immediately liked about this restaurant is their menu. Their menu is basically a photo album. What you see is what you get.

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Also, I spotted a coal fire oven in one corner of the restaurant, where a chef is busy making pizza and pide (Turkish pronunciation for pita bread).

Also, the restaurant was empty when I entered, but it quickly filled up to full capacity by the time I placed my orders. I think this restaurant must be good, and that I lucked out by being early.

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Anyway, here’s what I ordered for drinks…

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Turkish Coffee – 3 TL

Do not be deceived by how “big” the cup is. Here, a better shot with more perspective…

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A very small cup in fact, but this is one potent m****rf**ker! After finishing this coffee, my brain was quickly rejuvenated and ready!

And here’s my food…

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Izgara Kofte (16 TL) – Grilled Meatballs

Wait, let me turn the plate around…

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Wow! So much vegetables!

I am slowly realizing that the myth of Turkish people eating only bread bread bread and meat meat meat is basically just that, a myth. In fact, I think they eat more vegetables than meat. Even with the kebab, only that stick of meat cooking is big, but the actual serving size is not that big, and the load of vegetables served together is easily much more overpowering.

I think the Turkish are eating healthier food than we do…

Today’s Dinner:

I wasn’t sure what to have today. I did not feel like heading back into the crazy chaos of a crowd that is Istiklal, so I wandered into another street adjacent to it. And then I came across this restaurant called Selvi Restaurant.

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I was curious because instead of the usual kebab cooking on the store front, I spied many trays of dishes instead…

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Here, see?

The place was also somewhat full so I think this must be another of those “what the locals really eat” place. Intrigued, I made my way inside.

Apparently, this is a self service restaurant where you pick the dishes you want and then pay accordingly before you eat. It is very much like our zhap fan (mixed rice), except the dishes are served on separate plates instead of a pile of mess.

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I don’t know what these are called individually in Turkish

The rice is called pilaf (rice cooked in seasoned broth). Then there’s grilled bittergourd and eggplant. Then there’s a meatball dish. And lastly there’s a salad dish. These four dishes came up to a total of 23 TL.

You might think that I am just randomly picking dishes. But no, I was not. I actually looked around and saw most people eating with dishes like this. And do you notice it is again 1 meat dish, but 2 vegetable dishes, together with rice? That’s what most people do, some of them replaced rice with bread.


 

From my dining experience today, I think all I can say is that, I thoroughly enjoyed my food. They are mostly new flavors that I have never had before, and they’re not nasty so I had no problems with that.

But I probably won’t be able to handle a prolonged stay and facing similar food for weeks. So far what I can see is that they only season their food as they think it should be (lightly) or not at all. Less seasoning = better health but less delicious too. That’s Malaysian for you… 🙄

44 Comments

  1. Did you managed to buy locum/baklava/pastries back to Malaysia?
    I am going to visit sulthanamet, istanbul in October.
    wondering whats consider decent price for locum/baklava etc

    • No I didn’t. I’m not a huge fan of baklava. Too sweet for my liking. All I got was those cheap prepacked Turkish delights. But if we’re talking about baklava, the price varies. I think it depends on what type you buy. I’ve seen them go for anywhere between 10 TL to 30 TL per box of 6 pieces. If you get out of Sultanahmet it might be cheaper. Taksim has a few nice baklava shops too.

      • Thanks for the feedback..
        You are making me worried about the danger zone.. I will be a solo female traveller and I was thinking of walking out for dinner. haha..
        I ask around in forums and they said is fine to walk around at night.. ahaha

        • Don’t let that deter you, I guess. It’s not really danger zone. Consider it as more like, nuisance zone. They’re not wrong to say it is fine to walk around at night. Just don’t let those touts bother you.

          • Thanks..
            I been googling around and notice pastries and desserts in Turkey looks so good.. Might buy some simit or something, clingwrap it and bring home along with other goodies.. Oh I cant wait! And yeah will be poor there..Food prices around >30₺ :C

  2. This post is so interesting and shocking as well to see the steep prices! It is cheaper to eat in Japan lah.
    I love the trays of breads in various shapes and colours. So yummy and go well with my coffee!
    Your plateful of Izgara Kofte also looked so appetizing and delicious.

    I was told that most Turkish are good looking and well dressed people.

    • You were told right. Of course I only focused on the ladies. They are all so gorgeous! 😐

  3. Oooh good food picks! We also ate a lot from those self serve restaurants. And that place where you got the grilled meatballs looks similar to another restaurant we visited often. Even the menu with the pictures look similar haha. Oooh a really cheap option to just get one of those chicken pita sandwiches (they’ll load it up with lettuce and stuff too) from a kebab stand. Those are CHEAP, like less than US$2. Another thing I would suggest to try are the rice-stuffed mussels you’ll see on carts (sooo good! and I don’t even like mussels). I would also suggest Turkish breakfast (but not at a touristy restaurant), but those are kind of expensive, like 40 lira probably. 🙁

    • Rice stuffed mussels? I have not seen this one yet! Must keep my eyes open widely when I go back next week! 😐

      Well, according to the hotel I will be staying in, the breakfast buffet will be typical Turkish breakfast fare. So I’m still keeping my fingers crossed that I get to taste them without spending a dime extra… 🙄

  4. Brings back a lot of memories of the time we went to Istanbul. Like u, I noticed they use eggplant quite extensively and it is a vegt I do enjoy. Did u ever see the hollowed out eggplant ‘ shells ‘ hanging by the bunch in some stores? Hope u had the chance to try the local varieties of baklava. And hope u bought some of the spices for preparing meat at the Spice Mkt. Saffron is also very reasonable there.

    • I saw a lot of baklava shops, they mostly go with Turkish delights. I have not got around to trying them because by the looks of it, they will be mighty sweet >.< .. Yeah, I will definitely grab some saffron on my return leg to Istanbul..

  5. It certainly looks like you are eating well there in Instanbul. Doesn’t look like what the locals like to eat are fried or tossed in a wok like Malaysian food. More like oven baked and steamed from the looks of it. Sounds plain compared to Malaysian food, lol.

    Maybe the hard bread Simit is meant to be eaten with a drink, like pulling part of it apart and dipping it into coffee to soften it 🙄

    • Well, I dunno. I watched the locals eat their simits and they were all grabbing the bread on one hand and biting on it like one would on a hot dog. I know sometimes they are served on a big platter with cheese and olives and whatnot. So I guess they are supposed to be eaten as it is, training your gum strength along the way 🙄 ..

  6. What would I give to have some of that Turkish coffee and one of those cheese and pepperoni simits. It is so good to see you embracing the culture and sampling the local cuisine.

    I don’t think I should have read this post as it is nearly dinner time and it has made me very hungry!!

    Keep updating us whenever possible!!

    • Well, at least it is nearly dinner time so you get to eat very soon! 😀

      Turkish food (I mean day to day food) has been very interesting to me. I’m glad I came here. 😀

  7. I tink Turkish cuisine is sort of western fusion with middle eastern. They served thinly sliced veggies with grilled tomatoes and green pepper (capsicum) a lot apart from the meat. Their food mostly retain the natural flavour, that’s why we Malaysian can easily adapt to it, though could be quite bland to our tongue.

    • Yes I think you are right, the food here is a mix between the two. And you are spot on, that’s what I think. Their food mostly retains the natural flavors. I think Singaporeans might like the food here better than Malaysians. 🙄 😛

  8. The food looks interesting… I wonder what I end up eating… bread, I cannot eat much, maybe I will opt for rice and vegetables… 🙂 and the push cart vendors.. I would love those too.. corns and the nuts… yummss!

    • The rice and vegetables is the type of food which tastes closest to what we get in Malaysia… I think if I am to live here long term, this is what I will go for frequently too.

  9. oooh, lot of walking and you also have some good food to replenish your energy.. looks like food are not cheap in there woh, one simple meal can be RM20 easily, but i find the food quite interesting and i actually don’t mind eating.. there are actually more veggie (or non-meat) than meat, eg: the grilled meatball has more veggie and bread than the meatball, your mom would be happy with that, haha..

    • The thing is, I did not even intentionally look for veggie meals. It seems like loads of veggies is a standard for meals here. We have always been deceived by the roasting kebab on the shop front…

      And the food price, I’m not sure if it is because I’m in a touristy area, or because it is really that expensive. After all, I’m considered to be in Europe. Well, Barcelona will be even more expensive I reckon…

  10. You walked a lot! I will go crazy if I go into that cafe and see all the lovely breads. Your lunch had so much colorful vegetables. Your dinner had quite a bit of vegetables too. So if you keep this up, lots of walking and healthy food, maybe you could lose weight in Turkey 😀

    • I guess we’ll see when I am finally back home. As of now, all I can feel is that my thighs are very sore thanks to all the climbing… 🙄

  11. So, for your meals, I see you’ve had some corn, chestnuts, bread, pastries, chap farn, meatballs and lots of veggies…something “similar” (but just treated differently) to what you would eat back home too….haha! 😀 From your description of Turkish coffee, I don’t think I’ll like it.

    • Yeah yeah, it also means my legs are now very sore. I don’t know how I’m going to get to the airport later >.< ...

    • Hahaha unfortunately you are right. Don’t say “not enough” la, “not as much as I imagined” better… I think you will not like it with the food here. Unless you order special, like request “no veggies, I want all meat”. 🙄

  12. How did you order your food? Everyone speaks English?

    Your mother would be so proud of you because you ate so much vegetables for lunch and dinner.

    I like the food already, all the simit and vegetable and spices used on the meat. Yum yum!

    • Actually only the touristy places have people who speak good English. The restaurants that I went to, they basically have 1 staff who speaks limited English, and that’s the person assigned to serve me. But their menu is simple, so between broken English and finger pointing, it’s not too hard to get the food you want. At least (I thought) it was a lot easier compared to Tokyo…

      Yeah I showed her my meals, and she did not even bother to reply me. I think that’s her way of saying “Good”. No comment = nothing to complain 🙄 …

      Somehow I think yes, you will enjoy the food here. They don’t use a lot of msg (or maybe even not at all). The stuff that I had, they mostly get their flavors by roasting/grilling and lightly salted, and they do use a lot of spices. It is a far cry from the kebabs that we get served back in Malaysia…

      • The spices they use are very different from the spices used here, that’s why the taste is so different.

        I mean different from spices used in Chinese, indian and malay food here but in middle eastern restaurants in kl you will get the authentic spices so I guess if one likes the taste of spice in authentic middle eastern restaurants here then they will like local food in Turkey.

        • I suppose you are right. On my return leg, I will spend more time in the Sultanahmet area, so I will visit the Spice Bazaar and see what’s the deal there… 😀

  13. The grilled meatballs don’t look like balls, they are flat

    You had just only those for yesterday’s dinner, full meh?

    I only remembered we had grilled fish (Turkish style) when we were in Turkey in 1997, the fish was very fishy and we were so happy when they brought us to some Chinese restaurant, how we missed Chinese food

    • Well, yeah, they’re flat. I guess they just call any lump of meat as meatballs. 🙄

      “Only” those? Wei I actually thought it was a lot leh! Luckily I managed to finish them…

      Hmm.. I have not tried their fish yet, and I doubt I will. But I understand what you mean. Yeah the food here tastes nothing like Chinese food or Malaysian/Singaporean food. Sometimes they look the same, but taste absolutely different. I think we really need to be more open minded and accommodating to be able to enjoy food not just here but everywhere when you travel.

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