Istanbul is known for its rich history, vibrant culture, and stunning architecture, but it’s also a haven for foodies. The city offers a variety of culinary delights that reflect its unique blend of Eastern and Western cultures. Here’s a guide to some of Istanbul’s must-try foods and where to find them.
Kebab is a popular dish that originated in the Middle East and spread throughout the world. Istanbul, being a city with a rich culinary tradition, is famous for its delicious kebabs. In Istanbul, you can find many different types of kebabs, each with its unique taste and cooking style.
One of the most popular types of kebab in Istanbul is the “döner kebab,” which is made by stacking layers of meat (usually lamb or beef) on a vertical spit and rotating it slowly as it cooks. Thin slices of the meat are then shaved off the spit and served in a pita bread or on a plate with rice, vegetables, and sauce.
Another popular kebab in Istanbul is the “şiş kebabı,” which is made by marinating cubes of meat (usually lamb or chicken) in spices and skewering them with vegetables like onions, peppers, and tomatoes. The skewers are then grilled over charcoal, giving the meat a smoky flavor and tender texture.
Other types of kebab that you can find in Istanbul include the “adana kebabı,” which is made from ground meat mixed with spices and grilled on skewers, and the “kağıt kebabı,” which is cooked in parchment paper with vegetables and spices, giving it a juicy and flavorful taste.
Overall, if you are a fan of kebabs, Istanbul is definitely a great destination to indulge in this delicious dish.
Baklava is a popular dessert that originated in the Ottoman Empire and is now widely enjoyed throughout the world. Istanbul, being a city with a rich culinary tradition, is famous for its delicious baklava.
In Istanbul, you can find many shops and bakeries that specialize in baklava, offering a variety of different styles and flavors. Traditional baklava is made by layering thin sheets of phyllo pastry with a mixture of ground nuts (usually pistachios or walnuts) and syrup, then baking it until it is golden brown and crispy.
One of the most famous baklava shops in Istanbul is Karaköy Güllüoğlu, which has been making baklava since 1871. Their baklava is known for its thin, delicate layers of pastry and the use of high-quality ingredients like fresh butter and local nuts.
Another popular baklava shop in Istanbul is Hafız Mustafa, which has been making baklava and other sweets since 1864. They offer a wide variety of baklava flavors, including classic pistachio, walnut, and hazelnut, as well as more unusual varieties like rose and pomegranate.
Overall, if you have a sweet tooth and love trying new desserts, Istanbul is definitely a great destination to sample some delicious baklava and other traditional Turkish sweets.
Turkish breakfast, also known as “kahvaltı,” is a meal that is enjoyed throughout Turkey and is particularly popular in Istanbul, where you can find many cafes and restaurants serving this delicious morning feast.
Turkish breakfast typically consists of a variety of different dishes, including bread, cheese, olives, eggs, honey, jam, and a range of sweet and savory spreads. Some of the most common items you might find on a Turkish breakfast spread include:
- Simit: a circular bread covered in sesame seeds
- Cheese: often feta or beyaz peynir, a white cheese made from sheep or cow’s milk
- Olives: usually black or green and marinated in herbs and oil
- Tomatoes and cucumbers: served fresh and sliced
- Menemen: a dish made from scrambled eggs, tomatoes, and peppers
- Sucuk: a spicy sausage made from beef or lamb
- Honey and jam: served with bread and cheese for a sweet contrast to the savory items
One of the best places to enjoy a traditional Turkish breakfast in Istanbul is at Van Kahvaltı Evi, a cozy restaurant in the Cihangir neighborhood that serves up a variety of delicious breakfast dishes, including homemade jams, fresh bread, and eggs cooked to order. Another great spot is Kale Cafe, which offers a stunning view of the Bosphorus and a delicious breakfast spread that includes a variety of meze dishes and fresh, organic ingredients.
Overall, if you are a fan of breakfast foods and love trying new flavors, a traditional Turkish breakfast in Istanbul is definitely a must-try experience.
Meze is a term used to describe a variety of small dishes, typically served as appetizers or snacks, that are enjoyed throughout the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern regions, including in Istanbul, Turkey. Meze dishes are usually shared among friends and family and are often accompanied by drinks such as raki or wine.
In Istanbul, you can find a wide variety of meze dishes, each with their own unique flavors and ingredients. Some of the most popular meze dishes you might find in Istanbul include:
- Hummus: a dip made from mashed chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, and garlic
- Tarama: a dip made from fish roe, bread, and lemon juice
- Ezme: a spicy tomato and pepper salad
- Cacık: a yogurt-based dip with cucumbers and herbs
- Şakşuka: a dish made from eggplant, tomatoes, and peppers
- Patlıcan salatası: a salad made from roasted eggplant, tomatoes, and onions
- Sigara böreği: a savory pastry filled with cheese or meat
One of the best places to enjoy meze in Istanbul is at a “meyhane,” which is a traditional Turkish tavern that specializes in meze and raki. Some popular meyhane restaurants in Istanbul include Refik, Çiya Sofrası, and Meyhane 1920.
Overall, if you are a fan of small plates and love trying new flavors, a meze experience in Istanbul is definitely a must-try culinary adventure.
Turkish Delight, also known as “lokum,” is a sweet treat that is famous throughout Turkey and has become popular all around the world. It is traditionally made from a mixture of sugar, water, and cornstarch, which is then flavored with ingredients like rosewater, lemon, or pistachio and often dusted with powdered sugar.
In Istanbul, you can find many shops and cafes that specialize in Turkish Delight, offering a variety of flavors and textures. Some of the most popular types of Turkish Delight you might find in Istanbul include:
- Classic rosewater: a delicate and fragrant flavor that is popular in Turkey
- Lemon: a tangy and refreshing option that is perfect for summer
- Pistachio: a nutty and rich flavor that is often sprinkled with chopped pistachios
- Pomegranate: a fruity and sweet flavor that is gaining popularity in recent years
One of the most famous Turkish Delight shops in Istanbul is Hacı Bekir, which has been making sweets since 1777 and is considered one of the oldest confectionery shops in Turkey. They offer a wide range of flavors and textures of Turkish Delight, as well as other traditional sweets like baklava and halva.
Another popular place to try Turkish Delight in Istanbul is at the Spice Bazaar (also known as the Egyptian Bazaar), a bustling market located in the Eminönü district. Here, you can find many shops selling Turkish Delight and other sweets, as well as a wide variety of spices, teas, and other culinary delights.
Overall, if you have a sweet tooth and love trying new desserts, a visit to a Turkish Delight shop in Istanbul is definitely a must-try experience.
Simit is a type of bread that is popular throughout Turkey, and especially in Istanbul, where it is a beloved breakfast and snack food. Simit is a circular bread that is typically covered in sesame seeds, which gives it a crunchy texture and a nutty flavor.
In Istanbul, you can find simit being sold by street vendors and at bakeries throughout the city. It is often enjoyed on its own as a quick snack or as part of a Turkish breakfast spread, where it is served alongside cheese, olives, and other breakfast foods.
Simit is also used in other dishes, such as “simit poğaça,” which is a type of savory pastry filled with cheese, meat, or vegetables and topped with sesame seeds. Another popular way to enjoy simit is as a sandwich, where it is filled with cheese, tomatoes, and cucumbers for a simple and satisfying meal.
One of the best places to enjoy simit in Istanbul is at the local street vendors, who can be found throughout the city. These vendors typically sell freshly baked simit that is warm and crispy, making it a perfect on-the-go snack.
Overall, if you are a fan of bread and love trying new types of baked goods, a simit experience in Istanbul is definitely a must-try culinary adventure.
Manti is a traditional Turkish dish that consists of small dumplings filled with seasoned ground beef or lamb, and typically served with a yogurt-based sauce and a sprinkle of spices. It is a popular dish throughout Turkey, and especially in Istanbul, where it is often enjoyed in local restaurants and at home with family and friends.
In Istanbul, you can find many restaurants that specialize in manti, offering a variety of preparations and styles. Some popular variations of manti you might find in Istanbul include:
- Kayseri-style manti: named after the city of Kayseri in central Turkey, this version features smaller, bite-sized dumplings that are typically topped with a tomato sauce and served with yogurt on the side.
- İçli köfte-style manti: in this variation, the filling is made from a mixture of bulgur wheat, ground beef or lamb, and onions, which is then wrapped in a thin layer of dough and boiled until tender.
- Yoghurtlu manti: this is a traditional Turkish dish where boiled manti dumplings are topped with a yogurt-based sauce, garlic, and melted butter, and served hot.
One of the best places to enjoy manti in Istanbul is at a local restaurant such as Fıccın, a popular chain of restaurants that specializes in manti and offers a variety of preparations and sauces. Another great option is Şimşek Restaurant, which has been serving manti in Istanbul since 1927 and is considered a local institution.
Overall, if you are a fan of dumplings and enjoy trying new types of pasta dishes, a manti experience in Istanbul is definitely a must-try culinary adventure.
Istanbul is a coastal city, and as such, it offers a wide variety of fresh and delicious seafood options. From traditional Turkish dishes to international cuisine, there is something for everyone when it comes to seafood in Istanbul.
Some of the most popular seafood dishes you might find in Istanbul include:
- Grilled fish: a classic Turkish seafood dish, typically made with a local fish like sea bass or sea bream that is grilled over charcoal and served with lemon and parsley.
- Balik ekmek: a popular street food in Istanbul, consisting of a freshly grilled fish fillet served in a soft bread roll with salad and onion.
- Seafood meze: a variety of small dishes served as appetizers, including marinated anchovies, grilled octopus, stuffed mussels, and fried calamari.
- Fish and chips: a British classic that has been adapted to Turkish tastes, typically featuring a local fish like hamsi (anchovy) served with thick-cut fries.
One of the best places to enjoy seafood in Istanbul is along the Bosphorus, where you can find many seafood restaurants with stunning views of the water. One popular spot is the Balıkçı Sabahattin restaurant, which has been serving fresh seafood in Istanbul since 1952 and is known for its classic Turkish seafood dishes.
Another great option is the Kumkapı Fish Market, where you can find a variety of fresh seafood and have it cooked to order at one of the many nearby restaurants.
Overall, if you are a seafood lover, Istanbul is definitely a great place to explore and try new dishes. With its fresh ingredients, rich history, and unique culinary traditions, you are sure to find something delicious and memorable.
Pide is a type of Turkish bread that is similar to pizza, but with a thicker, chewier crust and a variety of toppings that are unique to Turkish cuisine. Pide is a popular dish throughout Turkey, and especially in Istanbul, where it is often enjoyed in local restaurants and at home with family and friends.
In Istanbul, you can find many restaurants that specialize in pide, offering a variety of preparations and toppings. Some popular variations of pide you might find in Istanbul include:
- Kaşarlı pide: a classic pide made with a combination of melted cheese, herbs, and butter.
- Kuşbaşılı pide: a pide that is topped with small chunks of seasoned beef or lamb, tomatoes, onions, and peppers.
- Pide with spinach and feta cheese: a vegetarian pide that is filled with a mixture of spinach and feta cheese, and typically served with a side of fresh lemon wedges.
One of the best places to enjoy pide in Istanbul is at a local restaurant such as Pideci Ahmet or Şimşek Pide, both of which are popular with locals and offer a wide variety of pide toppings and preparations. Another great option is to visit one of the many street vendors who sell freshly baked pide from small carts, which are often topped with simple yet delicious combinations like cheese and tomatoes, or ground beef and onions.
Overall, if you are a fan of bread and enjoy trying new types of pizza-like dishes, a pide experience in Istanbul is definitely a must-try culinary adventure.