Among many of the exciting opportunities TIME presents is the chance to sample the cuisine of 4 different countries. I love to try new foods, so this aspect of the trip is one that really excites me.
In the past week of eating and drinking my way through the streets of Istanbul, I have learned a few things…
1. Turkish tea is delicious, and served in a small clear glass with a tiny saucer and spoon to stir in some seker (sugar). It is brewed in a Turkish tea pot, which has two chambers stacked on top of each other. The bottom chamber is for hot water, used to dilute the strong tea in the top chamber. Best enjoyed with company, the Turks use tea as an invitation to invite you into their shop or their home, and it is traditionally served at the end of a meal.
2. Turkish coffee is also good. Strong, but good.
3. Whether you have a kebap, durum, or doner, your entree will most likely be accompanied by rice, potatoes of some sort, half a tomato, and a spicy green pepper. I have not been brave enough to eat the pepper yet.
4. Stands on the street sell grilled corn on the cob, chestnuts, and simit, which is something that resembles a skinny bagel with sesame seeds.
5. Ordering food is half the fun. Sometimes the menus have English subtitles and sometimes we are handed menus that are completely in English. More often, though, we have to randomly pick something from a fully Turkish menu using our poor Turkish skills. The point-at-what-you-want method has proved itself to be the most effective method of getting the desired dish.
5. Turkish delight. What more can I say? Edmund from The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe sold out his siblings to the White Witch in order to get some. It’s that good.
During TIME, I decided that I wanted to take a picture of every dinner I eat along the way. So without further ado, here are my gastronomic adventures from the past week!
Airplane food. Exciting right? I know. I was actually quite impressed with Turkish Airline’s food and overall service. Normally I refuse to eat the chicken on an airplane and just get the pasta, but I decided to make an exception this time. No unpleasant consequences resulted.
Turkish tea, because I forgot to take a picture of what I ate for dinner. Whoops.
Lamb doner kebap! This was really delicious – thinly shaved lamb with tortilla to wrap it in. And of course, the usual side dish suspects. The pepper is under there somewhere.
Sweet breads! Yes, this was part of dinner. Our tour guide Sarap from our city tour invited us to her house for Turkish tea and sweet breads. She has a beautiful home in an area where there were buildings from the Ottoman Empire still standing. She had two balconies with beautiful views of the Bosphorus and we ate grapes off her grape vines and learned how to make Turkish tea. And…
Ice cream! A well-rounded meal. Mado is a chain restaurant here and they have delicious ice cream. I had cherry and strawberry.
Risotto with porcini mushroom and vegetables. Two other girls and I went to a swanky cafe for dinner where our meager Turkish skills were the laughing stock of the place. Despite this, the waiters and the manager all loved us and gave us free drinks. Nice!
Befti, which is lamb wrapped in tortilla in tomato sauce with rice and tomatoes. And there’s that green pepper again! Despite how cute lambs can be, I will admit that they taste delicious. Sue me. And…
a meringue pastry for dessert!
There’s an amusing story behind this one. I was feeling pretty carbo-loaded and craved some veggies, so I ordered “Vegetable Kebap”, expecting a plate of veggies with all the typical side dishes. What I got was this. Needless to say, my efforts to avoid carbs were completely abandoned and I ate half of the bread basket.
I promise I have done more than eat in Istanbul. Posts on the Bosphorus, being on two continents in one day (what?), and the Black Sea are forthcoming. Hold on to your hats!