Once a capital to Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman empires, Istanbul also has a cuisine culture ranging from past to present. It is a meeting point for not only its immediate surroundings but also for various cuisines from the Aegean to the Black Sea, from Anatolia to the Balkans, such as Armenian, Arab, Greek, and Caucasian cuisines. Although many of the well-known and most-eaten traditional meals of the past have been forgotten or replaced by new ones today, and although the cuisine culture of the city has changed from time to time, some tastes have timeless popularity.
Although you see kebab shops and pastry desserts with syrup on every corner of Istanbul, there are numerous restaurants where you can enjoy the traditional tastes of the city.
Let us make a brief list of the tastes you ought to enjoy to know Istanbul really.
Have you ever thought if there is any city but Istanbul on earth, which a sea passes through? The Bosporus is commemorable for not only its various kinds of fish but also its seaside restaurants. You can eat the fish of the season such as seabass, sea bream, red mullet, black sea bream, white sea bream, common sea bream, striped sea bream, bonito, turbot, bluefish, sole fish, scorpionfish in places addressing to different income levels, ranging from hovel fish restaurants and fisher shelters to premium restaurants established in waterside mansions. On top of that, you can also eat numerous appetizers together with the fish, such as sea cowpea, sea beans, rock samphire, radicchio, stifno, leaf mustard, chenopodium album, goosefoot, nasturtium officinale, corn-poppy, knotweed, cowpea, cibes grass, popules, thistle, Cretan stew, common mallow, and watercress.
Obviously, we make mention of the kebab shops you can see on every corner in Istanbul in these days. Fireside is the place you can go with your friends after work, or with your family at the weekend, and see for yourself how the meat becomes so delicious on fire. Lamb or veal, any type of meat; liver on skewers or grilled small pieces of meat on wooden skewers, or tomatoes, eggplants, peppers… if you want All of them are cooked right in front of you, and your lungs rejoice at the smell of embers.
Istanbul is a metropolis where you can find the best examples of world cuisine as well as Turkish cuisine. In this geography, the Greeks who were already here before Turks and become Ottoman subjects after the conquest of Constantinople have naturally left their mark on Istanbul cuisine. You can enjoy all of the rare tastes such as grilled octopus & calamari, drunkard’s appetizer, saganaki with sesame-seed crust, crispy shrimp, salted bonito, galaktoboureko, farsala, which are known as components of Greek cuisine today, in Greek restaurants and taverns of Istanbul.
Additionally, you can enjoy in Istanbul the real tastes of Snow Peas, Marasa, Stuffed Zucchini, Çullamaya, and many other appetizers dominated by herbs and brought by the Cretan Muslims, who had to migrate to Turkey due to the Population Exchange, first to Ayvalık, Edremit, Bodrum, and then to Istanbul.
There are not many Armenians living in Istanbul anymore. However, their cuisine and unique meals are livelier than their memories. They have become the components of our culture as well. So much so that topik (mini chickpea and potato balls), small white bean salad, stuffed mackerel, oil stuffed cabbage roll, kete, and Harisa that we call keskek… Another note: you cannot find this rich Armenian cuisine even in Armenia. You might find similar tastes in the Armenian diaspora in France or Canada, maybe…
TASTES OF THE FAR EAST
Istanbul is always open to modern tastes. The Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese people have not come to our country to live here maybe, but their cuisines are already in Istanbul. It is not wrong to say that the Chinese and Japanese cuisines have come to us through the American popular culture. The Korean restaurants, however, are known today thanks to the music genre known as K-Pop and the Korean TV series in particular… It is your choice, but many restaurants where you can eat the Chinese meals such as Wonton soup, spring rolls, dim sum, duck rolls, Kung Pao, the Japanese chopstick meals such as sushi, tempura, onigiri, soba, ramen, and the Korean meals such as Gimbab, Kimchi, Noddle, Jajangmyeon, and Rabokki await you.
Even the street tastes alone can make Istanbul the most attractive city for those who have gourmet palate. Brine made of lemon or vinegar, steak tartare a la turca in rolls, ring dessert, kibbeh (cracked wheat balls stuffed with minced meat), stuffed mussels, kokoreç (grilled sheep’s intestines), gyro, roasted corn, roasted chestnut in winter, rice with chickpeas, Turkish sesame bagel, grilled fish sandwich, tantuni, steamed burger, wafer halva,… You see, the street tastes of Istanbul are countless. Moreover, these are just the first ones coming to mind.