What made my trip to Turkey so memorable was definitely the people, but the food also stands out in my mind. I’d had “Mediterranean style” cuisine before, namely kebabs, but I had dishes I’d never heard of and may never find back home. What’s so memorable isn’t necessarily the restaurants themselves but the dishes, so I’m writing generally about what you can taste in the country. The cuisine varies by what part of the country you’re in as well. And what’s best of all is how cheap you can find a great meal in Turkey. There’s no need to rely on McDonalds or ramen noodles!
Chicken durum wrap– This simple flatbread wrap is reminiscent of a thinner pita and is filled with meat or chicken with lettuce and tomatoes. It’s a great meal if you’re on the go and it only cost me 7.50 lira ($3 USD).
Grilled whole fish– I can’t tell you how many times I had this dish, particularly as I worked my way down the Aegean to the Mediterranean. After mastering the art of getting as much meat as possible without swallowing pin bones, I ordered it as often as possible. It’s a great non-red meat option.
Shrimp casserole (karides güvec)– I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect when I ordered this in a seafood restaurant near my hostel in Istanbul. What came out was a boiling pot of shrimp in a broth, covered in cheese.
Lamb kofte– This is a standard dish throughout Turkey and typically only cost me 20 lira ($10 USD) for meatballs, fries, rice as well as mezze plates, salads, bread and a dessert of honeydew. You can also get it in chicken varieties.
Fruit salad– I hadn’t quite gotten used to the Turkish breakfasts of tomatoes, cucumbers and feta cheese, so this fruit salad with plums, grapes and apples over yogurt and muesli topped in honey was just what I was looking for. It was included in my stay at Atilla’s Getaway.
Spicy kebab– I sat down for a late lunch in Uchisar, the town in Cappadocia I was staying in, and ordered some sort of spicy kebab. It came with the standard mezzes, bread and vegetables, but this one also had bell peppers and the meat itself had a nice kick.
Gözleme– During my sailing trip a man in a boat came up to ours and sold gözleme with Nutella and bananas, which tasted a lot like a pancake. The savory kind, however, is more akin to a quesadilla. I had this one in Uchisar filled with cheese, spinach and potatoes for only 9 lira ($4.50 USD).
Turkish delight– Shockingly enough, I had never had the famous dessert before I came to Turkey. It never really appealed to me, but during my tour with Urban Adventures, we were taken to a shop in the Spice Bazaar that sells authentic Turkish delight, not the kind you can buy in other parts of the world. It was soft and sticky and sweet in a way you can only understand if you’ve had it.
Fish sandwich– The fish sandwich boats on the Golden Horn are one of the most famous, and cheapest, places to eat in Sultanahmet. Walk up to the counter at any of the floating restaurants next to the Galata Bridge and order the fish sandwich, which will be handed to you almost immediately for only 6 lira ($3 USD). Grab a seat anywhere and dig into the monstrous sandwich. I loved the thick French-style bread, fish and lettuce, but picked off the raw onions.
Turkish breakfast– While it took me a while to get used to Turkish breakfasts, I soon got the hang of it, spreading feta cheese onto my bread and drizzling it in honey. I’d have a few cucumbers and maybe an omelet, but never cared for the tomatoes or olives that early in the morning.
Waffle with Nutella and ice cream– In one of my rare sweet tooth moments of the trip, a few of the girls from the sailing trip and I stopped at a cafe in Kas to use their WiFi. We ordered waffles and were brought this. While it’s far from authentic, I messily ate every last bite.
Turkish tea– Every meal, every stop in a shop and really every moment of the day is consumed with Turkish tea, which costs 1 lira ($o.50 USD). Whenever it’s offered to you, take it, as it’s a great way to start a conversation. While it’s more bitter than your English varieties, sugar is often added. And if you’re really feeling touristy, go for the apple tea, also known as “tourist tea.”
Pomegranate juice– Getting freshly squeezed pomegranate juice is one of the greatest parts of traveling in the region. Any pomegranate product back home is overpriced. The juice cost me 6 lira ($3) and was very tart.
Spaghetti with pesto– My last meal in Istanbul wasn’t Turkish at all, but was pasta from Cheers Lighthouse’s in-house restaurant Soul Kitchen. Pictured in the header, I settled into the cozy spot for my dinner and an Efes beer for good measure. It cost me 25 lira ($12.50).
So are you hungry yet?
Thanks to Urban Adventures and my fantastic guide Semih for hosting me on their Istanbul Uncovered tour. Receive a 10 % discount when you book a day trip by using the code UAIST. All opinions and cravings for Turkish cuisine are my own.