Turkey - Culinary Travel Overview
Turkey presents the culinary traveler with one of the world’s great cuisines in exotic, never-to-be forgotten settings. Historically rooted in the culture of the Ottoman Empire, Turkish cuisine is often represented by succulent spit-roasted lamb but it is rich in vegetables (eggplant is revered) fruits, nuts, herbs and fish from its four seas. Over centuries, palace cooks serving the sultans fused those culinary traditions with influences from the Middle East and elements from Central Asia. Today, Turkey's people honor their culinary history but we see a wonderful marriage of old world ingredients with new influences.
ISTANBUL AND ITS STREET FOOD CULTURE
The cityscape of Turkey’s cosmopolitan capital Istanbul, poised at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, is layered with domes and minarets. It is famous for its meandering centuries-old bazaars like the vibrant Spice Market, and offers an amazing street-food culture. Neighborhoods like the ancient Sultanhamet and the lively, fashionable Beyoğlu are waiting to be sampled. Indulging in street food is a fun learning experience, economical, delicious and leaves time for seeing the city’s many iconic sites like Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque.
Ancient markets line the labyrinth of winding streets and alleys house stalls selling street foods like midye tava (fried mussels on a skewer), kumpir (oven-baked potatoes with savory fillings) and mercimek kofte (mashed red lentil balls wrapped in a lettuce leaf.) Pushcarts and kiosks are ubiquitous, selling corn-on-the-cob, pastries, squares of Bici Bici pudding and “chewy” Dondurma (Turkish ice cream- with a secret ingredient, flour from wild orchid roots) - it’s served up by costumed vendors with a bit of performance art that is guaranteed to make you smile.
"...now I understand why you love Cappadocia so much! The trip went like clockwork. Thanks for all your help." - Bob, Boston, MA
… AND MORE STREET FOOD
Step out of your hotel in the morning and you will see pushcarts filled with sesame-studded simits. A cross between a bagel and a New York style pretzel, they are served warm and make a great quick breakfast with a fresh squeezed juice. You can stop later for a glass of chai or a cup of strong Turkish coffee. Turkey’s quintessential street treat is the döner kebab. Lamb, beef or chicken, grilled or roasted on a spit, thinly sliced and served on flat bread with all sorts of fixings.
Along the Bosphorus, roving vendors hawk mussels and a few Turkish lira will buy you a handful and a piece of lemon. Head to the bustling Galata Bridge for a fish sandwich cooked and served up from the boats. Sit, eat and take in the sights and sounds of the waterfront. Enjoy desert at nearby Güllüoglu Baklava – arguably the best in Turkey, before ferrying over to Istanbul’s Asian side. If it’s a Tuesday make sure to take in Turkey’s largest market Kadikoy with its wealth of organic produce.
Interested in culinary travel to Turkey? Contact us
DINING IN INSTANBUL
Istanbul boasts an amazing number of dining venues from quiet, atmospheric teahouses to five star luxury hotels and restored mansions of pashas. World-class, roof top restaurants overlook the romantic Bosphorus. Classic Ottoman-era cuisine is served with great aplomb and there is an exciting array of fusion options and riffs on traditional dishes. In the fish houses and rollicking meyhanes everyone enjoys mezes, hot and cold small plates comparable to tapas, with glasses of raki, an anise-flavored liquor that is Turkey’s national drink. A home-hosted culinary experience including a cooking lesson followed by lunch or dinner is always a special experience.
The World Heritage Site Cappadocia lays claim to a magical landscape of “fairy chimney” formations and ancient subterranean cities with cave dwellings and gorgeous frescoed churches. The region of Anatolia has it its own distinct cuisine that includes delicious hot humus, a flatbread “pizza” and use of in-ground ovens. Many consider it the birthplace of wine and oenophiles should include a stop in the vineyards of Urgup. Active foodies will love the spectacular hiking opportunities.
The peninsula of Bodrum faces the stained glass blue of the Aegean Sea and beach-loving culinary travelers can enjoy the best of both worlds. Days can be spent in a combination of swimming in the turquoise waters, relaxing, cooking lessons, and amazing al fresco dining. The Blue Voyage, exploring the coastline in a Gulet (the region’s traditional wooden boat) provides the additional opportunity to explore historical and archeological sites. Private chef on board.
COOKING WITH ENGIN AKIN
Forks on the Road is honored to be associated with one of Turkey’s most famous cooks and authorities on Turkish cuisine, Engin Akin. Engin offers a unique 3-day residential culinary experinece that includes hands-on cooking lessons in a beautiful rural setting. Guests join Engin in her native Aegean hamlet of Ula. Having personally experienced the school, we are sure it will be one of the hightlights of any Turkish itinerary.