Local food in Istanbul: The top 5 tastes of Turkey
1. Turkish breakfast
Turks take breakfast seriously, especially in the east of the country. Van Kahvaltı Evi brings eastern specialities to Istanbul. You can expect local cheeses, kaymak (similar to clotted cream), breads, jams and honeys, plus menemen (scrambled egg with pepper, tomato and onion) and gözleme (thin dough sheets filled with cheese and spinach).
Mezze is the perfect meal if you can’t decide what to eat. Hot and cold starters are served on a big plate and everyone digs in. Popular dishes are şakşuka (fried aubergine with tomato) and barbunya (borlotti beans in olive oil), all washed down with raki. Specialist mezze restaurants are known as meyhane, and one of the best is Meşrutiyet Caddesi’s Meze by Lemon Tree restaurant.
In Turkey a kebab isn’t just a kebab. There’s lots of different varieties, from doner to the adana made from lamb, peppers and spices or the İskender baked with tomato and yogurt. Try an authentic Istanbul kebab at Khorasani in Sultanahmet. You’ll get a kebab that’s grilled over charcoal, and if you can’t choose just one you can get a plate of mini kebabs and try a few.
Manti is a kind of miniature Turkish ravioli, made with a flour, water and salt dough. It’s filled with lamb or beef and then boiled or cooked in tomato sauce and served with yogurt and garlic. The better the chef, the smaller and neater the manti. You’ll find delicious versions at Aşkana Mantı on Metehan Sokak and Sayla Manti on Nail Bey Sokak.
Balkava is Turkey’s most famous dessert and comes in all shapes and sizes. It’s always made with thin layers of phyllo dough, brushed with butter and sugar syrup. It comes with pistachios, walnuts or as it is, dripping with sticky syrup. Rıhtım Caddesi’s Karaköy Güllüoğlu sweetshop does a deliciously crisp buttery baklava with a dollop of kaymak.