Last Christmas, a lackadaisical Jew (Dan) and a lapsed Catholic (myself) spent 13 days eating their way through 6 cities of a secular Muslim country (Turkey). After we got home, Leena so very kindly offered up the use of her blog for me to poop on. I mean, post on. Sorry. I found out the hard way that a diet of nothing but Turkish food really tests the sturdiest of GI tracts.
We started and ended our trip in Istanbul ? the geographical and cultural bridge between Europe and Asia. Therefore, I?ll discuss two food-related highlights of our trip ? one at the beginning and one at the end.
Our second night in Turkey, we were whisked away to a seafood restaurant right on the Bosphorus. We started out with a grilled calamari appetizer, with lots of lemon and olive oil to cut the smokiness. Then, our waiter brought out a cart filled with enormous, whole, freshly caught fish. We would point to the fish, he would weigh it, and tell us how much it cost. You purchased the entire fish ? no exceptions. You could also order by the entrée, which seemed a bit more economical for us.
We ordered red mullet and sea bream (I believe), which was seasoned simply and grilled whole. We also had a nice bottle of wine, which was helpful in keeping our sense of humor when a group of Turkish teenagers got wasted at the table behind us and one of them threw up three feet away. Check please!
We knew that once we were back in Istanbul, we HAD to make a pilgrimage to the Egyptian Market ? also known as the Spice Market. It was a cacophony of animal, vegetable, and mineral.
Ceramic curios wedged next to heaps of fire-orange Turkish saffron. As we were looking at spices, we happened to ask the merchant if he knew where to buy Russian caviar. We had heard it was a good 50% cheaper here than in the U.S. He called out for his Uncle Mustafa, who proceeded to lead us to a ceramics shop. ?No,? we protested. ?Caviar. Not ceramics.?
He led us down rickety stairs to a cellar filled with?.more ceramics. And two curious-looking little refrigerators. Out of those came three gallon-sized PVC buckets filled to the brim with the highest quality Caspian Sea beluga and osetra. The shopkeeper started spooning blobs of it into our mouths. Each one was different ? some creamy, others tart and briny. It was heavenly.
Tips for foodies in Turkey?
1.Go out for mezes, Turkish tapas. Turks eat them over the course of several hours for dinner with a bottle of Raki, which is like Ouzo. Not my cup o? tea?but speaking of tea?
2.Drink tea. It?s fabulous, and it?s served all day long in little cups. Watch a Turk drink it the right way, or you?ll burn your hand.
3.Go to the Spice Market. Buy the caviar. We did not, and I?m still regretting it.
If you dig Claire’s writing like I do and want to read more, check out her new food blog, Claire in the Kitchen!