27 May 2016

Turkish Street/Fast Foods

Like many countries turkey has its own fast/street food culture. Some things, like the roasted chestnuts (kestane), the rice stuffed shell-things which I think might be mussels(?), and kokoreç I'll take a pass on. And even though I will never willingly eat it let's take a second to talk about kokoreç. My main food rule is that I won't eat anything that comes out of the body cavity and everything about this dishes breaks that rule because what it is, is lamb or goat intestine wrapped around around seasoned offal, including sweetbreads, hearts, lungs, and/or kidneys.

Just no.

However even without those three I am still left all sorts of other fast/street foods. What better place to start than the iconic simit? Simits are often likened to American bagels but are really as far apart as are Turkey and America. A traditional simit is a ring or twisted bread covered in sesame seeds (from which it gets its name). They're amazing plain, with krem peynir, labne (super thick, strained yogurt), or as a sandwich with cucumber, tomato, and beyaz peynir. While the ring is what we see the most of you can also sometimes find simit bread in markets or bakeries. And while you can easily find the traditional simit also in markets and bakeries it's far more satisfying to get them from the street vendors and they're red carts!

kıymalı pide

One of my absolute favorite things in Turkey is the pide, aka Turkish pizza. Pides come long and boat-shaped and open, long and boat-shaped and covered, and round. I haven't discovered what the reasoning is behind the different shapes but it seems to have a lot to do with which toppings you get. As many topping varieties as there are for pizzas so are there for pide. My favorite toppings are the meats: kavurma (roasted beef or lamb), pastırma (cured beef), and kıyma (ground beef). My absolute favorite place to get pide is a place called Kızılkayalar. There are two locations just off Taksim Square; one does just the fast food (ıslak hamburger, döner, etc.) and the other is a full restaurant with a buffet, roasted chicken, pide, and a compliment of kebaps. It was the saddest day ever when this place took itself off the Yemeksepeti service (online order & delivery site).

kaşarlı et dürüm

Next up, one of my favorite treats, is the kaşarlı et dürüm (meat wrap with cheese). These are about as ubiquitous as the simits and pides and the fillings all vary slightly but my favorite, favorite place to go is Mavi Büfe over by the Spice Bazaar. Places that serve dürüm and döner often serve dry meat because it sits around and gets recooked a few times once sliced off the giant meatcicle. Unlike these places though, the meat at Mavi Büfe is always fresh, juicy, and yummy. Roll that up in lavas bread with some french fries and cheese and I am a happy happy person. I usually pair with a fresh orange juice, a popular street beverage here on its own and no longer have to even order when I go to Mavi Büfe. As soon as I walk up I'm enthusiastically greeted by several of the guys who work there and after kisses all around I'm ushered to my usual table by Suleiman who's always my waiter and within five minutes my regular order is set in front of me.

sigara böreği

Because God loves us and the proof is the many kinds of börek in the world. Börek is essentially pastry layered with cheese, meat, spinach, potatoes, or possibly combinations thereof. Bosnians unarguably make the best börek; if you ever have the opportunity to visit Bosnia it's a must. However while the Bosnians hold the champion belt here Turks do it proud and they offer many varieties. There's su böreği which is the only one I really like-think of it like sauceless Turkish lasagne but replace the noodles with pastry and steam cook the whole thing. There's my favorite, kol böreği, which is what they do so well in Bosnia, paçanga böreği which is like a crazy amazing Turkish hot pocket, and sigara böreği which is deep fried yumminess. Börek places abound and one should definitely make time to try some of these be it in shop, having it delivered, or on the go.

ıslak hamburger

We have this thing here called an ıslak hamburger. 'Islak' means wet in Turkish and these are, literally, wet hamburgers. It's a relatively small, spicy meat patty in a regular sized hamburger bun that has spent (one hopes not longer than) all day sitting under a heat lamp swimming in meat juices. Some of my friends, okay well most of them, swear that these are drunk food only. I'm really kind of fond of them, drunk or not. Not sure what that says about me...


While it's a beverage and not a food I have to include sahlep (or sometimes also spelled salep) in this list. Sahlep is the best thing about winter in Turkey which is when it appears. You can find it in a lot of shops and cafes but there are also traditional sahlep sellers who wander around neighborhoods pushing a cart with a sahlep samovar. Sahlep is a thick, creamy drink made out of powdered tubers that fall in the Orchid family and is often mixed with any combination of milk, honey, cinnamon, sugar, etc. You have to be careful when drinking it as often it's so thick that you don't realize how hot it is until you've taken a drink. Which is obviously far too late because then you have a gullet full of burning hot glutinous powdered orchid roots. We've all been there.

I included no kebabs in this post as they deserve their a post of their very own.

These are some of my favorite Turkish street/fast foods! What are yours?