10 June 2016

Being an Infidel Has Its Perks

It's funny how you don't miss, or really even think about something until you can't have it. For me in Turkey those things have been foodstuffs, like pork. You can more and more find restaurants that carry a pork option: Urban does a pretty decent pulled pork sandwich, Journey has bacon for breakfast, Kahvedan does gorgeous pork chops and larger groceries like Carrefour and Macro Center carry some pork products; pork is still not widely available or reasonably priced. This is where Ideal Salam comes in.

Ideal Salam is an exclusive pork butcher shop. I heard about it some time ago but it's not located in one of the nicer areas of town so I've hesitated to go before now. I have made many lovely friends in Turkey and with several of them have formed something of a food group exploring as many of Istanbul's ethnic restaurants as we can (so far Georgian, Indonesian, and Uyghur). On Monday our food group celebrated the first day of Ramazan like only a true infidel can-by venturing into one of the city's seedier neighborhoods on a pork-buying adventure!

From Osmanbey we walked downhill along the infamous Dolapdere Caddesi. I generally avoid this area with its reputation for drugs and other such shenanigans. While walking a fair bit of its length I cannot say I was accosted or saw anything untoward but I still don't think I'd care to repeat the experience. Unless I have a sudden need of one of the many car shops or stores selling wholesale mannequins that line the street.

While the shop windows piled with mannequins were certainly an interesting sight to break up the monotony of all the garages, the most interesting sight was the pile of wood taking up most of the sidewalk as we neared Ideal Salam. The point of the completely untidy pile of wood was not immediately obvious as we carefully picked our way around it-until that is our noses told us what it was for as we literally sniffed out the cause. The wood was located directly in front of a bread shop filled with freshly baked, hot loaves and was (likely) used to fire their ovens (haha, see what I did there?).

Our mouth were already watering from the fresh bread smells by the time we found the BP gas station. Much like the door to Narnia, if you pass between the gas pumps you'll find, tucked away to the right, the door to Ideal Salam. And like the door to Narnia, Ideal Salam's glass door opens to a world of wonder...and a glass case full of beautiful pork products.

Unfortunately they were out of ground pork on Monday (it apparently comes in on Tuesdays) and the ribs looked sad and frostbitten. However there was still plenty to choose and the owner's excellent sales tactics (i.e. lots of samples!) guaranteed that we were not going home empty handed. I walked out with fresh ham, salami Milanese, and prosciutto. Ideal Salam also sells cheeses at a better price than Macro Center and I couldn't resist a gorgeous big slice of brie. Nor could I resist, at a very reasonable 35TL, a bottle of imported Negroamaro. Ideal carries a small selection of Italian wines, mostly Chianti blends but I've never had a Negroamaro (grown almost exclusively in Apulia in southern Italy) so that came home as well.

I was tempted to buy more than I did but had to remind myself that I would have to eat everything relatively quickly so as to not lose it to spoilage. Along with some aged white cheddar from Besiktas's Rani (good effort but not quite cheddar) it's been a ham sandwich feast up in here!

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