Feb 202016
 
Turkish ice cream! Delicious!

Turkish ice cream! Delicious.

For most of my travels in Turkey, I was extremely busy scarfing every food in sight. In an effort to peer pressure you to do the same, let us take a tour of the delectable Turkish street treats you can encounter, both in the country itself, and in Turkish food stalls around the world.

Have you heard of this sticky, chewy ice cream?

Have you heard of this sticky, chewy ice cream?

A major culinary joy of Turkey for me was Turkish ice cream, also called dondurma. This confection is distinct from non-Turkish ice cream because it is sticky, chewy, and thick (due to the addition of a special type of flour and resin), to the point that it could be eaten with a knife and fork!

 Ortakoy Mosque is a visual highlight of the yummy Ortakoy neighborhood of Istanbul.

Ortakoy Mosque presides over the yummy Ortakoy neighborhood of Istanbul.

The fun part of having a sticky national ice cream is that street vendors use this stickiness to tease purchasers. If you give a Turkish ice cream vendor money to buy an ice cream, the vendor will likely treat you to a 5-minute show in which he places the cone in your hand, then snatches it back out with a metal spatula! Twists and turns of the cone later (not to mention many laughs and blushing faces), and you’ll at last have your yummy dessert to yourself.

Street food stalls in Ortakoy, Istanbul. Those condiments go on potatoes called Kumpir.

Street food stalls in Ortakoy, Istanbul. Those condiments go on potatoes called Kumpir.

Another unique Turkish street food is kumpir, which are baked potatoes heaped with a plethora of condiments. As you can see from the photo above of the proud kumpir vendors, these condiments are so beautifully colored, they rival ice cream in visual allure! It would be kind of a bummer, though, if you took a bite expecting ice cream and got a mouthful of olives instead.

Stuffed mussels with lemon: A common street food in Istanbul.

Stuffed mussels with lemon: A common street food in Istanbul.

The Ortakoy neighborhood of Istanbul was chock full of food stands, including many men hawking shiny black stuffed mussels. Despite the popularity of this snack (in doing corroborating research for this article, I found countless rapturous accounts of how addictive these mussels are), I must admit that I was too scared to eat street seafood.

So many delicious shops in the Ortakoy neighborhood of Istanbul.

So many delicious shops in the Ortakoy neighborhood of Istanbul.

To continue our street food tour of Turkey, let us hop a ferry from the European side of Istanbul to the Asian side for some great yogurt! (My 7th grade students back in Boston were fascinated by the fact that Istanbul is divided by the beautiful Bosphorus Strait between two continents. “Do you need a passport to cross?” they asked. In fact, you do not, as it’s still the same country, despite straddling continents.)

Waiting for the ferry to the Asian side of Istanbul.

Waiting for the ferry to the Asian side of Istanbul to eat yogurt.

Once on the Asian side of Istanbul, we hopped off the ferry to sit at a delightful outdoor cafe. The Turkish yogurt arrived (along with our Turkish coffee and tea, of course) accompanied by a fluffy bowl of powdered sugar, and some tiny spoons.

I loved eating tangy Turkish yogurt.

I loved eating tangy Turkish yogurt.

You see, Turkish yogurt is much more tart than what we Americans are used to, and has a thick skin at the top, so the sugar balances out the sass nicely. I really enjoyed the yogurt, but I tend to like foods with a little “bite” to them. If you are into more delicate tastes, the yogurt may be too much for you. Give me your portion if you don’t want it! (If you love yogurt like I do, however, you may want to check out this piece on “Old Beijing Yogurt” we sampled in China.)

Colorful houses along the Bosphorus Strait.

Colorful houses along the Bosphorus Strait.

This brings us to the graceful curves of Turkish tea: a ubiquitous and delicious feature of Turkish life. (Don’t worry, coffee lovers — there will be an entire article dedicated to Turkish coffee in the near future!)

Turkish tea, Turkish yogurt, and powdered sugar for the yogurt.

Turkish tea, Turkish yogurt, and powdered sugar to sweeten the yogurt.

I find Turkish tea absolutely beautiful, both visually and for the internal, emotional effect it produces as you drink it. Its calming effect is akin to the feeling evoked by this photo I took of the harbor where we had our yogurt and tea time. Joyful, smooth warmth, right?

This tranquil harbor on the Asian side of Istanbul evokes the warmth of Turkish tea.

This tranquil harbor on the Asian side of Istanbul evokes the warmth of Turkish tea.

Back across the Bosphorus Strait and in front of the famous Blue Mosque, we come to our final Turkish street food of the day: Simit, which is a sort of Turkish bagel, except crispier, skinnier, and covered in sesame seeds. You’ll find simit sellers everywhere in Turkey. Yum!

A man selling simit (like a Turkish bagel) outside the Blue Mosque.

A man selling simit (like a Turkish bagel) outside the Blue Mosque.

Now, there are a whole lot more Turkish street foods to sample, from Turkish delight to kebabs, but I shall stop here to prevent your cyber-belly from popping. So what do YOU think? Which of these foods have you tried, and which would you like to sample? Do share!

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  14 Responses to “Turkish Street Foods: Ice Cream, Mussels, and More!”

  1. I love Turkish food. We have a lot of it in Denmark, but I’d love to try the real thing in Turkey. It looks delish!

  2. The food looks so delicious! One of the best parts of travel is you have the opportunity to sample foods you may have tried before. Hopefully, you’ll get the chance to sample more Turkish street food.

  3. Lovely pictures!! Turkey street food yumm….. Especially Turkish tea !!!

  4. I love this post! I would have spent all my time scarfing down the food, too! Can’t believe I haven’t been!

  5. Istanbul is on my to do list next year. I love Turkey, especially Turkish Tea. You are right there is always something quite calming when you take time to drink it too!

  6. I have been wanting to go to Turkey for a very long time. My kids have a subscription box called Universal Yums and it came with Turkish treats last month. Lots of good stuff there!

  7. I really want to try dondurma now.

  8. I can’t believe you skipped the mussels – they were AMAZING! They even made my top food experiences list on my blog from my entire 5 month trip! I think what made them rock was the price ;D

  9. Eating was one of my favorite experiences in Turkey – and it was more than kebabs! Tons of sweets, pistachio-and-honey dressed – lots of simit, tea and even ears of corn! As a Midwesterner living in a country that doesn’t produce corn, it was usually my mid-morning snack!

  10. YUM!!! Turkey does food right, but especially street food!

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