Looking back, I'm astounded at how much good stuff got to try on our Istanbul Eats tour.
A spicy soup to top all soups, with kale and beans and corn and a broth made out of the fat of a fat-tailed sheep. It was heaven.
Istanbul is in the unique position of being half in Asia and half in Europe, and the confluence of cultures shows in the cuisine. Mainly, it's delicious and unique and the passion their chefs show rivals that of Paris.
Plus, you can eat really well here for not a lot of money. While they do have fancy upscale places, the best places seemed to be a little bit divey, or streetside.
We darted and wove our way off Istiklal Caddesi, a huge pedestrian street that is the main drag in Beyoğlu. There were Parisian-style covered shopping malls, hidden churches, and so much food to be had.
We stopped at a stand where Hassan made us the most incredible fried sardines.
I've said it before, but one thing I just don't like food-wise are fishy-fish. Sardines, anchovies, mackerel, bluefish. I try them every time, but I generally just can't get past oily fishy taste. These sardines were amazing though- I've only ever had them this good one other time in Morocco. They were fresh, light and airy, and so fresh that you could barely detect the oily taste before it dissolves on your tongue. Sublime.
The next stop was a little squeamish.
There are butchers that specialize in sheeps heads.
This guy was amazing- he deftly butchered the head, separated all the good bits, and put them on a paper plate for us to try.
Here's look at you, kid.
So...the cheek and tongue were fine, but for someone who lives in France, that's fairly pedestrian. The brain was a bit tough to choke down. It's got a super creamy fatty texture that made it really hard for me to get down. I just swallowed and got it over with, but it was bland.
We were very proud to be able to clean that plate.
There were kebaps. Oh, they were good.
I watched the chef wipe the fatty grease from the skewers onto the bread, and I was in love.
Most kebap places had a huge hood over an open charcoal fire, but the tiny shops would fill up with fragrant lamb smoke anyway.
We tried many varieties of baklava. Walnut was the winner- despite my love for pistachios, they were too rich in the butter pastry, and walnuts had the right amount of bitterness to balance the butter and the sugar.
I wasn't a fan of the Turkish coffee. Chewing coffee and getting a beautiful gril of coffee grinds just wasn't worth the jolt. This guy totally cared for his craft though.
Manti, lovely little turkish ravioli stuffed with lamb, covered with yogurt and spice.
And our last stop...a little lunch dive that served really delicious stuffed eggplant and zucchini and fresh chick peas.
I was only taking a bite or two of each dish, so I didn't feel over-full (except for the soup. I ate the entire bowl) but there was a pleasant glow of knowing that eating was done for the day. Six hours of walking and eating was exhausting!
Plus, Megan was amazing and she gave us recommendations for the rest of our week in Istanbul, and I can honestly say she didn't steer us wrong at all.
Truly, someone you are going to want to know when you are in Istanbul. Cheers to her, and the rest of the Istanbul Eats team for putting together such a fun and delicious tour and informative blog. Our trip was so much more enjoyable when we knew exactly what to eat.