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Eating our way through Istanbul (Part 2)

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Two days and some more touring after our first food walking tour in Istanbul, we were ready for more, and set out on our second. This tour, like the first, was organized by Culinary Backstreets. While the first tour focused on the Beyoglu district on the European side, this tour ventured from Europe to Asia, via a 20-minute ferry crossing of the Bosphorus to the Kadikoy neighborhood.

 

Actually, we’d be hard put to say it seemed much different in Asia. Istanbul as a whole has been a bridge between east and west for hundreds of years, and the Bosphorus no more really divides the city than the Thames does London…except the water’s too wide for strolling across. The bigger difference between our two tours was that the area of Kadikoy we focused on is a true market district.

 

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Our day started on the waterfront, at the foot of the Galata Bridge, in the Karikoy neighborhood. (and no, without constantly checking the map, I can't keep Karikoy and Kadakoy straight),where we met our guide, Senem, and our fellow eaters. Breakfast had been arranged at a small lokantasi that opened for us on its day off.

 

As you can see, by the time I started with pictures, we'd made quick work of the kaymak (buffalo-milk clotted cream), the menemen (eggs with tomatoes, peppers and spices) and the vegetables. No simet this time, but tasty small rolls. And, of course, plenty of tea.

 

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After breakfast, we headed off for the ferry terminal and our ride to Asia. The waterfront neighborhood has new construction going out from the bridge, but the area nearest the water still shows its history, including shops that specialize in maritime gear. 

 

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Ferries like this ply the city's shores, serving more than two dozen terminals. There are now two bridges crossing the Bosphorus with another under construction. A rail tunnel opened earlier this year and a road tunnel is being built—but we heard quite often that many Istanbulis are not planning to abandon their ferries.

 

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Our first stop in Kadakoy brought us to a moment of truth for me; I'm not a shellfish eater and only a late-in-life fish eater...but I had promised myself to be adventurous, and not to embarrass myself. From the plate below came my first mussel, seasoned and stuffed. I'll never be afraid of it again, but I doubt I'll be joining my wife in a plate of them.

 

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These mussels are breaded and fried on skewers in the hot oil.

 

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After that, a stroll through the market stalls that blanket the area; not a covered market but with so many awnings it might as well be. Hard to look at all this and realize we'd just been through the heaviest snow in 50-some years and it was still cold out.

 

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This is a city on two seas and the Bosphorus; of course there were many stalls selling fish, shrimp, eels and shellfish.

 

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But my attention was caught less by the fruit of the sea than the fruit of the olive tree; more varieties than I've seen almost anywhere else.

 

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And then, our next stop; as on the first tour, there was a pickle shop, with pickles of infinite variety, some fresh, some in jars. Mostly customers were buying and carrying away, sometimes in wholesale quantities, but some—including our group—stopped for a sampler plate, which included cucumbers, beets, tomatoes and beans. And that's not all they had.

 

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Note the pink variety of pickle juice we were given, above. Cold, sharp and salty, much like the green variety of the day before. Of course, green was not missing from view! I'd go back in a heartbeat, but as further proof that we are a couple but different people, my wife turns up her nose at the thought. We'll need a place with both mussels and pickles...

 

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And then it was time to visit the nuts and dried fruits. More varieties of each kind of nut than I could have imagined, some for every taste, and some specialized for different uses such as eating, for confections, etc. The figs and dates and apricots came in varieties from various parts of Turkey and the region.

 

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We stopped at these tables for one of our snacks and more tea...but I can no longer remember what we ate there.

 

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More rows of stalls of tempting foods, and then on to our next stop...

 

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Stuffed grape leaves, delicious spreads, and bread, glorious bread here!

 

 

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A next-to-last treat; we stop for boza, a cold drink that's almost like a pudding in consistency. It's made from bulgur, tastes a bit like yogurt, and is said to keep you warm even in cold weather. I can't say it made me warm, but it was delicious!

 

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No food here...just an old-fashioned survivor, holding on to its spot.

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And the last stop, and last test of my determination to be intimidated by nothing. This is kokorec. It's made by carefully cleaning lamb intestines, and then carefully wrapping them around sweetbreads. They are then grilled on skewers over a charcoal fire. Kokorec is served by cutting off pieces, which are served with bread. It's reputed to be a good hangover cure...we didn't try that, but it was, I found to my surprise, tasty.

 

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This, of course, is not kokorec. And it was not part of the tour. It's an intruder from the next day's lunch, a sort of pistachio-accented pie of bird's nest pastry, and it just seems appropriate to end a day of eating with dessert!

 

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 FOR MORE TRAVELGUMBO REPORTS FROM TURKEY, CLICK HERE

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The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

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That was an amazing tour of gastronomic delights Paul.

It takes some courage to indulge in something we don't recognise.

But on a tour designed for tourists you know you'll be safe.

So now you've acquired a taste for fish lets hope you continue indulging.

You must have tried the Baklava ? 

Makes searching out a Turkish bakery worthwhile.

And all that variety in winter too.

My friends are in Turkey today and they're still waiting for spring to arrive !

Of course we tried the baklava...several places, several flavors and more...

 

Which gives me a moment to mention something I forgot in the blog...chicken-breast pudding, or tavuk göğsü. On Wednesday, Katerina mentioned it, and joked that people make faces when they hear about it. Didn't sound so odd to me. On Friday, Senem brought one to the table so we could try it...and it basically was a protein-enriched blanc mange.

 

The chicken is boiled and separated into fine fibers and mixed with milk, sugar, rice and spices. It holds the shape of the mold pretty well, at least ours did. I've read that it was a favorite of the high-and-mighty at Topkapi.

Photo: Wikimedia / Maderibeyza

The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

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