Epic Turkish food left us speechless, mostly because our mouths were always full. So, here are our favorite things to eat in Istanbul. Don’t ask questions. Just chew.
1. Dondurma (aka Turkish icecream)
Powdered orchid root makes it bizarrely stretchy. Prankster street vendors in fezzes make it hilarious. We accidentally bought three cones.
2. Midye Dolma (aka rice-stuffed mussels)
They’re delicious and sold streetside with a somewhat concerning lack of ice or refrigeration — and a spritz of lemon.
3. Doner Kebab (aka giant spinning meat sticks)
Juicy, greasy chicken, lamb and beef. Feel like we really don’t have to sell this one very hard.
4. Fish (aka fish)
Found this pimply little bastard — and a ton of weird, interesting, and delicious seafood — at the Balik Pizari, Istanbul’s oldest fish market (we’re pretty sure.) It’s in the Beyoglu district.
5. Turkish Delight (aka that thing you read about in “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”)
It’s chewy, full of nuts and lives up to its name. Whatever you do get pomegranate flavor.
6. Nar Suyu (aka tart AF pomegranate juice)
Locals love them some mouthpuckering pom juice. We did too. Make sure you get the freshly pressed kind in season (the Fall).
7. Stew on Fire (aka the dish we wish we tried)
We watched this flaming earthen jug of Turkish stew pass our table (just as we were finishing our meal). Waiters crack it open tableside. A couple from Indiana says its tasty.
8. Çig köfte (aka raw meatballs, hold the meat)
Once upon a time, burly Turkish vendors pounded spices and pomegranate molasses into raw meat for the gustatory pleasure of the public. Then, health codes. Now this hard-to-find dish is made with bulgur and far fewer food-born pathogens.
9. KokoreÁ (aka lamb intestines)
This dish – crisped via rotisserie and served on bread – kept Turkey out of the European Union. Seems like a good enough reason to put in in YOUR intestines, amiright?
10. Simit (aka Turkish bagels)
These chewy, super cheap buddies are the breakfasts of commuters. Just get one early.
11. Çay (aka tea, but better)
Neither of us were tea drinkers until we got our lips on this long-brewed tea served in scalding mini glass carafes. Totally worth the burns.