Food in Istanbul is so important that it is for sure one of the must and best things to do, when traveling to Istanbul. I know many people, including myself, who travel to Istanbul only because of its amazing food.
Istanbul is known for all kind of food and everything you can get in Turkey, you can as well find it in Istanbul.
Street food in Istanbul / Turkey
Street food in Istanbul is sold by street sellers, who walk around the city or have their own stands. Their food is perfect for a quick snack between meals and it is also the cheapest option. The most popular street food we can find in Istanbul and all around Turkey is:
- Simit – ring shaped bread with sesame seeds, which are perfect when being fresh
- poğaça – savory pastry with different fillings (plain – sade, cheese – peynirli, black olives – zeytinli, minced meet – kıymalı)
- kestane – roasted chestnut
- mısır – freshly boiled corn
- midye dolma- stuffed muscles
- balık ekmek – tasty fish sandwiches with a grilled fish inside a large piece of bread
Fast food in Istanbul / Turkey
Fast food can be all the street food, but there is a small difference anyway. Street food in Istanbul is the food from the stands, which we take away with us and fast food in Istanbul is the one, where we can sit down and eat. Normally the local eateries offer small (children like) chairs and tables, which can represent a challenge to all the tall persons, as there is hardly any space left for your knees and legs. Fast food in Istanbul, which you should try is:
- Kebab – the most recognizable Turkish dish, which actually means piece of grilled chicken, beef or lamb meat. Some of the most common kebab dishes (and also my favourites) are İskender Kebap, Adana Kebap,Patlıcan Kebap in Şiş Kebap.
- Döner kebab – the famous big piece of meat, turning vertically around next to the grill on a skewer and is served in a bread or in a tortilla like thin bread (döner durum).
- Pide – Turkish pizza shaped as a boat and has different fillings – mostly minced meet or cheese.
- Lahmacun – flat Turkish pizza stuffed with minced meet, onion, tomato, parsley and spices. Locals eat it as a roll with salad and lemon juice.
- Börek – flaky pastry with several layers and stuffed with cheese (peynirli börek), minced meet (kıymalı börek ), potato (patatesli börek ) or even spinach (ıspanaklı börek)
- Köfte (meatballs) – The best Köfte in Istanbul are being sold near Hagia Sophia (Sultanahmet Halk Köftecisi). The restaurant is making them since 1920 and there is always along queue in front of it, so prepare yourself to wait long.
- Kumpir – this loaded baked potato is a HIT in non touristic areas. The huge potato is mixed with cheese and butter, which you add different toppings like olives, corn, cabbage, tomato sauce, eggs, hot dogs, peas, pickles, bulgur and more.
Food in restaurants
If you are limited with your budget, don’t be picky and choose local restaurants, where you will not only eat good, but you will also pay little. Most of these local restaurants have a big window, threw which today’s menu can be seen – mostly containing different meat and vegetables dishes. The most common meals are:
- Meze – cold appetizers are a must thing to do, before getting the main dish. There are different types of meze available; from tomatoes, grilled eggplants to stuffed grape leaves. You cannot miss with the most popular one called Cacık (similar to Greek tzatziki), which main ingredients are yoghurt, cucumber and garlic. Perfect for hot, summer days!
- Çorba (soup) – if you like soups, Turkey is perfect place for you! Soups are so popular here, they have local eateries, which sell only soups. People in Turkey eat soups even for breakfast! The most common soup is made out of chickpeas.
- Mantı (turkish ravioli) – You cannot leave Turkey without tasting their famous handmade mantı, which are served in refreshing yoghurt sauce. You can choose plain or spinach mantı.
- Gözleme – this pancake/tortilla like bread, is filled with potato, cheese, spinach or minced meet. Love it!
Even thought the food in Turkey is so amazing, that you cannot help yourself to eat big, there is always place for something sweet. Turkey is packed with pastry shops, which you cannot easily pass by. Just seeing all the amazing things through the window makes you hungry. The most popular deserts in Turkey are:
- Baklava – there are many different baklavas in Turkey, but the same with everyone is their filo pastry (thin dough of unleavened flour) filled with chopped nuts (most popular is pistachio) and sweetened with honey. Believe it or not, but you can even get a chocolate baklava, which you must try, if you are a chocoholic.
- Locum (Turkish delight) – Turkey’s most recognizable desert is definitely locum – gel of starch and sugar in different colors. Inside of these small squares, you can find chopped nuts and many of them are covered with sugar or coconut flower.
- Rice puddings and plain puddings in different tastes
Even thought we all know “Turkish coffee” expression, tea is much more popular in Turkey. It is served in small and cute glasses and it is drinkable everywhere! Drinking tea in Turkey is very popular event among friends. When in Italy people meet for a coffee, people in Turkey meet for a cup of tea. A very common drink is also Ayran, which is mostly used as a quick snack or a drink when eating a meal. It is actually yoghurt mixed with salt. The streets of Istanbul and other bigger cities are also full with fruit stands, where you can get freshly squeezed juice – most popular are pomegranates and oranges, but the choice is wide. Even though Turkey is mostly Islamic country, we can also find Rakı here – strong national alcoholic Turkish drink, which can be found also in Greece and on Balkans, but under a different name. You can drink it straight or mix it with water, from where you get a white look.
Food in Istanbul and all around Turkey is so delicious and important that Turkey is one of the places for foodies. You will LOVE it here. It is hard to find so many delicious and diverse food in one place. And if you are not convinced with that, I can easily say, you will never be hungry, when you travel to Turkey! How to eat good and safe on your travels, read in my travel tip.