Make sure you try many of the specialty food items below many of which you’re unlikely to find done nicely (or at all) except in Turkey (or Istanbul).
MEAT / FISH / MAINS
Kokoreç is a favourite delicacy food of Greek heritage made in Istanbul. It’s made in different ways in different Balkan countries but we think you really should give it a try. It’s chopped into small pieces and usually as a sandwich or in half-loaf bread.
The usual tradition is to eat these from a known provider (such as Mercan or Şampiyon) these can be found in Taksim and Kadikoy.
Deep fried mussels with sauce / Midye tava
The Turkish (and in particular the Istanbul) way of cooking mussels. Again these should be bought from reputable providers. Some can be found in Kadikoy, Taksim and Besiktas. The specialty is the tarator souce; the white souce seen on the picture with a supposedly secret recipe. It’s typically served in a sandwich or half-bread loaf which is our favourite.
Stuffed mussels / Midye dolma
Another Turkish way of eating Mussels as a dolma. The nice way of doing this is to eat the midye dolma as an appetiser, or as a top-up if you feel hungry following a midye or kokorec sandwich.
Lahmacun is a Turkish way of doing a thin layered minced meat pizza-like food. In a serving a person can eat between 2-4 of them as a main course, and some people like to put salad and onions in it. There are sometimes hot spiced varieties, and vegeterian variants. It should be safe to eat from any decent kebab house/restaurant. Sometimes a small lahmacun is served as an appetiser before a different kind of kebab.
Typically this is a follow up soup after a night out. It helps the stomach deal with the alcohol. Again, typically, it is only eaten at a reputable restaurant as when done badly it can go quite bad.
Although it’s become more of a global food these days, you’re still encouraged to try İskender kebap for the original deal at a quality establishment in Istanbul.
Fish sandwich / balık ekmek
Excellent choice of a quick and relatively healthy fast food if you happen to be by the sea-side in central Istanbul. You can find fish sandwich (balık ekmek) at the shores, particularly around Rumelihisarı and Kadıköy seaside.
Delicious filled noodles filled with minced meat served topped with yogurt and garlic and spiced with red pepper powder and melted butter. Look for specialised eateries dedicated to mantı which offer the best.
Stuffed grape leaves / Zeytinyağlı dolma
Wikipedia on Turkish cousine
A delicacy of Turkish cousine, can be an appetiser or a snack. You should definitely try this one, especially if you’re a vegeterian.
An alternative version (sarma) has minced meat in it, and is considered a main course.
Wikipedia on Börek
Nice appetiser or a snack made of white cheese and pastry. You can try this when you’re not very hungry and looking for a snack to try.
DESERTS & SWEETS
Aşure is a special desert that’s typically made on the aşure day, but it is generally available as a desert in pretty much all the patisseries. It’s a nice desert with many fruits and nuts one of our favourites.
Lokum / Turkish delights
We can recommend the double roasted hazelnut lokum, double roasted pistachio lokum, and the gum mastic (damla sakızı) flavoured lokum. Usually, as with many others, reputable providers do make a huge difference in the niceness of the lokum. These can be found in many locations including Sultanahmet and Kadikoy.
It is made of fine strands of flour roasted in butter into pulled sugar. If you happen to go toIzmit (an industrial city close to Istanbul) it is ubiquitous there on shops on main streets, otherwise it is sold by general patisseries these days.
Simit is a favourite of us. It’s really a cheap snack which goes very nicely with Turkish tea and white cheese (beyaz peynir). The traditional way is to buy them from a street-seller and ideally eat it while drinking tea and gazing at the Bosphorus.
See Gullusum’s review of Ciya for more food ideas.
Eating out: IstanbulBuddy blogs on eating out.
Istanbul Eats: English website dedicated to eating in Istanbul!
http://english.istanbul.com/ : Has a catalogue of restaurants with contact details etc.
Eating Asia:Istanbul : Nice food blog, has very nice Istanbul articles.
Binnur’s Turkish Cookbook: English website/blog about recipes of Turkish food if you get curious about cooking Turkish food.
Almost Turkish Recipes: Large blog on Turkish food in English with nice photos and detailed recipes.
Wikitravel Istanbul has a section on various food stuffs.