In most places of Turkey but especially Istanbul, Turkish street food is a culinary preference for many Turks and foreigners. Vendors deliver low prices, delicious tastes, and ready to eat food to hundreds of working locals or travellers looking for a quick bite to eat, without all the pomp and grandeur.
All around the world, simplicity is what makes street food popular, and the Turks happen to be masters at it. From the street cart vendors to the window slots in traditional Turkish lokantas (restaurants,) whether you are on a budget or just want unfussy food to eat, the following suggestions are worth trying.
Nine Turkish Street Food Ideas
1: Kumpir (Baked Potato)
Only the Turks could take the humble baked potato and turn it into a ready to eat oozing dish with lots of variety. The trick is not so much the potato itself, but the many fillings to pile on top. Picky eaters simply opt for the good old-fashioned cheese and onion but if you’re adventurous, pile on corn, sausages, carrot, peas, olives, mushrooms, Russian salad and much more. In Istanbul, it is sold everywhere, but the Ortakoy district is famous for serving up this simple, tasty food dish.
2: Kokorec (Lamb's intestine and Offal)
Now before you start gagging and shouting out “ewww” at the top of your voice, bear in mind that Kokorec is one of the most famous street foods in Turkey. The herb-infused lamb offal stuffed in intestines and grilled on a rotating spike is quite delicious when chopped thinly and combined with tomatoes and onions on a tasty bread roll or in a durum wrap. Finish it with a generous dose of mayonnaise and a drink of Ayran. They are also surprisingly filling. Although this dish is not just specific to Turkey but a favourite of the Balkan countries as well as Iran, Turks go crazy for it.
3: Durum Wrap
If the Kokorec is too adventurous and your taste buds desire a simpler bite to eat, downgrade to the durum wrap that is widely eaten across Turkey every day, by young and old. Grilled slices of chicken or beef, combined with lettuce, onions, tomatoes and if you want, a hot chilli sauce are wrapped in lavash bread for a quick bite on the go. Restaurants often sell them as part of a meal combo with French fries and coke, but either way, they are cheap and deliciously moreish.
4: Grilled Corn
If you thought Turkey was a nation of meat lovers, think again because vegetables feature highly in their national cuisine and most kids and adults love sweet corn. Often sold from street vendor carts, buy it still on the rusk, i.e. grilled or off in a small pot, i.e. boiled. Lather it with butter, salt and some hot chilli sauce, and you’re good to go.
Nothing says summer has arrived, more than Midye, a moreish blend of herb and spice rice, a drizzling of lemon juice and mussels eaten straight out of the shell. Bear in mind, rice is a high-risk food poisoning item so only buy them from the vendors using refrigerators. Anthony Bourdain famously tried them when he filmed in Istanbul, and he kept going back for more which shows just how addictive they really are.
6: Fish Sandwiches
Fish sandwiches (Balik Ekmek) used to be synonymous with the floating fish boats of Galata bridge in Istanbul, but in the last few years, the concept has sprung up in many coastal resorts along the Aegean and Mediterranean. Unwritten social protocol dictates the fish must be fresh, and after filleting, slapped on the grill and charred to perfection. Once done, the server combines it with lettuce, tomato and onion in between a healthy slab of bread for you to eat plain or with red chilli flakes or sauce.
Gozleme is a dish most people associate with the local market although if you visit traditional Turkish cafes while travelling off the beaten track, you’ll also find it there. Turkish ladies combine flour, salt and water to form a dough (yufka) then roll it out super thin. Choose your fillings of which our recommendations are spinach and potato or cheese. A few minutes on a grill and you have a delicious, light snack for lunch. Turks also sometimes eat it as an accompaniment to breakfast.
8: Taksim Wet Burger
Taksim is the centre of new Istanbul, the nightlife capital of the country, so it is little wonder that when the bars close early morning, the wet burger stands make a roaring trade. Nobody usually wants to eat soggy bread but, in this case, the garlic infused tomato sauce dosed over a burger bun and left to saturate produces a surprisingly good taste, especially if you have roaring hunger pain after a round of beers.
9: Roast Chestnuts
While roast chestnuts have disappeared from the streets of England, they are still popular in Turkey during summer. Sold by the weight from vendor carts, they are the perfect warm up to a cold winters day and one of the more timeless Turkish street foods.
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