7 Aralık 2013 Cumartesi

Some Cheap Eats in Istanbul

Cheap eats are abound in Istanbul. From the Turkish tradition of meze (small appetizers), to small eateries and street carts churning out all manner of treats, it's easy to find budget snacks anywhere in the city.

Meze encompasses a wide variety of small dishes, often served with raki, an aniseed flavoured liquor which is traditionally served on ice with water. Turkish meze are usually served cold, and include many dishes made with eggplant such as Saksuka (shuck-shoo-ka)- a mix of grilled eggplant, garlic and tomato, as well as patlican salata (eggplant salad); dolma (grape leaves stuffed with rice);and köfte (meatballs); these are usually complemented by white cheese and melon, especially during the summer months. It's possible to have as many or as few dishes as you wish, whether it be a mid-afternoon snack or the start of a long meal. Prices for meze vary but usually range between 6 – 15 TL per dish.

As the city is surrounded by water, it's of little surprise that even seafood can be found easily and cheaply Istanbul. If one dares to stray outside the kebab houses of Sultanahmet, one of Istanbul's best and cheapest snacks of the sea can be found on large round silver trays throughout most parts of the inner city. Midye Dolma (Stuffed mussels) are made by mixing rice, currants, spices, pine nuts and fresh mussel, stuffing it back into the shell and serving it with freshly squeezed lemon juice.  It's common to see old and young Istanbullu's crowding around the trays after a few too many beers or raki and scooping out the filling with the top mussel shell. Expect to pay around 3 - 5 TL for a half dozen.

While Simit (a round, pretzel type bread) and Börek (finely layered filo pastry with a variety of fillings) can be found at any time of year, Istanbul's street food can also vary with the seasons. In summer, fresh corn on the cob is widely available for between 1 – 1.50 TL. Served piping hot with salt and wrapped in paper, beware as the juices flow! In the cooler months, the smell of roasting chestnuts wafts the length of Istiklal Street; a small bag can be snapped up for around 3 TL.

If you're really hungry, head for a Kumpir stall, where, for around 6 TL, hot baked potatoes are stuffed with a mass of chosen toppings including butter, olives, chili, sausage, couscous, corn, pickles, cheese and cabbage and topped with ketchup and mayonnaise. For a real flavor explosion, ask for 'hepsi' ('everything'). Keep an eye out for the delightful margarine sculptures which give a unique character to each Kumpir outlet.

For those with a sweet tooth, the variety is vast. Lokum (Turkish delight) can be bought fresh and in many flavours, while there are entire stores dedicated to Baklava- which is made of thin layers of filo pastry soaked in sugar syrup or honey and laden with crushed pistachio nuts. Turkish Dondurma (icecream) is unique for its chewy consistency. If you don't see a dondurma stand, you'll likely hear it, as the ice-cream sellers dong bells and perform a variety of tricks to their customers in a well rehearsed and (often surprising) routine. Keep in mind that you're paying for the show as well as the ice-cream, which costs around 5TL for a large scoop.

If you don't immediately find something to tantalize your taste buds, chances are in Istanbul, it'll come to you.

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