While travelling across Europe back in 2015, we constantly came across donairs and kebabs as street food in nearly every EU country we visited. When planning our trip to Turkey, I couldn’t wait to eat my weight in baklava and donairs! How wrong I was to think that.. although we did eat heaps of baklava and donair, there is so much more to the Turkish cuisine than just that. If you’ve found yourself in Turkey and want to try more traditional dishes, be sure to include the following in your food search!
Turkish Breakfast Spread
If there was one thing I could get used to.. it would be this. A Turkish breakfast spread is unreal and so delicious! If you are lactose intolerant, I would advise to stick strictly to the eggs as the spread consists mainly of cheese products. Whether that be a variety of cheese, cheese baked into bread or cheese baked into corn meal. However, if your stomach can handle the dairy products, you are in for a treat as everything is DELICIOUS. Be sure to pair your breakfast with Turkish Coffee, tea or pomegranate juice!
You can’t have a Turkish breakfast and not include menemen! This tomato, scrambled egg concoction reminds me of shakshuka and is equally as delicious. We found it available during breakfast at nearly any restaurant we went too.
We tried Muhlama at the 7 Hills Restaurant but had never heard of it before then. This hot dish is cheese baked with corn meal and I found it surprisingly addicting. If you have never tried this before, you definitely must while in Turkey if you come across it!
This was probably our 2nd favourite thing to eat after the breakfast spreads. Manti is a dumpling dish that is commonly eaten at lunch. If you love pasta like I do, you will want multiple plates of Manti! We tried Manti at Sinop Manti where they have half the plate topped with sour cream/chili oil and the other half with crushed walnuts. I personally loved the crushed walnuts mixed in with the sour cream and chili oil. These perfect little dumplings were so perfect, I wish I had the stomach room to have another plate to myself.
While we were roaming the harbour front on the search for Turkish coffee brewed using sand, we stumbled upon this cafe where a lady was flipping dough on a giant hot stone. She was creating the base for gozleme, a flatbread that is stuffed with various ingredients. We decided to choose the most popular combination – potato and cheddar cheese (Oh-my-god, please get this combo, it is so simple but so good!)
I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anyone stuffing mussels with rice before this, but I am so glad we discovered this little treat! The most popular place to get these stuffed mussels is Midyeci Ahmet who is known as the Lord of Mussels. Although they were delicious, we found they were smaller than some other places we tried. We went to a restaurant along Istkal street and found those mussels were much tastier.
You can’t go to Turkey and not make tribute to Anthony Bourdain who made the wet burger a must try. We went to Kizilkayalar in Teksim Square and surprisingly found the wet burger delicious! As someone who does not like soggy bread, I was pleasantly surprised to have enjoyed this burger. The bread is soaked in their special sauce and the meat is made from donair meat. Although the bread is soggy, we found that it wasn’t as soggy as expected.
This is Turkey’s version of pizza and we are all so happy with it! The long dough rolled out to create 2 sharp ends with various toppings is simple and a perfect balance.
We’ve tried kebabs and donairs, while the kokorec is similar, the taste is very different. Kokorec is tender, juicy intestines that have been grilled and stuffed inside of bread or flatbread. Not for the faint of heart but if you are interested, the taste is very tender and gamy.
Mezze is reminiscent of Spanish tapas, a selection of mini plates for sharing. This works great as an appetizer among a group or even a full entrée. The selection is massive and you will be tempted to select more than you can eat.
Having tried Turkish delight in North America, I wasn’t expecting anything ground breaking. Not sure what it is about trying food within the country of origin but Turkish delight was so much better in Turkey! These little sugary cubes are loaded with nuts and fruits depending on the selected flavour. This was new to me as all the Turkish delight I have ever tried was simply cubes of sugar. Be sure to try Turkish delight from Haci Bekir, the original and in my opinion, best Turkish delight in Istanbul!
Before going to Turkey I never understood the amount of effort it takes to create baklava, it truly is art. These flaky, sugary bites of goodness taste incredible no matter the location; however, we did particularly enjoy the Baklava from Karakoy Gulluoglu and Hafiz Mustafa.
I was told this is the must try dessert while in Turkey. Kunefe is shredded dough that has been soaked in syrup, baked with shredded cheese and usually topped with pistachio.
Salep is a thick milky drink made with cinnamon orchid tubers. This drink can be found at almost every cafe during the winter time/cold months. Delicious and sweet, this drink could easily substitute as a dessert.
Turkish Apple Tea
We were told this was a Turkish thing; however when we were walking around the Spice Bazaar it seemed this was a popular tea that only tourist purchased. Irregardless, Turkish tea is part of everyday life and worth bringing home.
While looking up must eats and drinks in Turkey, you would have come across Turkish coffee. If you love dark black coffee, this really is a must try then! The coolest part of Turkish coffee is how they make it traditionally – in hot sand. you’ll be able to find this method of brewing coffee near the harbour or in Balat.
The amount of fresh fruit juices in Istanbul is incredible! The most commonly found juices are orange and pomegranate. Tip, mix pomegranate and orange together, it’s so good and one of the things I miss most about Istanbul.