Istanbul: A moveable degustation

Our final full day in Istanbul could be described as somewhat of a food pilgrimage. We had spied many tasty delights on our wanders the day prior and were looking forward to testing some out. We began our day in Beyoglu and were keen to get to Ortakoy Harbour to check out the markets there. Unfortunately we didn’t do our research properly and after an hour of walking along the edge of a main road didn’t find much to get our appetites pumping. We stood in front of a gozleme stall for two full minutes watching two staff members arguing with each other, and then we gave up. It was probably a bad move as we ended up eating in a small hookah café, what was basically a cheese toastie for me, and a oily mystery meat wrap for Colin. A disappointing first meal out (after our delicious breakfast at the hotel) and it sucks to waste one on bad food in a city where there is so many options to eat well.We meandered down from our café to the harbour side to find a tubor institution, the Ortakoy Potato – a roasted spud brimming with trimmings.

We also marvelled at two young teens munching on what can only be described as a diabetes-inducing sweet burrito – a soft waffle wrapped around scoops of ice-cream and a chocolate-dipped banana, with lollies piled on top for good measure. We could already see the pimples forming on their chins for the next day.After a half hour soaking up the sun we jumped on a very hot, very slow bus back to the Karakoy area to see what we could find there. On our way across the Galata bridge we were swayed by comfy looking bean bags with a view of the water so we stopped in for a beer and a big bowl of pistachios in the shade. Things were looking up, and so were we, at the throngs of fisherman casting their lines off the bridge into the rather filthy looking water below, catching tiny silver fish and little prawn-like creatures. We only hoped they were to be used as bait, but dutifully avoid similar looking fish from then on, just in case. 

After whetting our appetites on the bridge, we were drawn to the Kadikoy side of the harbour, to two fiercely rocking boats pumping out grilled fish, served in a roll with onions, salt, parsley and lemon juice. The small seating area around the boats was packed with locals and tourists alike, and we joined them happily. Fresh, simple and so delicious, these sandwiches were serious tummy fillers and were super cheap to boot.Also on offer, and to which we obliged, were steaming hot Turkish style donuts, with a light slick of oil and crushed pistachios covering their doughy curves. It was tempting to take a second serving but we held back.With stomachs full we also bypassed many other street food options, from barbequed corn-cobs and roasted chestnuts to plastic cups of pickled vegetables and sparkling beakers of pink pomegranate juice.We instead moved to the famous spice markets. The first stall to grab our attention was selling Turkish delight of every imaginable kind, in long rolls cut to the size you want. We picked up a few large chunks, expecting it would last us for a couple of days, but unsurprisingly we had made our way through it within about five minutes. This freshly made Turkish delight was a step up from what we had tasted before for sure. Always on the hunt for some good muesli filler, we picked up loads of dried fruit, nuts and seeds, but unfortunately we didn’t have the room in the van’s pantry for the bright and beautiful spices that fill the majority of the market.We made do with just stopping and staring at the mounds of colourful dust lining the corridors and writing this now I wish I had stocked up after all. Also on offer were strings of dried vegetables, everything from your stock-standard red chillies, to full aubergines and courgettes. Again, I wished I could buy a bit of everything but cautious of space and unsure of how it should be prepared, we left those behind too.Our last stop of the day was back to the bridge, this time to do the tourist thing and try out a hookah pipe. It was a relaxing end to a great day, watching another gorgeous sun set over the mosque covered hills to let the bobbling lights of the floating fish restaurant shimmer across the water, turning the Golden Horn to blues and reds and greens too.With its sights, smells, flavours and sounds Istanbul had become one of our favourite stops in the trip so far. We hopped on the tram back to the hotel wishing we had more time left in this incredible city.

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