Great Tomatoes, and other Turkish dining

I have already posted about one of the best meals we had in Turkey, and dining at Körfez was definitely amazing, but truly there wasn’t a bad meal to be had throughout the trip.  Sure, some were better than others, and in some we actually understood what we were ordering, but those two didn’t always go hand in hand.

A critical component to just about every meal we had in Turkey was the tomatoes.  They were amazingly sweet and ridiculously bright red – almost a candy apple color.  They were present at just about every meal and they were phenomenal.  Even if you don’t really like tomatoes, consider making an exception and trying them again when you go to Turkey (you are going, right?!?).  You’ll be happy that you did.

Breakfast at Cafe Aile Salonumuz Vardir.

On our last day in Turkey we had about 7 hours to kill during a layover in Istanbul.  We used part of that time to find and ride on the 3rd oldest mass transit system in the world and most of the rest of it enjoying a relaxed breakfast at a sidewalk cafe just off the Tünel square area.  We mostly were looking to try some of the breakfast pastry dishes they had available as we’d come to enjoy those quite a bit over the week.  The pastries ranged from a almost croissant-like layering of dough to a noodle kugel-ish dish, but with a thinner, lighter noodle.  They come in various flavors, depending on what “stuff” is put inside.  We had one that was meat, one with a cheese/veggie mix and one plain one topped with powdered sugar.  All three were quite delicious.  Add some fresh tomatoes and cucumber and a couple glasses of tea and we were all set for the rest of that day’s travels.  Considering that most places were charging 2-3 YTLs for a glass of tea, getting out of this place for 7 YTLs each was a bargain, in addition to being a good breakfast.

Pide and Iskender at dinner in Kayseri.

There are two other common Turkish dishes that we had a few times, both of which I am a big fan of: the Pide and the Iskender.  Pide (on the left in the picture) is a flat bread with some toppings tossed on and baked.  We found them with a variety of options, from döner to veggies to pastrami.  Pastrami is the local specialty in Kayseri, and it was good, but without some decent deli mustard I found it hard to really appreciate it, but I digress.  Pide was generally cheap and also rather filling.  The Iskender is an interesting mix of food.  It is apparently named for the guy who came up with piling it all on the plate together.  It starts with a layer of bread chunks (think large croutons before they are toasted) and yogurt.  On top of that is a layer of döner (sliced rotisserie meat, aka gyro meat in the USA).  And on top of that is a layer of slightly sweet tomato sauce.  Eating it basically is an effort in not making too much of a mess as you shovel a cross-sectional slice of everything into your mouth.  Yummy. 

The last food product I want to mention is manti.  We discovered these at a small pensione/restaurant on the road between Göreme and the Ihlara Valley (going the long way).  We happened into the place and the woman of the house initially started to take our order, mostly by shaking her head no indicating that things weren’t available.  We were mostly just pointing at the menu and hoping for the best so that wasn’t too big a problem, but we were quickly running out of options when the man finally came out onto the patio where we were sitting.  He spoke a bit of English and indicated that some of the things we wanted were, in fact, available and admonished his wife to the kitchen to prepare our lunch.  The omelette with fresh veggies was nice, but the manti were pretty amazing.  They are tiny pasta bits, stuffed with meat and apparently are considered to be the original ravioli.  I don’t really remember what the sauce was that we had on them but the manti were divine.  So go for some of those if you have the chance.

Finally, I’d like to point out to the English-speaking world that Shish (Şiş in Turkish) is the part of Shish Kabob that means “stick.”  The kabob part is a reference to the meat.  So there is no such thing at a veggie kabob, chicken kabob or any other kabob that isn’t actually the kabob meat (beef, I think, but don’t hold me to that).  From no on I’d appreciate it if everyone would start calling those things veggie shish or chicken shish or whatever.  Your cooperation in correcting this bastardization of the language is much appreciated.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.