A happyhappyjoyjoy-stuffing-my-face-with-Turkish-food day

Some people love to discover an unknown place with a guide book in hand. Others will sleep on a local person’s couch to get an understanding of a city. Others will learn the language, visit unique museums or find out quirky details about the history of the country they visit. But for me that just doesn’t work. I tend to get bored of facts quite easily. But put some local food in my mouth and you can throw all sorts of facts at me and I will receive them with a smile and respond with a tiresome amount of questions. To me it seems that there is something profoundly different about discovering a place through its food.

The downside is that it can be a challenge for the unexperienced traveler to discover some pretty amazing stuff to fill your tummy. The food you taste in so called local or authentic restaurants found on Tripadvisor are most of the time nowhere near local or authentic. After my tenth or whatever disappointment I think I can claim that statement.

I tend to take a different approach. I will let myself be guided by someone who grew up in the place I want to discover with my taste buts. I look for blogs and articles written by people who are genuinely interested in food in all its facets. And that’s easy to find out when you flip through someone’s blog. That’s also the way I had found out about a culinary tour in Istanbul called Walks in Istanbul. I found the tour on a food blog and I read a raving article about the tour guide Arzu in a magazine I highly respect. So there I was, on a sunny December day, standing on the bridge over the Bosphorus waiting for a happyhappyjoyjoy-stuffing-my-face-with-Turkish-food day.

What I thought was going to be an exploration of the oldest coffee roaster in town (it was!), a delicious breakfast of buffalo cream with honey (it was too!) and a trip to the Asian side, called Kadikoy for sea food (yes, that also!), turned out to be much much more... We visit the gorgeous Süleymaniye mosque, mainly to use it as an excuse to visit the Boza place next door, like all the locals do after prayer. Boza is a creamy pudding-like treat, which has the texture and the taste of apple stew. The cinnamon on top does the trick.

We visit the spice market, solely as a passage way to the market which lies behind it. Narrow streets, packed with shops of all sorts (kitchen utensils, baklava makers, decorated tea glasses, etc) led us to, in my opinion, the most legit kebab place I have ever visited (and I visited a lot of them during my student years in Antwerp, mainly to cure hangovers). There was hardly any room to sit, I guess that’s why the owner used tiny chairs (Vietnam style you know). There was no space because his whole shop was filled with this ridiculously hugh charcoal grill. Looking from behind this massive structure, he offered us kebabs (meat on a skewer basically). I thought lamb would be a good choice at 11am in the morning, specifically if the kebab also has lots of fat cubes between the meat. That turns out to be from the tail of the lamb. Who would have thought those cute little lambs have fatty tails which makes an amazing breakfast dish?!

For whom this is all a bit too exotic, don’t fear! It’s not that kind of a food tour. It’s just me wanting to sneak into these obscure places and my guide Arzu was more than happy to accommodate. She could sense what I was looking for and I think she tailor made the tour whilst we were walking through beautiful streets full of wooden houses, which made me feel more like I was in San Franciso instead of Istanbul. That was until the muezzin started his magical call for prayer.

More info about Arzu and her food tours here. They're also on Facebook with mouthwatering pics!


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