Eat Like A Local: A Turkish Delight

Eat Like A Local: A Turkish Delight
An assortment of Turkish delicacies, Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Is Istanbul really the mecca of street food?

Roshni Subramanian
December 06 , 2019
09 Min Read

Istanbul is the land of dreams. Where the east meets the west. A land unparalleled. Istanbul is steeped in layers of history, heritage and tradition, a thriving metropolis with breathtaking architecture and warm hospitality. When it comes to food, Istanbul is a delight. Its diverse cuisine is a reflection of its lifestyle and traditions. The streets of Istanbul are home to very authentic dishes that are so flavourful and so appealing that we are salivating just thinking about them. Here's your street food guide to Istanbul for your next trip where you can eat like a local. 


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A circular bread usually accompanied with tea or ayran (salted yogurt drink), this Turkish bagel is an absolute breakfast staple. Often served with fruit preserves or in savoury combinations with cheese, pastrami and vegetables, there are different variations of simit available all across Turkey. While some are coated with sesame, kil simit found in Kastamonu and Black Sea provinces do not contain them. Believed to have been around since the 1500s, simit today is sold by street vendors, animatedly pushing carts throughout the city.

Islak burger

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What dollar-a-slice pizza is to New York, Islak burger is to Istanbul. A visit to Taksim Square is not complete without going wild on the Islak ‘wet burger’. A popular Turkish late-night snack, it is packed with a garlicky flavour and dunked in buttery tomato sauce, similar to a Sloppy Joe. This ’wet burger’ is left to steam in a hamam-style glass box. Bite into the juicy beef patty and soft white bun for bit of heaven. 


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An essential part of the Istanbul culture, dürüm is the Turkish answer to a wrap. A complete meal in itself, dürüm consists of doner kebab (grilled meat) wrapped in lavash (flatbread). One could even say that the lavash makes or breaks the dish. Ideally, it should be thick enough to suck up the juices of the meat, but at the same be light and chewy. Traditionally served with a yogurt-based sauce, what enhances the dürüm experience is grilling it before serving. The charred smoky flavour coupled with the freshness of the yogurt makes the meal a delectable treat. According to culinary legend Anthony Bourdain, Durumzade in Istanbul serves the best and he speaks from experience.


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It isn't for the faint-hearted but is a crowd pleaser. Kokorec is lamb intestines wrapped around a sweetbread on skewer and grilled, then served on a platter or on a soft bread, with tomatoes and green peppers. Spicy, crunchy and tender melt-in-your-mouth meat with a pleasant aftertaste makes this a must-eat on your Istanbul visit. (Traditionally there are two variations: Istanbul style where the kokorec is chopped before mixing with tomatoes; the Izmir style is all abouot slicing the meat.  

Doner Kebab

There’s no denying that Turkey is the land of kebabs. Similar to shawarma that’s made with shaved meat on a vertical rotisserie, this dish is known by different names in different parts of the world. While the Arabs call it shawarma, for the Greeks it is gyro and in some places it is tacos al pastor. Initially, the meat used from solely lamb but today it’s often a lamb-beef mixture. Wrapped in a flatbread or stuffed into a pide bread, they are extremely popular as a late-night snack. Our recommendation is Kardesler Lokantasi in Kemerburgaz where Mehmat Akkaya, the 85-years old owner, has been serving his loyal patrons doners for the last 45 years.


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Extremely popular during the winters, boza is a traditional fermented drink made from grains like corn, barley, rye and oats. With a consistency as thick as pudding, boza is traditionally topped with cinnamon powder or roasted chickpeas. This fermented beverage is equally popular in Central Asia and the Balkans. Though slightly alcoholic, the drink is rich in various vitamins and is considered highly nutritional. While you might find boza in many local cafes in Istanbul, our recommendation would be to head to Vefa Bozacici. Established by an Albanian migrant in 1876, today it’s run by his descendants.

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