Istanbul is a city famous for its food – available 24/7 in some districts – and there are many foods that are a must for all visitors to try. Our locals put together a list of dishes from traditional Turkish cuisine for you. Here are some of the dishes you must try when you are in Istanbul.
Best dishes of traditional Turkish breakfast
In Turkey, breakfast is more than just a meal; it’s part of the national culture. Some of the traditional Turkish breakfast specialities include:
1. Su Böreği (Pastry with feta cheese filling)
A must for typical Turkish breakfast, Su böreği, lasagna like pastry is one of the famous pastries of the 19th-century Ottoman cuisine. Su böreği is also a must for holidays and special occasions. It is mostly served entertainment occasions such as circumcision, engagement and weddings. The fact that it is sold in bakeries and pastry shops throughout Istanbul shows the importance given to this pastry. It is laborious to do, but delightful to eat. Su böreği usually contains white cheese and parsley. It is also widely consumed today, mostly accompanied with traditional Turkish tea.
2. Menemen (Eggs scrambled with tomatoes and green pepper)
Menemen is one of the most frequently consumed traditional Turkish breakfast dishes is the delicious flavor that emerges after the tomatoes combine with eggs. You can also add sujuk, kashar cheese (pale yellow cheese made of sheep’s milk) or many other ingredients. Although there is not much information about the history of Menemen, it’s most important material, tomato, is grown as an ornamental plant in Europe until the 18th century. So we can think that Menemen became one of the traditional Turkish flavors after the 18th century. Menemen lovers in Turkey mostly divided into two about adding onions to the Menemen but you can find it available with or without onions in Istanbul. We recommend you try both to discover your favourite.
3. Kuymak or Muhlama (Omelette with special cheese)
Kuymak or Muhlama from the Black Sea region is quite fatty. You may see it in some Turkish breakfast menus. Consisting of cornflour, butter and precipitate Kuymak, in some regions can be made with different types of cheese. The most well-known species of Kuymak are Artvin, Trabzon and Samsun.
Best places for Turkish breakfast in Istanbul
1. Dogaciyiz Gourmet
This is an ideal place for a “mixed breakfast”, in other words, a wide variety of breakfast products. If you’re looking for a special experience in Istanbul a mixed breakfast is just the ticket.
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2. Müzelik Cafe
A charming place for breakfast offering a picturesque view of the Anatolian side.
Related Post: Best 10 Places in Istanbul for Breakfast
Best dishes of traditional Turkish dinner and lunch
There are many options for a nice lunch or dinner in Istanbul. Traditional Turkish cuisine contains lots and lots of kinds of dishes. Here are some specialties our locals choose for you:
1. Yaprak sarma (Stuffed grape leaves)
Yaprak sarma is one of the Ottoman palace cuisine flavors. There is a lot of kind of this dish but the most common ones are rice mixture wrapped which we call Zeytinyağlı Sarma (stuffed grape leaves with olive oil) and meat mixture wrapped which we call Etli Sarma (stuffed grape leaves with meat). In the Ottoman period, the cooking process was done with cherry juice or sour cherry juice in order to make the olive oil wrap more sour. You should try the olive oil one with lemon and the meat one with yoghurt.
2. Lahmacun (Pancake with spicy meat filling)
Lahmacun is one of the important elements of traditional Turkish flavours. Rolled out dough and ground meat, parsley, onion, garlic and black pepper, isot (red pepper) is prepared with spices, made by baking in a stone oven. It is a kind of Turkish fast food. The name Lahmacun derives from the “lahm bi ajin” (لحم عجين), which means meat with the dough in Arabic. A sprinkling of parsley, a squeeze of lemon, then wrap it up and enjoy alongside a glass of cold ayran (a traditional drink consisted of yoghurt and water).
3. Grilled Fish
There’s always a plethora of great fish dishes on offer all over Istanbul. We recommend you eat the fish which is in season during your visit.
4. Lamb Tandoori Kebab
A special oven made by digging a hole is called tandoor. Lamb tandoori is one of the most delicious meat dishes of Turkish cuisine. To cook lamb meat in the tandoori, the meat is cleaned first. A hook is hung up and covered thoroughly and left to cook in tandoor. Lamb cooked in these special stone ovens for 5 – 6 hours in its own fat and water.
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5. Hünkar Beğendi (Sultan’s Delight)
According to a rumor; In the 1800s, Sultan Abdulaziz went to visit Napoleon. And then he falls in love with the queen. But this love is almost impossible. Later, the Sultan invited Napoleon to his palace. However, Napoleon, unable to go to the invitation, sends the queen to his place. In the meantime, Hünkar does not like any food made because of its excitement. The Queen takes a French cook with her on the way to visit. The bechamel sauce made by the French chef in the Ottoman kitchen attracts the attention of the Turkish chef and he pours it on the roasted eggplant. Sultan likes this food. From this day on, the name of this dish becomes “Sultan Beğendi (Sultan liked it)”. You will not believe the flavour combination of eggplant and meat.
6. Mantı (Turkish Ravioli with Meat)
Mantı is a local dish made by cutting the rolled out mantı dough into small squares and then dividing the inner salpicon to these squares and closing the dough in the desired way (closing shape varies according to the regions). If desired, it served with garlic yoghurt and red pepper sauce which is roasted in hot oil is poured on it. Don’t forget to add spices like sumac, mint and chilli peppers.
7. İçli Köfte (Stuffed Cracked Wheat)
İçli köfte is a dish made by filling the burghul (cracked wheat) into dough and filled with minced meat (mostly with walnuts). Because it is difficult and long to cook, it is become a special day dish rather than a casual dish. It can be boiled or fried. Do not leave Turkey without trying this dish!
Doner or doner kebab is a type of kebab in Turkish cuisine cooked in the face of wood fire where the pieces of beaten meat, which are thoroughly seasoned with tallow and local spices, are put on a skewer and hung upright. You must eat döner kebab when you visit Istanbul. You can find it in almost every Turkish restaurant in Istanbul. Some may even call it the national food of Turkey. Appetisers such as pilaff, french fries etc. will be served according to the type of kebab you want.
Best places for Turkish dinner and lunch in Istanbul
1. Dinner Cruise
Dinner cruises are very popular in Istanbul. You can rent a private boat or choose one of the cruises offering food and entertainment.
2. Nev Lokanta
A quiet place with delicious food, and an ideal restaurant for a special evening. Ask for the Hünkar Beğendi, you will not regret it.
3. Cahide Cabaret – Dinner Theather
One of the most famous places for those looking for a nightclub and endless entertainment alongside with Turkish tastes.
Related Post: The Best Restaurants in Istanbul
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Born and raised Istanbulite. Keeping an eye on the opportunity to explore this ancient city even more. Trying to do the best for nature.