The Top Thing to Eat: Istanbul

Written: The Top Thing Staff | August 29, 2023


Traditional Turkish Dishes

When you find yourself in Istanbul, you are in for a treat! The city is a food lover's paradise, offering a wide array of mouthwatering options to tantalize your taste buds. Let's explore some of the top dishes that you must try during your visit.

Tantalizing flavors of Turkish Meze

One of the best ways to start your culinary journey is by indulging in Turkish Meze. These small appetizer plates offer a diverse range of flavors and textures. From tangy and refreshing Ezme to creamy and rich Hummus, Turkish Meze has something for everyone. Make sure to try Zeytinyağlı Yaprak Sarma, which is stuffed vine leaves, and Patlıcan Salatası, a delicious eggplant salad.

Doner Kebab: Savoring the iconic Turkish street food

No visit to Istanbul would be complete without trying Doner Kebab. This iconic Turkish street food has gained worldwide popularity for its delicious and savory flavors. Thinly sliced marinated meat, typically lamb or chicken, is slow-cooked on a vertical rotisserie and then served in a warm pita bread or on a plate with rice and salad. Don't forget to smother it with some tangy yogurt sauce and enjoy the explosion of flavors.

Baklava: Experiencing the sweet and flaky pastry delight

For dessert lovers, Baklava is a must-try treat. This sweet and flaky pastry is made of layers of filo pastry filled with a mixture of finely chopped nuts, sugar, and spices. It is then drenched in a sweet syrup made of honey or sugar. The result is a heavenly combination of crispy, buttery layers and a sticky, syrupy sweetness that will leave you wanting more.

So, when you are in Istanbul, make sure to indulge in these traditional Turkish dishes to experience the rich and diverse flavors that the city has to offer.


Seafood Delights

Fresh and flavorful fish at the Istanbul Fish Market

When it comes to seafood, Istanbul's Fish Market is a must-visit destination for any food lover. Located near the Galata Bridge, this bustling marketplace offers an array of fresh and flavorful fish to tantalize your taste buds. From local favorites like mackerel and sea bass to exotic catches such as swordfish and octopus, you'll find a wide variety of options to choose from. The best part is that you can have your fish cooked right on the spot at one of the many restaurants within the market. So, grab a seat, savor the sea breeze, and indulge in a delicious seafood feast.

Grilled Fish Sandwich: A must-try street food experience

No visit to Istanbul is complete without trying the famous Grilled Fish Sandwich, also known as “Balik Ekmek.” This iconic street food experience can be found in Eminonu and Karakoy, where you'll discover numerous vendors grilling fresh fish and serving them on warm and crusty bread. The combination of perfectly grilled fish, tangy lemon, fresh herbs, and a hint of spice creates a mouthwatering explosion of flavors. So, join the locals and savor this street food delight as you soak in the vibrant atmosphere of Istanbul's waterfront.

Balik Ekmek: Enjoying fish on a boat in the Bosphorus

For a unique dining experience, hop on a boat tour along the breathtaking Bosphorus Strait and enjoy a Balik Ekmek while cruising the waters. These floating cafes serve up delicious fish sandwiches, allowing you to savor the incredible views of Istanbul's iconic landmarks like the Topkapi Palace and the Maiden's Tower. The combination of the fresh sea air, the gentle sway of the boat, and the delectable flavors of the Balik Ekmek make for an unforgettable culinary adventure.

In conclusion, Istanbul offers a wide range of seafood delights that will please even the most discerning palate. Whether you prefer a vibrant fish market experience or indulging in street food favorites, Istanbul has something to satisfy your seafood cravings. So, grab a fork, savor the flavors, and embark on a culinary journey through the vibrant and diverse food scene of Istanbul.


Ottoman Cuisine

Indulging in the rich flavors of Turkish Ottoman cuisine

If you find yourself in Istanbul, be prepared to embark on a culinary adventure that will delight your taste buds and leave you craving for more. Ottoman cuisine, influenced by centuries of historic and cultural exchange, offers a unique blend of flavors and dishes that are a must-try during your visit.

Lamb Kebabs: Aromatic and tender delicacy

When it comes to Ottoman cuisine, lamb kebabs are an absolute must-have. Prepared with succulent pieces of marinated lamb, these kebabs are grilled to perfection, often served with a side of fragrant rice and a variety of grilled vegetables. The combination of tender meat and aromatic spices creates a burst of flavors that will leave you wanting for more.

Manti: Savoring the Turkish version of dumplings

If you're a fan of dumplings, then you must try the Turkish version known as manti. These bite-sized dumplings are typically filled with a savory mixture of minced lamb or beef, onions, and spices. They are then boiled and served with a generous drizzle of melted butter and tangy yogurt sauce. The combination of flavors and textures in each bite is simply divine.

Other notable dishes that you should not miss out on include pide (Turkish pizza), baklava (sweet pastry with layers of filo dough and nuts), and meze (a selection of small appetizers). Istanbul is a paradise for food lovers, and exploring the vibrant street food scene is also a must-do.

So, if you're planning a trip to Istanbul, make sure to indulge in the rich flavors of Ottoman cuisine. From succulent lamb kebabs to delicious manti, your taste buds are in for a treat that will leave you craving for more.


Street Food Delights

Exploring Istanbul's vibrant street food scene

If you're visiting Istanbul, one thing you can't miss is the vibrant street food scene. The city is famous for its delectable offerings that are not only delicious but also affordable. It's a culinary adventure that you won't want to miss.

Simit: Tasting the iconic Turkish sesame bread rings

One of the top street foods in Istanbul is simit, the iconic Turkish sesame bread rings. These circular breads covered in sesame seeds are freshly baked and can be found on almost every street corner. They are delicious on their own, but you can also enjoy them with some traditional Turkish tea. Don't forget to try the different variations, such as the simit with cheese or Nutella.

Lahmacun: Sampling the delicious Turkish pizza

Another must-try street food in Istanbul is lahmacun, often referred to as Turkish pizza. This thin and crispy flatbread is topped with minced meat, onions, peppers, and spices. It is then baked in a hot oven and served with fresh herbs and a squeeze of lemon. The combination of flavors is simply irresistible, and you'll find yourself going back for more.

Whether you're exploring the bustling markets or simply strolling through the streets, Istanbul offers a wide variety of street food options that will tantalize your taste buds. From savory kebabs to sweet baklava, there's something for everyone. So don't miss the chance to indulge in these delicious street food delights during your visit to Istanbul.


Sweet Treats and Desserts

Turkish Delight: Exploring the array of flavors

Indulging in Turkish Delight is a must when visiting Istanbul. These delightful gel-like cubes come in a variety of flavors such as rose, orange, lemon, and pistachio. They are dusted with powdered sugar and are often enjoyed with a cup of Turkish tea. Don't forget to visit the famous Hafiz Mustafa shop, known for its high-quality Turkish Delight, to get the authentic experience.

Gozleme: Savoring the savory and sweet stuffed pancakes

When it comes to street food in Istanbul, Gozleme is a popular choice. These traditional Turkish pancakes are made with thin dough and stuffed with delicious fillings like spinach and cheese, potatoes, or minced meat. For those with a sweet tooth, there are also Gozleme filled with Nutella or a sweet cheese blend. Enjoying one of these freshly cooked delights from a local street vendor is a must-try experience.

Salep: Enjoying the warm and aromatic winter beverage

If you visit Istanbul during the winter months, don't miss the opportunity to try Salep. This hot and creamy beverage is made from orchid roots and typically flavored with cinnamon. It is a comforting treat that warms you up from the inside out. You can find Salep in traditional Turkish cafes and street stalls, making it the perfect drink to enjoy while exploring the city's winter beauty.

So, whether you have a sweet tooth or prefer savory delights, Istanbul has something to satisfy every craving. Don't miss out on these top treats when visiting this vibrant city!



Summing up the top things to eat in Istanbul

If you find yourself in Istanbul, make sure to indulge in these must-try dishes to truly experience the flavors of the city. From the iconic Turkish breakfast to delectable street foods like simit and doner kebab, there's something for every palate in Istanbul.

Must-try food experiences for an unforgettable culinary journey in Istanbul

1. Turkish Breakfast: Start your day with a traditional Turkish breakfast featuring an array of cheeses, olives, honey, jams, and freshly baked bread.

  1. Iskender Kebab: Savor the mouthwatering combination of tender grilled meat, tomato sauce, melted butter, and yogurt over a bed of pita bread.

  2. Baklava: Indulge in the rich and sweet layers of pastry filled with nuts and soaked in honey or syrup. Baklava is a quintessential Turkish dessert.

  3. Fish Sandwich: Visit one of Istanbul's many fish markets and enjoy a freshly grilled fish sandwich served on a crusty bun with lettuce, onions, and a squeeze of lemon.

  4. Lahmacun: Taste the Turkish equivalent of a pizza with a thin and crispy dough topped with minced meat, tomatoes, onions, and herbs.

Frequently Asked Questions about Istanbul's food scene

1. What is Turkish tea? Turkish tea is a strong and aromatic black tea that is typically served in small tulip-shaped glasses. It is a staple beverage in Turkish culture.

  1. Where can I find the best Turkish delight in Istanbul? Head to the Grand Bazaar or the Spice Bazaar to find a wide variety of Turkish delight shops offering different flavors and textures.

  2. What is a meze? Meze refers to a selection of small dishes that are served as appetizers or side dishes. They can include various items like stuffed grape leaves, olives, cheese, and dips.

  3. What is the traditional Turkish street food? Some popular traditional Turkish street foods include simit (sesame-covered bread rings), doner kebab (thinly sliced meat wrapped in flatbread), and balik ekmek (grilled fish sandwich).

Istanbul offers a vibrant culinary scene that is sure to satisfy any food lover. Don't miss the opportunity to explore the unique and delicious tastes of this remarkable city.