The street food in Istanbul is amazing, and there is a whole lot more than Döner on offer. Though of course the ubiquitous cone of meat is available, we found some options for street food that were completely unique. When we were in Istanbul, we ate as much street food as possible, and we really enjoyed the ubiquitous culture of street stalls and carts. Here are our favorite street eats, but if you’re looking for more, Witt Hotels and Atdaa have great rundowns of the myriad different types of street food in Istanbul. We wish we were enjoying these munchies by the Bosporus right now.
Mısır – One thing we never expected to see for sale in Istanbul was something distinctly “new world” – grilled corn on the cob! Much like Mexican elote, misir is served with salt and spices (though there is no butter). This was absolutely one of the most popular street foods, and is surprisingly tasty and filling.
Kestane – Delicious roast chestnuts often sold alongside corn, or alone after corn has gone out of season. Chestnuts are a popular fall food throughout Europe, as we saw in Lisbon, and are a great warm-up in chilly weather.
Simit – One of the many ring-shaped carb-y options available as street food in Istanbul, simit is a savory bagel-esque bread ring covered in sesame seeds. For breakfast simit, is often accompanied with yogurt and jam.
Açma – This similar to Simit, but is sweet and fried. Think of a Turkish doughnut.
Halka Tatlisi – If Açma is not sweet enough for you, you graduate to the Turkish churro: Halka Tatlisi. This street food staple consists of fried dough with a glossy sugar glaze. For the sweet tooth only.
Dondurma – Turkish ice cream – which has a much denser, pliable consistency. Half the fun is watching the ice cream cone being prepared.
Pide and Lahmacun – Thin flatbreads topped with cheese and/or meat, perfect if you are feeling like more of a meal. There are also full restaurants dedicated to these foods, though you can get them on the street.
Mussels – Down by the docks we also saw buckets of Mussels for sale (and ready consumption). This particular street food we did not partake in, but we were just about the only ones. We imagine the high turnover keeps everything pretty fresh.
One response to “A Quick Guide to Street Food in Istanbul”
The specialty Turkish ice cream is made with starch from the tuber of an endangered flower – please do not encourage people to try it.
***Salep flour is made of the orchid tubers of a rare orchid which are picked while the plants are in bloom. Consequently, they won’t be able to set seed and the plant is also destroyed (The orchid in question – Orchis mascula – is even on the CITES Convention’s list of endangered floral species; another reason why export of Salep from Turkey is forbidden). In other words, there are many good reasons why it is preferable to seek out a salep-substitute!