When I told you about the dessert food tour we took in Istanbul I teased that not only did we do that tour but we did another tour. To date it is the longest food tour I’ve taken, and quite possibly the best. Finding the best food in Istanbul is not easy. Not because there’s a lack of good food but because there’s so much! I’m convinced that anyone who says they didn’t eat well in Istanbul simply didn’t try. Food tours in Istanbul are popular but there’s one company who really has brought Turkish food to the forefront by curating exceptional tours that bring you to the heart of food culture here.
First, you must meet some of the people who make the tour work. These are the people who you meet along the way. The (mostly) men who run and operate the restaurants and shops.
But let me get on with the show – you’re here for the food. So we signed up for the Two Markets, Two Continents food tour with Culinary Backstreets, It has a tour length of 6 1/2 hours. Yes my friends that’s over 6 hours of walking and eating. I know to some it sounds like overwhelm but to me, someone who can think of nothing better than spending an entire day learning about a city and eating the best food in Istanbul this was a thing of dreams. It also lived up to every expectation I had.
We started the tour early at 9:30am and set out to uncover a tea shop hidden away in one of the old workshops. Here our guide brought us a typical Turkish breakfast of smit (the bread with sesame seeds), a white cheese and herbs preserved in olive oil. Simple, refreshing and delicious.
But then the ante was upped and we ventured just off the Galatasaray Bridge to a restaurant that was completely non-descript from the outside. Little did we know inside we would find a family who has made breakfast their mission for decades. They are so dedicated to what they do they not only have the restaurant but produce much of the food on offer. They make kaymak from buffalo milk as well as buffalo sausages and cured meats. It was here I learned what Turkish breakfast was all about.
This was only the beginning of what would be much, much more. From breakfast we jumped on the ferry to Kadikoy (and if you want to hang out there, be sure to read my last post!) We sipped Turkish coffees and salep while learning about the important role it plays in Turkish culture. One thing I’ve learned on my travels is that countries like to claim certain things. For example I couldn’t help but remember drinking Turkish coffee in Bulgaria where they too claim it as part of their own culture. We visited a Greek Orthodox church and wandered through the busy market where there were so many foods on offer.
We settled down at a delicatessen to try a mixed variety of mezze including fried anchovies and a whole host of vegetable based dishes. In the pickled shop we of course had pickles but also turnip juice and a wide range of other pickled goodies. Who knew that was a thing in Turkey? We nibbled on nuts and dried fruits and then it was time for lunch.
You might not believe me but there really was much more food than this! There were several other stops where we had a bite of this or that. The last two stops included a “nightlife” specialty and some more traditional Turkish dishes that are going a bit out of style. By the time we boarded the ferry to go back to our hotel we were quite full but very happy.
I don’t want to give away all of the food and surprises that you’ll discover on this tour and know they do offer shorter tours if spending the day eating is not as appealing to you as it is to me! Our guide was excellent, the food was top notch and we saw a lot of the city along the way. While you will see the price is a bit on the higher side it includes everything (all the food) and the guide. I think it’s a steal!
Special thanks to Chris Griffiths for the gorgeous portrait shots. Check out his work at ChrisGriffiths.eu
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