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Istanbul, Turkey: 10 Foods to Try During Your Trip to Istanbul

The noises, the smells, the colors, the people. The first time I visited Istanbul, it was unlike any place I had ever been before. I still give Istanbul credit for opening my heart and mind to wanting to see places that looked different from my hometown. There is nothing, and I mean nothing, like a Turkish Bazaar. I was in heaven. Not only is there beautiful architecture, design, and people, there is an amazing array of food just waiting to be tried. Istanbul is a food lover's heaven if you are open and excited about wandering through the narrow streets and making some delicious stops. Below are just a few (of many) things to try during your trip...

1. Turkish Tea & Coffee

What is it? Black and strong, the tea often needing a sugar cube or two

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I read somewhere years ago that the average Turkish person drinks about 7-11 cups of tea a day. Which to me, is heaven. Everywhere you visit, you will be offered a glass (often in a gorgeous Turkish teacup). As you walk through the markets, people will be traveling around with trays of tea to pass out to the shop owners, and then make another round to pick up their Turkish cups. Enjoying my breaks with a nice Turkish tea in hand was one of my favorite parts of visiting Istanbul.

2. Turkish Delight

What is it? Chewy, gel-like desserts with different nuts and flavors inside

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We joked by the end of our visit that we had essentially turned into walking Turkish Delights. This dessert is everywhere, with so many different varieties and flavors, and all so delicious. Go ahead and taste test as many flavors as you can, while sipping on some delicious tea.

3. Pomegranate Juice

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Exploring the markets, you will surely find different vendors squeezing out fresh pomegranate juice for you to enjoy. It is sweet and refreshing, definitely a must.

4. İskender Kebab

What is it? Thinly sliced lamb with tomato, yogurt, and pita

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A great lunch stop as you are wandering around the city and viewing the beautiful architecture. You can definitely trust the different shops around the popular shopping areas, go ahead and pick one with locals sitting around enjoying their meal. You will see pillars of meat being shaved off onto plates, the smell wafting across the street as you pass by. I always say, follow your nose.

5. Baklava

What is it? Layers of phyllo (unleavened dough) stuffed with nuts, honey, syrup, and spices

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If you are thinking to yourself, “hasn’t she mentioned Baklava in multiple other posts” you would absolutely be correct. Like Israel and Greece, Turkey has some wonderful, delicious, Baklava. If you get a good fill of Turkish Delights and need another go-to sweet, this is always a great option. Sticky and rich, each piece is so sweet and nutty, it is hard to resist!

6. Mezze

What is it? Small side dishes served with your meal

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Commonly served with your meal or drinks, you will be given different bowls and plates to eat along with your main dish. Make sure to taste test a variety and share with the table!

7. Spices, Nuts, & Dried Fruit

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Wandering through the Grand Bazaar, you will be overwhelmed with the sounds and sights. It is like sensory overload, with hundreds of people who make a living off of getting your attention and persuading you that their lamp, rug, fruit, etc. is the best you can find (for the best price!). Most will let you taste test as you pass, to pull you into their shop. I am never above taste testing without purchase, if they offer you some dried fruit, feel free to try and move on if you don't want more. That is what the market is about. But, if you do stumble upon a great deal, Turkish markets are full of delicious snacks and treats to stock up on and enjoy. Take advantage and haggle your heart out! (Trust me, it's almost strange not to).

8. Dondurma

What is it? Turkish Ice Cream

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It is hard for me to pass up some ice cream. Particularly curious about what I had heard, I was determined to try some Turkish ice cream while is Istanbul. It is stickier than what I was used to, almost putty like. The shop keeper could completely flip the cone upside down without the ice cream falling out, to give you a good idea of the consistency. In addition, it doesn’t melt the same way you might expect a Dairy Queen ice cream to melt, making it a perfect treat on a hot day. I loved it! Definitely worth a try.

9. Pide

What is it? Also named, “Turkish Flatbread" or "Turkish Pizza,” it is essentially bread with cheese and meats

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It is true, I adore all foods, I travel to taste new dishes, I have a blog completely devoted to cuisines. But, at heart, I am a Chicago girl, and yes, pizza IS still my favorite food. So, when traveling, of course I am enticed by different versions found in different areas. In Turkey, this is a delicious and similar dish filled with different meats, cheeses, vegetables, and even eggs. Need I say more? Cheese people. Cheese.

10. Salep

What is it? A warm milk drink with flour from orchid tubers, sugar, and topped with cinnamon

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When we traveled to Turkey, it was just on the cusp of Spring. Chilly enough that we happily wore coats and scarves as we wandered the streets. At times when we were closer to the rivers, for example when we were crossing from the European portion of Istanbul to the Asian portion of Istanbul, the wind really picked up. We happily drank our fill of some Salep as we crossed, warming ourselves up with some sweet drinks served right on the ferries.

So you know exactly what to pack for your eating adventure.

Any other suggestions? Let us know!


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