We spent almost an entire day with Culinary Backstreets (referred to as Istanbul Eats when we booked) doing a local food tour – Two Markets, Two Continents. During my research on the city, I came across this Istanbul walking tour for local cuisine and booked it online. This was on the second leg of the stay in Istanbul – part of our 10-day trip to Turkey. We went to some really small eateries that gave us an authentic feel of the city, its people, local areas and markets.
If you want to try local Turkish cuisine in hole-in-the-wall joints in Istanbul, then this is the food tour for you.
We spent about 6 days in Istanbul – 3 days in Sultanahmet to be near the top attractions and another 3 in Besiktas to get a feel of the modern side of the city. The tour started at 9 am in Karakoy market on the European side, we then crossed the Bosphorus and stayed at the Asian side until 5 pm. The food walk was to officially end at 3 pm but our guide allowed us several detours, slowed the pace to suit the group needs and was in no rush. We had our 2-year old baby and some of her paraphernalia with us, so the no-rush-approach really helped us enjoy the day.
Start your day with a delightful egg dish
We met our guide for the day and other members of the group food tour at a neighbourhood in Karaköy. For breakfast, we had the best menemen (traditional Turkish dish which includes eggs, tomato, green peppers, and spices) and cheese pastry that I had in Turkey. We walked around this historic area – Perşembe Pazarı of Karaköy – to get a feel for it. Our next stop was at an Ottoman-era caravanserai for some delicious Turkish tea.
We then crossed the Bosphorus to go to Kadıköy on the Asian side. The guide informed us that this neighbourhood held the highest concentration of traditional food shops and eateries in the city. Our first stop was an eatery that served the best kofte (a meatball dish), bread (dipped in some amazing batter, really soft) and sauces.
Sweet and salty and sour: All favours collide in this Istanbul food tour
This was followed by a visit to a colourful candy store.
My inner child was in sweet heaven – I was delighted to taste candied tomatoes, figs, walnuts, and olives here.
Coming from India, I was familiar with pickles and was happy tasting a wide variety at our next stop, a pickle store. I also tried some pickle juice! Tangy! Our guide then shepherded the group to a small eatery that had a wide variety of mezze (small dishes or appetizers).
And by the time I had some baklava (rich, sweet dessert pastry made of layers of filo filled with chopped nuts and sweetened), I was quite full and ready to call it a day. But I was informed by the guide that this is merely the midpoint of our Istanbul walking tour and there is more to come. Really?! The locals in Istanbul sure enjoy their food!
Many of us needed a break from food so we strolled around a bit in the atmospheric market. The stroller was quite useful with the baby. And with this short break, we were back to tasting and eating. Our next stop was a small eatery where I had the pleasure of eating the lightest, thinnest airiest Turkish pizza you can imagine. I prefer vegetarian food but the meat topping on this pizza was really good.
More food on the cards
I tried tantumi (this is a spicy fried meat dish) and ayran (a cold savory yogurt-based beverage that is exactly like the Indian lassi). In fact, there are so many similarities between Turkish and Indian dishes.
The quirkiest dish was yet to come. The guide took us to a small store selling kokorec. When he explained that the dish is made of intestines filled with sweetbread, I let it pass. No way was I putting that in my mouth. But an adventurous British couple in the group tried it and found it very tasty.
We then went to another local restaurant and tried lentil soup and yet, more food. Groan! By now, I was holding up my stomach. We then went to a small cafe for some Turkish coffee. All of us needed to rest our feet, so we ended up spending a lot of time at this cafe, sipping our coffee, chatting and enjoying the afternoon.
Just when I thought I couldn’t have even a morsel, we landed at another sweets shop. Here the sweets were unlike the sugary baklava. These were different and tasted heavenly – the pastry was super-flaky, filled with pistachios and clotted cream.
And finally the last stop of the grand Istanbul food tour, where we all enjoyed local ice cream. Super day 🙂
Don’t ask me how I walked back to the pier and took the catamaran back to Besiktas.
I highly recommend this Istanbul food tour. The amazing food in local eateries that you would never go to by yourself and all the street food that you get to try is the main reason of course. Besides the food, walking in non-touristy areas and listening to all the anecdotes and stories of our guide gave us a personal feel for the city and its people. It is an expensive food tour but absolutely worth the money.
Some observations –
- Most, but not all, places can serve suitable dishes for vegetarians
- Children are welcome. We took our 2-year old baby with us.
Culinary Backstreets does many different food tours, including one where you can enjoy shopping for ingredients and cooking with the locals. Check this site for information and booking of their culinary tours.
If you are interested in local food tours, you might enjoy these posts –
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Do you like taking food tours? Which has been your favourite food tour?
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