01.08.2014 - 01.08.2014
The ancient city of Constantinople, I mean Istanbul, is our last stop in this part of the world. The skyline is dotted with minerats and skyscrapers, the mood festive, and all of the kebabs Ben can eat. After a good nights rest we start early to escape the heat and head into the historic area of town to see the main sights. The Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sophia, Cisterns and the Million Stone are all clustered together. The Million Stone is the center point of the Byzantine Empire, all distances to other cities are measured from here. They have included modern cities now and we have about 11,000km to go on our journey.
For lunch we find a street vender selling a horizontal lamb kebab that is minced then stirfried with roasted peppers. Placed in half a baguette and topped with oregano, course paprika and salt. The kebab itself is meat wrapped around a core of fat. The bread absorbs all of the flavor. We washed it down with a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice. Unfortunately, we are not in season for pomegranates and will have to return again for those. We also tried Ottoman ice cream. This is made with goats milk and they place it into chilled containers and use a long spoon to stir and mix it until it gets the texture of taffy.
Once night rolls around the parks and squares in town fill up with locals enjoying the cooler air. Venders spring up selling roasted or boiled corn on the cob, popcorn, fruit, toys, etc.
As for us, we found a restaurant's terrace and watched people pass by on the street. We did witness a group of local men beat up a teenager in what we assume was vigilante justice. The kid ran off after they kicked and ripped his shirt off. As for that meal, we started with a cumin spiced lentil soup and grape leaves stuffed with rice and onions. The soup had a good consistency, not to thick but enough to sop it up with the stacks of bread they served us. The kebabs were a simple cubed lamb separated with eggplant and the Adana kebab that is a minced kebab with a bit more heat than usual but the other spices seem the same.
The traditional Turkish breakfast is tomatoes, cucumbers and cheese but after two days of this I was already tired of it. Instead I found this dish which is scrambled eggs in a tomato sauce with spicy sausage. It is served with plenty of bread to soak up what is on the plate and you wash it all down with salty Aryan.
After a few days of kebabs, we decided to try Turkish baked potatoes. The potatoes are among the largest I've seen, knobby and thin skinned. They bake them in the oven but do not oil or salt the outside leaving the skin plain. They cut them in half and scoop out the inside. They then mix with copius amounts of butter and cheese until creamy. As for toppings, there were anywhere from twelve to twenty. These include more cheese, couscous, pickles, roasted peppers, green and black olives, roasted eggplants, chickpeas, etc. For desert we had a creamy rice pudding that is then baked, almost like a creme brulee. More cream than rice.
Since it was a holiday the bazaars were closed for several days. When they reopened it was packed but after the ones in Morocco, these were quite easy to navigate. There are two that we visited, the Grand Bazaar and the Egyptian Bazaar. Both have pretty much the same stuff, the main difference is the Grand Bazaar had more shops indoors. Nearly everything you could want are somewhere in these shops. The spice shops were piled high and had more of a selection than those in Morocco. They did have a scam going of Indian Saffron, which is just ground turmeric.
Other food finds were Turkish Delight and a wide variety of dried fruits. These include lime peel, melon, figs, cherries, pineapple, banana, apple, etc.
Our final dish was difficult to find. It is a Central Asian ravioli. This one had a lamb filling and the size was quite small. It looked like they took the dough, rolled it out, sprinkled the meat on top then placed another layer of dough on top. They then cut them onto squares about 1/4 of an inch and cooked them in a tomato sauce. Yogurt is then added table side and dried mint, course paprika and ground sumac (a lemony berry) is liberally sprinkled on top. The waiter mixed it all before I got a shot though.