Istanbul: From Kofte to Sütlaç

What an amazing gastronomic adventure to be had in this wonderful country!

We had a grand time gorging ourselves silly on succulent kebabs, with a tantalising combination of fruit with meat, and of course, sickly sweet desserts!

Starting with our dinner at the Sultanahmet Köftecisi.

When we arrived at some time past 7pm, there was already a long line snaking from the restaurant! I was shocked, are the Turks a lot like Malaysian and Singaporeans on the inside? Patience to queue for good food? No matter how long it takes?

Well, fortunately for us, the answer is not quite. The queue was meant for the iftar crowd: they were in line for dusk to set in before grabbing seats. So we got a table immediately. Phew.

Of course, V will have a different version on how we managed to get seats quickly.


These totally rocked my world! Check out the glistening meat on that Izgara Köfte Porsiyon (bottom on photo) - Grilled beef meatballs with onion, salt and bread. Comes with pickled green chilli (packs a spicy punch!) and some sambal. The sambal wasn't particularly spicy nor very flavourful. So the focus is all on the preparation of the delicious meatballs.

Above the köfte is Lamb Shesh Kebap - tastes so-so (can you tell that we're both very spoiled in the food department?). The accompanying bread was very flat, meh. The texture was too dry, bread wasn't fresh and for heaven's sake, at least toast it if it's stale! That would have made so much difference.

Still the kofte was so good, we were back for more - lunch the following day

This time, we opted for the takeaway sandwich and took it to the Hippodrome park (I was educated by a very distinguished historian that this was where the race of hippos take place. Maybe I'll bring my pet hippo here some other time). Again, that annoyingly dry bread does not do the köfte justice!

Sultanahmet Köftecisi
Alemdar Mh., Divan Yolu Cd No12
34122 Fatih, Istanbul

We scored another big win, thanks to V:

This was located on the Asian side of Istanbul. We took the novel ferry across the Bosphorus Strait to Kadikoy. Being wiser after a false alarm with queues for iftar the night before, we arrived well and early, ahead of dusk.

A recommendation by the friendly waiter - kebab with cherries. The saltiness of the kebab goes superbly with the sweetness of the cherries (which is in season). Delish!

Even the colours are inviting us to tuck in!

Perde Pilavi : Rice cooked with pine nuts, chicken and raisins and baked in dough. The external bread -shell was quite hard and tough to chew. The rice and nuts was fantastic though, crunchy and flavourful. I am totally digging the whole savoury combination with pine nuts and fruit!
Check out the colours!

That thingie at 2 o'clock was amazeballs - Iskandar kebab (Must have forgotten to take a solo photo!). Marinated beef and grilled, served with pickled green chilli and a dollop of yoghurt - we wiped it clean.

Çiya Sofrasi
Caferaga, Günesli Bahçe Sk No43

Simit (a bagel of sorts with sesame seeds) and coffee are quintessential to the Turkish breakfast. Peddlers selling simit and other Turkish breads are ubiquitous in this city, along with corn and chestnut peddlers. Grilled corn is simply addictive! We have had countless number of corns - so juicy!

My take on the Turkish coffee: it was really quite bitter and very strong. I noticed the coffee is always served with a glass of water - for good reasons, so you better not refuse that glass!

Hamsi Tava - Deep fried anchovies served on a bed of rocket leaves with a squeeze of lemon juice - another addictive snack! We were supposed to share this but V hates the strong smell of fish so it was all up to me to clean this plate up hehe. We spotted this small eatery while browsing through the Spice market. It was small and cramped, but damn, those anchovies were yummy.

Just your friendly neighbourhood hamsi tava seller.

More firsts: Turkish pide, washed down with Turkish beer.

Here's a tip. If it's oblong, it's pide. If it's round, it's pizza.

Moving on, dinner at Zübeyir, courtesy of V's searches again. I gotta give him credit - he's done all the food research this trip. Usually the foodie is me but look how much he's grown now (literally!! hehe), so proud of you! :D

It has a little roasting pit right in the middle of the first floor of the restaurant. Good hood though, cos we caught no sniff of that thick smoke.

Fantastic breads! Soft on the inside, crunchy shell on the outside. Paired with a yoghurt and roasted red pepper dip - oh my.

A kebab platter for sharing - roasted chicken, lamb and beef.

V contemplating where to start first.

Zübeyir Oçakbasi
Şehit Muhtar Mh. Bekar Sk. No 28 

A delightful breakfast we had in Beyoglu - a small cafe tucked in a residential area. I wasn't expecting much, until we were served with a soft bread and clotted cream with honey. I couldn't stuff myself enough!

That glorious honey.... and clotted cream. Carve this on your must-eat list in this lifetime. Seriously.

Menemen: a scrambled egg dish with tomatoes, peas and of course, sucuk (beef sausages), if you are Mr V.

My breakfast of pancake stuffed with sucuk - was alright - much preferred the menemen actually, as a breakfast option.

Van Kahvalti Evi
Kiliçali pasa mah, Defretdar yokusu 52/A

Climaxing to the creme de la creme:

(This is where we were headed and the whole neighbourhood disapproves of my 'revealing' outfit)....

We had a lot of fun picking out our dinner! Too many tempting options -- A little trivia, Asitane offers historical renditions of the Ottoman cuisine. The menu includes the year a particular dish was created! 

We arrived for lunch - and were the only diners in the establishment.

Stuffed Vine Leaves with Sour Cherries (1844)
Grape leaves stuffed with blend of sour cherries, rice, onions, pine nuts. Cooked lightly in olive oil and seasoned with black pepper and cinnamon.

The combination worked really well: grape leaves was ever-so-slightly crisp, with a soft center of cherries, rice and an intermittent crunch of pine nuts.

Stuffed Calamari with Shrimps: Oven baked calamari, stuffed with blend of rice, pine nuts and currants; flavoured with cinnamon and fresh mint.

Delicious! I absolutely loved the combination of calamari, rice and pine nuts - that crunch! And coupled with peppery rocket leaves.... perfection!

"Mahmudiyye" (1539)
Cinnamon and clove flavoured chicken stew cooked with apricots, Rezaki raisins and almonds.

The flavours in this dish was mild - not quite spicy, not quite sweet and not quite salty. Interesting idea but not wild about its execution...

Stuffed Melon (1539)
Cored melon stuffed with a blend of minced meat, rice, herbs, almonds, currants and baked in the oven.

This is our fave of the lot (along with the calamari with rice). The juicy, sweet melon complemented wonderfully with the minced meat, currants and nuts. Lip-smacking!

As much as we loved the food prepared by Asitane, I find it lacking in a certain something (je ne sais quoi?), and would have gone back to Çiya Sofrasi in a hearbeat. You know how no matter the premium ingredients a hotel could incorporate in their dishes, but the street side hawker's version still tastes better? This metaphor is apt in the case of Asitane vs Çiya Sofrasi.... Although an accomplished gastronomer may opine that they are both incomparable. 

Kariye Camii Sokak No6
34240 Edirnekapi, Istanbul

And to top off our culinary adventure - our favourite dessert in Turkey:

The Sütlaç! Caramelized milk pudding, served chilled. I fell in love with this from the first bite! It reminds me so much of the steamed milk pudding in Hong Kong. Wow, wow and wow. Can't get enough of it. But we only tried out this dessert on our last day in Istanbul! Wish we had more of this than the pile of baklavas.... Admittedly, that may have been a blessing in disguise.....

Saray Muhallebicisi
Kuloğlu Mh., Istiklal Caddesi No:105, 
34433 Beyoğlu

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