My experience and everyday food
I confess that food is not a passion for me; it primarily represents health (or sometimes just visual appeal and colors). Unfortunately, I am not the best presenter of Istanbul’s food culture. However, I can share a few observations about everyday meals based on my experience.
Firstly, freshness is crucial in Turkish cuisine, besides the obvious delicious taste. Due to a favorable climate, fresh vegetables and fruits are available throughout the year, ensuring that all food in Istanbul is undoubtedly fresh – both at home and in restaurants. In seafood restaurants, for example, you can even choose your upcoming meal from the freshly caught fish.
Secondly, breakfast (kahvaltı) is another crucial meal, in addition to the late dinner (around 8-11 pm). Breakfast is also consumed late. In fact, I think Turks don’t really have breakfast; their breakfast is what we Finns consider lunch. Whether you enjoy breakfast at home or in a restaurant, it is usually wonderfully diverse and visually beautiful. In our family, I’ve noticed that even children, from a very young age, eat in the same food rhythm and have the same foods (albeit pureed as babies).
Thirdly, a significant part of Turkish food culture is mezes (meze) – small, fantastic food portions that you can combine into your desired combination at a restaurant. Mezes are enjoyed as appetizers, side dishes for the main course, or with Rakı in Rakı nights. (Rakı is an anise-flavored spirit, almost like the unofficial national drink of the Turks.)
Fourthly, a couple of remarks about home-cooked food. Firstly, all food is always made from scratch (including in restaurants). Semi-finished or ready-made products are not used, and therefore, they are also not available in stores.
In addition, I have been pondering whether every family has a Michelin-star chef because all the home-cooked meals I’ve tasted have been unbelievably delicious. Or does this only indicate the high level of general expertise in Turkey, a country with a traditional food culture?
After these general observations of everyday life, in this post, I want to give a voice to the experts. I hope you find your favorite restaurant on the “Gastrocity Istanbul” website and also delve into the secrets of traditional street food with guidance from “Aladdin’s Turkey.”
Gastrocity Istanbul – discover the best restaurants
Gastrocity features over 50 restaurants recommended as the best in Istanbul (2023) according to the Michelin Guide. It includes Michelin-starred restaurants, as well as other high-quality, delicious, and charming options. You can directly explore each restaurant in detail on the website and easily find them on the map.
Michelin-starred restaurants are familiar to everyone, but Gastrocity also introduces more widely recommended, selected restaurants on its site (Selected Restaurants). Additionally, you’ll find Bib Gourmand-awarded restaurants on the site. These Bib restaurants are unique and high-quality but share a simpler cooking style that is recognizable and easy to eat. Plus, they come at a reasonable price.
You can find all the mentioned restaurants here: Gastrocity
Please remember to select Istanbul from the city menu for each section.
Street Food – taste at least these in Istanbul
In Istanbul, you see and experience food everywhere. In addition to restaurants, there are countless street food places. So, there are plenty of options – and some might completely surprise you.
Do you know what “Kokoreç” is? It’s the kind of dish friends use to make funny jokes on tourists like me. You eat it eagerly when presented, and only afterward are you told what it contains: lamb or goat intestines wrapped in seasonal organ meat. It is usually prepared by grilling. Delicious? Absolutely!
In the following video, you’ll learn more about this and many other street food options. Please note that the prices mentioned in the video (2020) have increased.
Hopefully you enjoy the delicious taste of Istanbul. “Afiyet olsun!”