Food – part 2: delicacies, pastries and desserts

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Food – part 2: delicacies, pastries and desserts

I can promise you that this post is guaranteed to be sweet. And furthermore, I can assure you that if you taste all these treats, you won't have to feel a sweet craving for a while – Turkish treats are that rich. In this post, you'll first see delicious options and assortments with photos, and finally, you'll hear interesting stories about traditional Turkish delicacies.

I’ve snapped these photos and small video clips from my city excursions over time. Therefore, some are even taken through shop windows, so I apologize for the lower quality of some photos.

Nevertheless, I hope you find in this post delightful and lovely treats you may wish to sample on your next visit to Istanbul. The selection is indeed captivating.

Delicatessens and traditions

You can find treats everywhere, but especially in tourist areas. Treats are available in cafes, bakeries, and specialty stores, as well as in shopping malls, but especially in bazaars.

The range of Turkish culinary experiences is broad, so you’ll likely find something new and interesting for your taste buds. In addition to the delicacies we are familiar with – candies, chocolates, cakes, pastries, and ice cream – in Istanbul, you’ll also hear about these traditional delicacies: baklava, sütlaç, künefe, kadayıf, şekerpare, tulumba tatlısı, güllaç, kabak tatlısı, tavuk göğsü, aşure, kazandibi, lokma, helva, and lokum.

Baklava and delicacies in Istanbul, Turkey.
Delicacies in Istanbul bazaar, Turkey.
Delicacies in Istanbul bazaar, Turkey.

Baklava

Baklava is probably one of the most traditional pastries and was one of the most popular pastries already during the time of the Ottoman Empire. Baklava is made from thin layered sheets of phyllo dough and includes essential ingredients like nuts and honey or syrup. Baklava can be flavored in many different ways, so there are countless versions of this pastry.

The baklava selection in Istanbul, Turkey.
In addition to other treats, you can also get baklava in nice metal boxes, perhaps as a souvenir from your trip to Istanbul – easy, beautiful, and delicious.
In addition to other treats, you can also get baklava in nice metal boxes, perhaps as a souvenir from your trip to Istanbul – easy, beautiful, and delicious.

Sütlaç, cakes, and pastries

The following photos show Sütlaç which is a wonderfully soft rice pudding that can be eaten as a dessert or snack. Sütlaç is served in small dessert bowls and can be flavored with cinnamon, for example. The photos also feature more conventional delicacies such as cakes and pastries.

Delicacies in Istanbul, Turkey.
Delicacies in Istanbul, Turkey.
Delicacies in Istanbul, Turkey.

Children’s party cakes

Turkish culture is strongly tied to family and children, so there’s no skimping on cakes at children’s parties. A cake can be bought ready-made from a bakery or, alternatively, a personalized cake based on the birthday child’s interests and wishes can be ordered. I am unable to estimate how common it is to bake cakes at home, but at least in my family, it’s rare.

A child's birthday cake in Istanbul, Turkey.
In my grandson’s birthday cake, his two homelands are combined: the forested nature of Finland and both of our family cats in Istanbul.

Ice cream

Turkish ice cream (dondurma) differs from Finnish ice cream – in a more delicious way. You can find typical ice cream selling facilities everywhere, but only in tourist areas can you experience an ice cream presentation full of funny tricks as shown in the following video.

Ice cream (dondurma) in Istanbul, Turkey.

New Year’s treats

New Year in Istanbul is like a Finnish Christmas with gifts and delicacies. In Kadıköy, on the Asian side, you will find the following charming and atmospheric New Year’s delicatessen, which already has a long tradition. This Şekerci Cafer Erol has been in operation since 1807.

In Kadıköy, on the Asian side of Istanbul, you will find this charming and atmospheric New Year's delicacy shop with a long tradition. This Şekerci Cafer Erol has been in operation since 1807.
Şekerci Cafer Erol has been in operation since 1807 in Istanbul, Turkey.

Alcohol

In my opinion, alcohol is also part of the treats. Especially, for example, at the weekend table when dining with a larger group in a slightly more festive manner. The traditional anise-flavored spirit, Rakı, is, of course, the most popular drink in Istanbul, but the selection is naturally wide, and buying alcohol is unrestricted. As long as you don’t wander into a conservative area, you can find alcohol everywhere – even delivered to your home at all hours.

Coctail in Istanbul, Turkey.
The alcohol selection at our nearby small grocery store. The beer section is separate.

Tea

Tea is consumed a lot in Turkey and is served to you everywhere. In Istanbul, black tea made in a traditional teapot is usually served. However, if you wish, the tea selection is incredibly diverse – and therapeutic and healing – especially in bazaars.

Tea selection in Istanbul bazaar.

Coffee

Coffee is consumed much less than tea, but despite that, the selection of specialty coffees in cafes is wide. However, my dearest coffee is traditional Turkish coffee. For an aesthete like me, it’s fantastic to experience the variety of beautiful coffee sets too.

Turkish coffee is always served with water and one piece of lokum. Occasionally, you can get coffee served with one chocolate bonbon.

Please note that you can only get coffee from cafes. Usually, you won’t find coffee in restaurants – not even in food restaurants for dessert. This is sometimes hard for a coffee-loving Finn like me to grasp.

On the other hand, a big positive difference compared to Finland is that even in cafes there is always table service. In the Turkish service society, self-service is unknown – fortunately.

Turkish coffee and baklava in Istanbul, Turkey.
Delicacies in Istanbul, Turkey.

Turkish Delight (lokum)

Turkish Delight is probably a familiar term for everyone, and it means the same as lokum. Lokum resembles marmalade but is stickier and denser. There are many flavors, almost an endless variety. Often, in addition to various food essences, nuts are also used for flavoring. One traditional and well-known lokum manufacturer is a company called “Koska,” which has been in operation since 1907.

In Istanbul one traditional and well-known lokum manufacturer is a company called "Koska," which has been in operation since 1907.

Everyday life and treats

Although Turkish culture is rich in various treats, my family rarely eats sweets in their everyday lives. More often, fruits replace pastries and snacks. Fresh fruits available throughout the year are almost as sweet as other mouthwatering treats.

However, I aim to enjoy baklava or some other super treat with coffee about once a month.

Fruits in Istanbul, Turkey.

Traditional treats and their stories

The following video provides more detailed information about traditional Turkish treats. And you’ll also hear interesting stories about their history.

I wish you both a mouth-wateringly delicious and visually beautiful culinary journey to Istanbul.

Delicacies in Istanbul, Turkey.

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