Introduction to Turkish Street Food – 15 Most Popular Bites

*The featured pic: Turkish Ice Cream (photo taken from mobil.egedesonsoz.com)

1-Döner

Döner (photo by OneArmedMan)

Undoubtedly the most popular Turkish street food, döner is a type of kebob that is made by cooking the meat on a vertical rotisserie. Once the meat is cooked, it is sliced into thin sheets. Döner is either served on a plate or in a wrap, stuffed with vegetables.

Contrary to common perception, döner is not German. It was brought to Germany by the Turkish workers who immigrated to the country in the 60s.

Today, in every city in Turkey, you can find authentic döner shops. It is a highly recommended and reasonably priced traditional specialty.

2-Roasted Chestnuts

Chestnut stall (photo by Achromatic)

Once you start seeing roasted chestnut vendors on the streets, it is an indicator that winter has begun. Sold in grams, roasted chestnuts are a perfectly healthy snack, best consumed with a cup of freshly brewed Turkish tea.

All of the chestnut stalls in Turkey are regulated by the municipalities, which in a way assure the consistency of the quality and taste. A small paper bag of chestnuts costs around 15 liras.

3-Boiled Corn

Boiled Corn (photo by TudorTulok)

Also known as “süt mısır” in Turkish, boiled corn is one of the hallmarks of the main city streets of Turkey. Prepared in large pots, boiled corn is given to customers in the husk which makes it easy to eat. A boiled corn can cost 3-5 liras. The stalls can be found pretty much on every busy street in Turkish cities.

Just like the roasted chestnut vendors, the boiled corn stalls are run by municipalities as well, so you should have no doubt about the cleanliness of the food.

4-Fish Sandwich

Fish Sandwich (photo taken from keyifharitasi.com)

Fish Sandwich (balık ekmek in Turkish) is a common street food, especially in the coastal areas. It is a sandwich made with a fillet of fish and some vegetables added into it. Typically prepared with mackerel, fish sandwich can also be found served with anchovies (hamsi in Turkish) or haddock (mezgit in Turkish).

The most iconic place to grab a fish sandwich is the district of Eminönü in Istanbul. Right by the Eminönü Bridge, you will find a few of boats anchored to the harbor where the grill never stops due to the high demand. There, you can get a fish sandwich and sit on a vacant bench to watch the Bosphorus as you are having your meal. It is a must-have experience in Istanbul.

Apart from that, pretty much every town on Turkey’s coasts abounds with stalls where you can have fish sandwiches.

5-Simit

Simit (photo by Barbarossa)

Simit, known as the “Turkish Bagel” in the rest of the world, is a world-renowned specialty of the Turkish cuisine.

Originated several centuries ago in the Ottoman Empire, simit is an irreplicable element of a traditional Turkish breakfast. The traditional way of eating a simit is with tea. And while today there are thousands of bakeries scattered over Turkey, the most traditional and authentic way of experiencing a simit is by grabbing one in the early morning from one of the street vendors.

A simit is made by baking a circular dough after coating is with sesame seeds. It is best eaten freshly out of the oven. A local tip is making sure your simit is warm and crispy, which is a sole indicator of a good simit.

6-Kokoreç

Kokoreç (photo by William Neuheisel)

Although it might sound a bit unusual to the foreigners in the first time once they hear the ingredients of kokoreç, it is a very popular street food. Kokoreç consists of lamb intestines stuffed with seasoned giblets (the heart, lungs and kidneys of the butchered animals). Once the raw mixture is prepared, it is laid over a horizontal skewer and cooked slowly on coal fire. Generally, kokoreç is eaten late at night, most commonly after a night of drinking alcohol.

Informally, it is also called “hangover food” among the Turks.

7-Çiğ Köfte

Çig Köfte (photo taken from kolaydiyetlistesi.com)

Çiğ köfte is a regional snack which originated in the southeast part of Turkey. However, over the years it has spread to all parts of Turkey and became a very popular appetizer. The word çiğ köfte translates to “raw meatball” in English, however it is not always a meat-based dish.

Çiğ köfte is a soft mixture prepared by kneading cooked bulgur, chopped onions, tomato and pepper paste, and spices until they become soft. Traditionally, in south east, çiğ köfte is served by adding slices of raw meat. However, due to the fact the raw meat goes bad fast, in most cities, çiğ köfte is always served without meat. It will be sold under the name of etsiz (without meat) çiğ köfte, as opposed to etli (with meat) çiğ köfte.

There are two traditional ways of serving çiğ köfte. One is on a plate with lettuce leaves and lemon slices, and the second one is durum (in a wrap). Unless you specifically ask for it, all the çiğ köfte vendors serve it in a wrap which is way easy to eat it.

8-Stuffed Mussels

Stuffed Mussles (photo by Fenerli1978)

Stuffed mussels, or midye as the locals call it, is a dish that consists of a small portion of rice with mussel, served in a mussel shell. It is commonly eaten by squeezing some lemon on it.

9-Albanian-style Liver

Albanian Style Liver (photo by E4024)

This street food is made of fried lamb or veal liver cubes seasoned with hot pepper and served traditionally with onion and parsley. Even though it is a highly demanded specialty, you cannot find good Albanian style liver everywhere in Turkey. There are only a handful of places in Istanbul that make this dish in a traditional way.

As historical sources suggest, Albanian style liver was brough to Anatolia by Albanian immigrants who had come to Istanbul in the 15th century following the wars in the Balkans.

10-Chicken Rice

Chickpea Rice (photo taken from trthaber.com)

Chicken rice is exactly how is sounds, but not everyone can cook it the way Turkish street food vendors can. The rice is mixed with abundant butter and served alongside boiled chicken strips. Especially in Istanbul, it is a very symbolic bite. Although you can find chicken rice stalls in all times of the day, chicken rice is generally known to be a late-night dish. It is best consumed with a glass of cold ayran (a sour Turkish yoğurt drink)

11-Meatball Sandwich

Köfte Ekmek (photo taken from tarihiankaradoneri.com)

If you are trying to find something that tastes similar to döner, then you should definitely give this a try. Meatball sandwich is made by stuffing a crispy bread loaf with grilled Turkish meatballs and vegetables like tomato, onion slices and parsleys. 

Although this is a street food, meatball sandwich is quite a filler. So, if you are willing to taste this, I recommend you to ask for a half portion.

12-Lahmacun

Lahmacun (photo by Rainer Zenz)

Often called Turkish Pizza by the foreigners, lahmacun is one of the most popular dishes in Turkish cuisine. It is made by topping a flat dough with mixture prepared by kneading minced meat, small cubes of tomato, onion, fresh parsley leaves and spices like red pepper flakes, salt and black pepper.

What’s the difference between lahmacun and pide? This is the most common question asked by foreigners regarding the disparity of these two look-alike and taste-alike dishes. Well, the dough of lahmacun much thinner compared to that of a pide. Moreover, lahmacun is prepared pretty much in a standard way as opposed to pide having multiple flavors and styles.

13-Maraş style ice cream

Turkish Ice Cream (photo taken from mobil.egedesonsoz.com)

This ice cream does not melt. Due to the fact that this ice cream type was originated in the southeastern city of Maraş, it is called the Maraş style ice cream.

Maraş ice cream is known for its two components: its thick and chewy texture and resistance to melting.

The natural taste and authenticity come from a special flour that is used during the production process, which is made of the gun mastic and the root of the purple orchid.

Generally, Maraş style ice cream is sold at street vendors. It is a common concept is of the vendors teasing the customers with some tricks in which they rotate the ice cream sticks or pretend to give an empty cone. This is a fun tradition and it should not cause any annoyance.

14-Lokma

Lokma (photo taken from cnnturk.com)

Lokma is a sweet dream that comes true on the streets of Turkey. It is made by frying small balls of dough much like donut holes and then soaking them in a sugar and honey sweet syrup mixture. Traditionally, lokma is served in funeral houses to commemorate the life of the deceased person. However, over the years, it became an indispensable element of the Turkish street culture.

15-Gözleme

Gözleme (photo taken from besthotelsrate.blogspot.com)

Gözleme is a savory folded crepe, stuffed with a variety of fillings such as potato, cheese, spinach, minced meat and eggplant, and then grilled on a traditional pan called “sac”. In some cities, you can even find sweet varieties that include chocolate, tahini or honey fillings.

A gözleme is a beloved snack, and is made most authentically by old Turkish women who roll out the dough very thin, much like filo dough, and then grill it in front of you. It is also a commonly seen road-side food for those who are travelling across cities by car. It’s hard to go wrong with this one!

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Dislaimer: As published perviously on ©2020 www.ikamet.com

Argun Konuk
Argun Konuk

I am a 25-year-old Turkish travel & history enthusiast, sharing my travel experiences in Turkey and different parts of the world!

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