Navigating the unique street food of Turkey

kebapOne of the best ways to get to know a country and a culture is through its food. While restaurants often serve delicious local and international meals in a pleasing ambiance, the best way to taste authentic regional and budget-friendly cuisine is by sampling the street food. One great destination that can give your palate an adventure is Turkey.

Istanbul, the largest city in Turkey, is the only metropolis in the world that resides on two continents, in this case, Europe and Asia. Because of Turkey’s unique location, the cuisine is influenced by various cultures including: Western Europe, Central Asia, and the Middle East. Although the food differs from city to city, there are still certain street food staples that you are likely to find all over the country.

To learn more about the unique street food of Turkey, check out the gallery below.

[flickr image via nayrb7]


Expat fusion cuisine: combining foreign foods with favorites from home

expat fusionPart of the fun of traveling is trying new and exotic foods. Many travelers try to eat only locally and eschew the familiar, though eating at American chain restaurants abroad can be its own experience. But when you make a foreign country your home, you have to adapt your tastes and cooking to what’s available locally while craving your favorites from home. I’m lucky enough to live in Istanbul with an amazing food culture heavy on roasted meats and grilled fish, fragrant spices, and fresh produce. Some foreign foods like pizza and sushi have been embraced in Istanbul, but Turkish food has remained largely uncompromised by outside influences and passing trends. Convenience foods are still a new concept in Turkey but you can always grab a quick doner kebab or fish sandwich on the street if you aren’t up to cooking.
In my own kitchen, I’m learning to work with Turkish ingredients and dishes and mix in some favorites from home, creating some “expat fusion” cuisine. Meat-filled manti ravioli gets an extra zing with some Louisiana hot sauce. In the hottest days of my pregnancy this summer, I craved pudding pops from my childhood, making them more adult with some tangy Turkish yogurt. One ingredient I miss here is maple syrup, which is generally only produced in North America, and hard to find and expensive in the rest of the world (a small bottle in Turkey costs about $20!). One of my American friends brought me a bottle this summer and I poured it over pancakes (surprisingly easy to make from scratch when you can’t get a mix) and my favorite Turkish treat, kaymak. Kaymak is a clotted cream popular on the breakfast table, served with a crusty loaf of bread and honey, available in most local supermarkets but best eaten fresh in a cafe like Pando’s Kaymakci in Istanbul’s Besiktas neighborhood. I draw a lot of inspiration from my friend and fellow expat Joy, who was a professional pastry chef back in Baltimore and now chronicles her mouth-watering cooking in her Istanbul kitchen on her blog, My Turkish Joys. She posts beautiful food photos and recipes with both American and European measurements to help US and Turkish readers recreate her dishes such as sour cherry pie. Afiyet Olsun (that’s Turkish for bon appetit)!

Gadling readers, have you created any expat fusion foods with ingredients from your travels? Make us hungry and leave us a comment below!

Being in Berlin: Are you a Currywurst or Döner person?

Greetings from Berlin, the capital of sausage. (Yes, there is arguably more than one capital of sausage out there. I don’t want to be getting hate mail from Munich and other seasoned capitals of sausage!)

Horror of all horrors. In the field of fast food and street food in Berlin, the famous Currywurst (consisting of hot pork sausage cut into slices and seasoned with curry sauce, consisting of ketchup with curry) is being overtaken by Döner kebab, pieces of lamb, beef or chicken (or falafel) served with a salad made from shredded lettuce, tomatoes and onions, often also with cabbage and cucumbers. Because of German’s large Turkish population, there are now Döner stands everywhere. Statistically, the Germans are supposed to consume 200 to 300 metric tonnes of Döner Kebab per day. Man, that’s a lot of kebab.

I tried both – Currywurst and Döner. And so should you. There is no better way to stretch the weak dollar than turning to street food!

The currywurst is great after a night of drinking, if you really need something greasy. Truth to be told, I have had better sausages in my life. Actually, I even like the German wine sausage better.

A currywurst has sentimental value though. If you, like me, are a sucker for a good story, you might want to give it a chance just for that. Apparently, the currywurst was invented shortly after World War II by a sausage stall owner in Essen, who accidentally dropped a can with curry powder into some ketchup. Something tells me this is how a lot of fast food is invented. I wonder who dropped what where before they invented McDonald’s, but I sincerely hope that it didn’t involve a toilet.

Back to Germany though. I loved the Döner kebab sandwich I got. It had lots of fresh veggies in it. It has got to be one of the healthier fast food options out there. I only went with falafel, not meat. The whole meat-spinning-on-stick for hours and hours (in the sun) never really looked super-appetizing to me. It always screamed “food poisoning waiting to happen”. I don’t know. I might be overreacting. How do you feel about kebab?