Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Istanbul Food Tour: Snacks

Settling back into life in Paris, cakes to celebrate the Epiphany and the first day of winter sales in France all around, and I am still thinking about the snacks in Turkey.*

My Top 5 Turkish Snacks

5. Salep: If atole dropped the corn, procreated with cream of wheat, dabbled in a bit of horchata, and blended itself into silky latte smoothness, it would be salep. Named after the orchid root used to flavor it (the name is because it resembles fox testicles, check here if you want to know more), it's hot milk sweetened and mixed with this root powder and covered in cinnamon. If you're crossing the Gallatta Bridge and it's near-freezing out and wet, wet snow is covering your nearly impractical hat, it's the perfect thing to slurp on as you walk up the hill to Istikal Caddesi.

4. Simit: Like a bagel ring, but softer, and covered in sesame seeds that are toasty and yummy even if you hate sesame bagels. Sweetened with grape syrup. Sold in carts and on heads (why didn't I take a picture?) I like mine for breakfast with salty goat cheese and some halvah. And cay. (Thanks to Janet for sending me this picture!)

3. Cay: I have a certain reverence for tea-based cultures, and a certain disdain for those that aren't. While my ancestors quickly dumped the goods in the harbor, Turkish people have been drinking this stuff for centuries. I don't usually take sugar in my tea, but I did here. The cups can seduce you immediately and the stuff is so ubiquitous that you could leave Turkey a tea-drinker even if you didn't care for it upon arrival.

2. Lokum: Who didn't wonder about Turkish Delight after reading about it in the Narnia books? Who didn't immediately despise it after tasting it once, wrapped in aluminum, on the 1/8 of a shelf of British imports at their gourmet grocery? Who wouldn't then fall head-over-pistachios-in-love-with-it at Istanbul's spice bazaar?

1. Halvah: I have never liked halvah, even after reading a fascinating story once in the NY Times about eating it for Passover and there being, I don't know, I want to say one producer in all of NYC, or maybe even the US, but come on - halvah has never kept anyone from yearning for a chocolate bar.

Then I had the halvah at our breakfast buffet.

Like all things in this world, one goes to a country of origin and realizes "hey, there is more than one type of halvah!" The one pictured below to the right is probably at fault for the weight I gained in Istanbul - it crunched like a Butterfinger, called out to the smoky sesame-memory of all halvah that came before it, and ended with a blissfully light crunch of sweet and pistachio. The chocolate one didn't do it for me (on the left), but the other one? 8 pieces at Sunday's breakfast, and an actual sinking of disappointment the day before when there was none left. I might have to make a Parisian quest for it.

*It's a law here that they can only have sales twice a year when the government says - it's to make sure that small businesses don't get pushed out of business but mostly it looks like last year's stuff on racks and people bustling about like the Friday after Thanksgiving in the U.S. Since I still don't have my luggage, I bought myself another pair of boots today since 2/4 pairs of pants and my only boots are sitting in a luggage pile somewhere between here and Ataturk International Airport.


tall pr princess said...

i heart you, la fromagette, with all my big foodie heart!!!

Judy said...

Wow. Norm's photo on a foodie blog! Thanks Jess. I'd kill for a fresh hot simit right now. (I hate dieting almost as much as being fat.)

granjan said...

Wow. Our pic on a foodie blog! Thanks for the credit.