Turkish Deli



This post is for those who are wondering whether I have stopped finely chopping.

I was out at Turkey for a while earlier. I began updating my travel blog after I returned. This took a while as some of the posts were longish, there were lot of pictures and the slow net connection was quite painful. I have far from finished as the trip was quite magnificent. But I thought I'll write a food post here before moving back.
Kainaz and I love to try out the local food of places we visit and we stay away from Indian restaurants. We are, or she is, fairly picky about the hotels we stay in. Sometimes these are expensive properties. So we avoid the hotel restaurants as the food there would be pricey. And unlike when it comes to our stay, we don't mind slumming it in the quest of good food.
Over the years we have come across some gems like Sadris at Langkawi and an old lady's cart outside Amabassador hotel at Sukhumvit, Bangkok.
When we went to Istanbul, we were told that the average meal would cost us 12 - 15 euros per head in a mid level restaurant.
Then we discovered the Turkish Delis of Istiklal Kadesi in the Taksim area. There are a line of such delis across the road. Our favourite ones was at the Pera end - Piknik Kofte Piyaz. We also went to some others like Borsa, Afakan and they were all good.
The way the system works is that you go in and choose what you want. First in line are the kebab counters where you get freshly grilled stuff. We particularly loved the mince kebabs as they were far juicier than the sheekhs in India.
Next is the 'warm food' counter. You get an array of lovely stuff. Some of the masterpieces there were the sausage and potato curry, the fried liver and potato plate, the lovely, lovely yogurt based meatball curry to name a few. The taste wasn't unfamiliar to an Indian palate as they would have fired onions, tomatoes, and some Indian spices like cumin, chilly powder, garam masala at times.
In contrast, the local food in Thailand, Malaysia, taste quite different to what we are used to (and we love them).
They have some vegetarian dishes in the deli - chik peas, beans, kidney beans. You point at what you want, they will tell you what the dish is and fill a bowl. Some of these meals are served with rice or mashed potatoes or even bread.
Next comes the salad counter which we largely avoided. I took a serving of khus khus once and was disappointed! But then I am not a salad person.
The final counter is the dessert counter. You get a mix of local Turkish Delights (sweets) and the odd souffles, custards. Some of the sweets are similar to Indian sweets as they have a gulab jamun like base or they have semiya (semolina) in them. On the whole, they were a bit too, sweet for my taste.
You also get non alcoholic drinks such as soft drinks, packaged juices and Ayran. Ayran is the local butter milk which is very similar to the Indian lassi. Borsa served wine (sarap) and beer (bir) too.
There is a bread basket at the end of the counter. You can take as many pieces of complimentary bread as you want. This bread is extremely soft and fresh and rounds up the meal. Even Kainaz gave up her no carbs at night hang up and devoured this.
Did I say slumming it? Actually, the delis are very clean. Space is not a problem as they are built over three floors. The food is very fresh and we had no problems at all.
And here is the best part. 15 euros per head in an average place? We paid an average of 15 liras or 8 euros (!) for two per meal (1 starter/ sweet dish/ 2 soft drinks/ 2 warm dishes + free bread). Not just any meal...but a very tasty meal in a nice and bright place.
8 euros is about Rs 480 in India which is more than a meal for 2 in Candies but on the lower side than the more touristy restaurants of Istanbul. These restaurants were full of locals which, Anthony Bourdain says, is the best test of a restaurant. Quite a few tourists were there too. Most of these are recommended on Lonely Planet.

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