Today’s post is on one of my favorite topics: street food. It really is the best way to sample a country’s cuisine and stick to a shoe-string budget at the same time! Plus, the money I save by eating street food always finds better uses.
Street food in some places can be very fried and greasy, but Turkey’s street food is fresh and filling for the most part. There are lots of options but here are my favorites (so far).
Simit (Gevrek) –
A simit is a thin, sesame-crusted bread ring, sort of like a cross between a bagel and a pretzel. Simit are so beloved in Turkey that it’s best-selling fast food chain is Simit Sayarı, despite having lots of Western fast food spots as well (Burger King and Popeye’s are surprisingly prevalent). You can find simit at any of the little red carts scattered throughout Izmir, and I recommend grabbing a wedge of cheese to munch with it. For some reason, in Izmir simit is called gevrek, although there is no difference between the two. Cost – 1 TL
Kumrus are the food that got us through our CELTA course! Every morning on our walk to class we would grab a couple to fuel our teaching practices. A kumru is a sandwich, and there’s a few different types, but the street food favorite found throughout the city consists of a soft seeded roll, sliced tomatoes, cheese (sometimes soft goat’s cheese, sometimes hard aged cow’s cheese) and a bright, thin green pepper for the brave. When the kumru seller asks if you want salt, the answer is yes! Turks are very big on salt, and in the case of kumru, rightly so: it brings all of the flavors out nicely. Cost – 1.5-2.5 TL, depending on the neighborhood.
Ciğ Köfte –
When I was last in Turkey, my boyfriend and I lamented about the lack of falafel. There’s tons of kebap, but what is a vegetarian supposed to do for an awesome quick meal? Ciğ köfte is the answer! Köfte usually refers to meatballs, and ciğ köfte was originally made with minced lamb mixed with bulgar, but due to some public health concern the lamb was scrapped and these days you will enjoy a delicious, spicy bulgar paste formed into a ball. If you get it durum style (the street food preference), then the paste is spread on a thin flatbread with some lettuce and savory sauce and rolled up. It is spicy, fresh and delicious, and the perfect vegitarian version of döner kebap! Wash down the spice with ayran, a salty yogurt beverage that is the perfect accompaniment. You can get it to go, or pop a squat on one of the low stools arranged by the stand for a quick meal. Cost – 2.5 TL, 3.5 – 4.5 with ayran
I’ve tried börek before while visiting the Balkans, and enjoyed it, but always found it a bit heavy. I love the Turkish version, a savory pastry made with delicate layers of phyllo dough and stuffed with cheese, spinach, or potatoes. You can order one, or get one portion made up of a few different varieties to try. Börek can be found at street carts, but I prefer them in the no-frills cafes that can be found all over the city, accompanied by a glass of çay (tea) or Türk kahve (Turkish coffee). Cost – 2-3.5 TL, more with tea or coffee
Mehyve Suyu –
Mehyve suyu is fruit juice, literally “fruit water”. In Turkey there is such an abundance of fresh produce, and amazing fruits to be found. Shops selling fresh squeezed juice are everywhere, and you walk up, tell the vendor what size cup you’d like and what kind of juice, and before your eyes he will cut, blend, and juice! Probably the most common is portakal suyu (orange juice) but I love the mixed blend, which usually includes orange, apple, carrot, berries, banana, and a splash of milk. On our way to class we would frequently stop at the same juice seller every morning, and one day he treated us with a free sample of a specialty blend he had whipped up: a green concoction of banana, apple, milk and honey. Heavenly! Cost – 1-3 TL, depending on the size
After 6 weeks in Izmir these are my current favorite street foods. I’m sure there are many yet to be discovered!