The most populous city in Turkey is Istanbul and is also considered the cultural and financial center of the country. As of this past year (2010), Istanbul is one of the three Capitals of Culture in Europe and has grown in popularity as an international tourist destination. Being located on both sides of the Bosphorus Strait, Istanbul offers the visitor some beautiful sights to take in whenever you are vacationing in the city.
Photo by Dave Tromp
Additionally, another reason that Istanbul is a popular tourist destination is the Turkish cuisine that attracts people from around the world. However, if you talk with the locals, most of them will recommend that you find the street vendors for some of the best Turkish dishes that you can find anywhere in the city. The following is a list of our picks for the top 5 local dishes in Istanbul.
Kebabs – without a doubt, no trip to Istanbul is ever complete without experiencing the primary favorite of the locals – the kebab. Talk to any of your family members or friends that have visited Turkey and they will probably tell you the same thing. This is the #1 meat dish and is typically made using beef, chicken, or mutton.
Iskembe – equally as popular with international travelers and Istanbul locals, this is as legendary a dish as borsch is to the Ukranians. This is basically a thick soup with a mutton tripe (stomach lining) base and the soup that is always recommended by the locals if you did a little too much partying the evening before.
Meze – don’t let the fact that this is a snack food deceive you since no Turkish dish is simple in nature. This is more of an appetizer that is served prior to the main course and should only be snacked on lightly as the main course will typically consist of large quantities of entrées and side dishes.
Kofte – this is a mixed minced meat dish that contains cutlets, eggs, herbs, rice, and a variety of Turkish spices. Additionally, you can have it served cooked, fried, or stewed. The choice is up to you. The most common meat used is a minced sausage that is first barbequed before mixing with the ingredients listed above.
Sherbet – yes, this is a dessert and not necessarily a main meal. However, it should not be confused with the ice-cream-like dish that you may be accustomed to. This complex, viscous drink is a mixture of different fruits and rose water which is oftentimes difficult to prepare but well worth trying. It’s also a great drink for quenching your thirst on one of those hot, summery Turkish afternoons and also deserves a spot here on our top 5 list.
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