Istanbul is magnificent. Exotic and familiar all at once. At times overwhelming. And one of the most rewarding culinary destinations. Home to somewhere around 15 million people, it is the only city in the world that is spread out over two continents, Europe and Asia, which are separated by the Bosphorus. The unique geography and history of Istanbul, which once also went by the names of Constantinople and Byzantium have given this vibrant city its many complex layers.
The first thing I fell in love with in Istanbul were the pastry shops with their gorgeous windows full of giant trays filled with neat rows of flaky, sticky, nutty delicacies. Resistance was futile, that much was clear as soon as we stepped out of our hotel, and we happily spent a week sampling our way through Istanbul’s sweet offerings.
My love for baklava goes way back, but eating baklava in Turkey is like the difference between a hamburger from McDonald’s and a gourmet hamburger. What made it so outrageously delicious were the nuts – hazelnuts, walnuts, and pistachios with the most intense flavor. And the sugar syrup was just so. Not too sweet, not too sticky, and not too much. Perfection in every little square.
Many pastry shops also sell various types of traditional puddings. We tried milk pudding (called muhallebi in Turkish) once, a silky, soft concoction with the most sublime taste. For the serious sugar addicts, shops and bazaars offer endless amounts and flavors of lokum, or Turkish delight. The brightly colored jelly-like cubes are covered in powdered sugar and their chewy, intense sweetness is not for the faint of heart.
Wandering through the streets of Istanbul and admiring the artfully prepared sweets on display in the countless pastry shops makes it easy to imagine the splendor of the legendary Ottoman cuisine of bygone days. Luckily, some of this splendor has survived for us to savor!
I have loads of pictures to share with you guys, so stay tuned for more about Istanbul coming up soon !
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the lovely Anne who blogs over at pigpigscorner. She recently gave away beautiful tins with tea flowers, and I was so excited when I found out that I was one of the winners! I’ve never won anything, so I’m holding on to my gift just a little bit longer before I brew myself a tea with one of the flowers. Please make sure to visit her wonderful blog, which is full of tons of mouthwatering recipes, restaurant reviews, and inspiring photos.