I’ll be the first to admit that 5 days will not give you enough time to draw a definitive conclusion about how food is or is not in a new city. And when it comes to food there are probably as many tastes out there as there are recipes, so it’s very difficult to state your opinion without starting an argument. But I’ll bite the bullet and do it anyway. Turkish traditional food is a mixture of Central Asian, Middle Eastern and Balkan cuisines, not very sophisticated or particularly tasty in my opinion. If you are not a fan of the Mediterranean cuisine you will be left with very few choices.
Wherever you turn you’ll find the same Kebap (lamb, beef, or chicken on a skewer), Lahmacun (a pizza like dish with a topping of finely minced meat and onions on thin dough), Yaprak Sarma (wrapped vine leaves with a filling of rice, onion and spices), and Gyro (a roll of meat on a vertical skewer turning parallel to a hot grill and sliced to serve). The bad thing is that even if you like Mediterranean food you may be disappointed by the Turkish version.
When it comes to desserts though, they are among the best in the world. With an assortment of hundreds of kinds of Turkish Delight, Baklava, Halva, dried fruit and other delicious sweets, you can truly say you are in a Dessert Paradise. So if you have a sweet tooth, Istanbul is the place where you may easily loose your waist line.
Street vendors and snacks shops are very much a part of Istanbul’s way of life. Especially in the old town, Sultanahmet, where tourists account for most of their customers.
Buying from the street vendors is pretty safe, especially if the food is cooked. But even fresh fruit are O.K. if they are pilled or cut in front of you. We bought some very delicious watermelon and pomegranate and didn’t experience any negative effects. But if you have any doubt about the way fruits have been washed you can always take them to your hotel room and wash them. Either way, on Istanbul streets and open markets you’ll find the freshest and sweetest fruits possible. Absolutely delicious!
Istanbul’s Open Markets
Open markets are an old tradition in Istanbul dating back to the Ottoman times. You can find almost anything, from household items, textile and leather products to fruit and vegetables. One thing you’ll have to remember when in Istanbul is that in the open markets prices are not set in stone, there is always room for bargaining. How much room? A lot, depending on the time of the day and the items you are buying. If it’s perishable items, like fruit and vegetables and you are approaching the end of the day, the seller will definitely not want to take them home and bring them back the next day.
If it’s clothing or other items that have already been discounted (like 2 scarfs for $5) you may bargain if you buy a larger amount. In general, prices are inflated by about 50-60% but you might not be able to get this discount all the time. Like in every deal making, it depends on your bargaining skills and likability as well as the seller’s mood and urge to sell.