More than anything else, the Istanbullus love to eat. Food in not mere fuel, but instead a celebration of community. The Turkish cuisine has been refined over centuries and is treated more reverently than any museum collection in the city. That’s not to say it’s fussy, because what differentiates Turkish food from other national noshes is its rustic and honest base. Flavours explode in your mouth because ingredients are used in season and are treated with respect. Travelling your tastebuds here will make you very, very happy.
Taken as a whole, Turkish cuisine is not homogeneous. The name of specialities sometimes includes the name of a city or a region (either in Turkey or outside). This suggests that a dish is a speciality of that area, or may refer to the specific technique or ingredients used in that area. For example, the difference between Urfa kebab and Adana kebab is the use of garlic instead of onion and the larger amount of hot pepper that kebab contains.
Istanbul’s hottest dining destination is Beyoglu. The restaurants in Sultanahmet are usually more touristic and expensive.
Köfte: In the simplest form, koftas consist of balls of minced or ground meat — usually beef or lamb — mixed with spices and/or onions. The meat is often mixed with other ingredients such as rice, Bulgur, vegetables, or eggs to form a smooth paste. They can be grilled, fried, steamed, poached, baked or marinated, and may be served with a rich spicy sauce. According to a 2005 study done by a private food company, there were 291 different kinds of kofta in Turkey.
Döner kebab: literally "turning roast", is a Turkish national dish made of meat cooked on a vertical spit and sliced off to order. The meat used for making döner kebabs may be lamb, beef, veal or chicken, and rarely pork. Generally a döner kebab sandwich is served with a salad made from shredded lettuce, tomatoes and onions, often also with cabbage and cucumbers. Usually there is a choice between a hot sauce, a yoghurt sauce containing garlic (tzatziki) and a yoghurt sauce containing herbs.
Turkish musakka: traditional dish in all the Middle-East. Unlike the famous Greek version, the Turkish one is not layered. Instead, it is prepared with sautéed and fried eggplants, green peppers, tomatoes, onions, and minced meat (lamb or red meat). It is eaten with cacık and pilaf ("Pilav" in Turkish). There are also variants with courgette, carrots and potatoes.
Turkish coffee: prepared by boiling finely powdered roast coffee beans in a pot (cezve), possibly with sugar, and serving it into a cup, where the dregs settle.
Baklava: is a rich, sweet pastry featured in many cuisines of the former Ottoman, Arab, and Iranian countries. It is a pastry made of layers of filo dough filled with chopped nuts and sweetened with syrup or honey. Baklava is prepared on large trays and cut into a variety of shapes.
Corba: A Turkish meal usually starts with a thin soup. Soups are usually named after their main ingredient, the most common types being lentil, yoghurt, or wheat (often mashed) called mercimek çorbası and tarhana çorbası. Delicacy soups are the ones that are usually not the part of the daily diet, like (shkembe) İşkembe soup and paça çorbası. Before the popularisation of the typical Turkish breakfast, soup was the default morning meal for some people.
Breakfast: A typical Turkish breakfast consists of cheese (beyaz peynir, kaşar etc.), butter, olives, eggs, tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers, reçel (jam) and honey. Sucuk/sujuk (spicy Turkish sausage), pastırma, börek, simit, poğaça and even soups can be taken as a morning meal in Turkey.
Gözleme: is a savoury traditional Turkish hand made and hand rolled pastry. Fresh pastry is rolled out, filled and sealed, then cooked over a griddle. Traditionally, this is done on a saç. Gözleme varieties can be prepared with spinach, feta cheese and minced meat.
Meze: is a selection of appetizers or small dishes often served with beverage, like anise-flavored liqueurs or different wines. In Turkey they are served along with rakı (anise-flavored apéritif) and often consist of beyaz peynir (literally "white cheese"), acili ezme (hot pepper paste often with walnuts), haydari (thick strained yoghurt like the Middle Eastern labne), patlıcan salatası (cold aubergine salad), kalamar (calamari or squid), enginar (artichokes), cacık (yoghurt with cucumber and garlic), dolma or sarma (rice-stuffed vine leaves or other stuffed vegetables, such as bell peppers) and köfte (meatballs).
Börek: is a type of pie popular throughout the former Ottoman Empire. They are made of a thin flaky dough known as phyllo or yufka, and are filled with salty cheese (often feta), minced meat, potatoes or other vegetables. Börek may be prepared in a large pan and cut into portions after baking, or as individual pastries. The top of the börek is often sprinkled with sesame seeds.