Feasting on the Streets: A Savory Tour of Istanbul's Delicious Street Food

Posted on Jan 25, 2023

Feasting on the Streets: A Savory Tour of Istanbul's Delicious Street Food

LIFESTYLE • 4 min • Posted on Jan 25, 2023

Istanbul is a food lover's paradise, and street food is an integral part of the city's culinary scene. From chestnuts roasted on a grill to grilled fish sandwiches, there is something for everyone to enjoy.

1. Kestane Kabab
One of the most famous street foods in Istanbul is Kestane Kebab, which is simply chestnuts roasted on a grill. These chestnuts are a healthy and tasty snack that can be found on the streets of Istanbul all year round, but they are trendy during the fall and winter. Turkey is home to a large population of chestnuts, making them abundant food during these seasons.

2. Boiled and Grilled Corn
Another popular street food is the Koçan Mısır and Közde Mısır, which are boiled and grilled corn, respectively. These are available all year round, but the taste of a summer or spring cob is incomparable to that in the winter. These street foods are quite filling and relatively cheap, but the taste may not be as flavourful as some other options.

3. Simit
Simit, açma, and çatal are all types of pastry popular in Istanbul. Simit is a circular bread encrusted with sesame seeds, similar to a Turkish bagel. Çatal is crumbly and dry, while açma is softer and more like a croissant. These pastries are typically eaten in the morning and can be found at bakeries or by certified peddlers in crowded areas throughout the day. For the best experience, try them with Turkish cheese, tea, or clotted cream and honey for a light but traditional and flavorful breakfast.

4. Çiğ Köfte
Çiğ Köfte is another famous street food in Turkey, but the original recipe has been banned for commercial production due to health reasons. Nowadays, nearly all the Çiğ Köfte in Istanbul is prepared without meat, making it a great vegan option. This street food is usually wrapped in lettuce and eaten with a squeeze of lemon or wrapped in lavash bread

5. Balık Ekmek
Balık Ekmek is a grilled fish sandwich that is a must-try for visitors to Istanbul. The sandwich is made with grilled mackerel, fresh lettuce, and onions on 6-inch sandwich bread. The best place to find this street food is from one of the many boats on Eminönü shore, but be careful of the bones, and don't forget to squeeze lemon on it. The best time to eat Balık Ekmek is between noon and nightfall, and you can also enjoy pickle juice or turnip juice sold nearby.

6. Kokoreç
Kokoreç is a dish made of grilled sheep intestines that are finely chopped and mixed with oregano, salt, red pepper, and sometimes fresh tomato. It is then served in bread as a sandwich. While it may not be for everyone, many locals consider it a delicacy and crave its unique flavor.

 7. Islak Burger
Islak Burger is a unique street food that is unlike any burger you've had before. These steamed burgers are made with a beef patty and soft white buns flavored with garlic and tomato sauce and then left to sweat inside a steam box. This makes them always kept slightly wet until served to a customer, and they are particularly popular as a post-drinking or partying food. 

8. Börek
Börek is a Turkish dish made of numerous fillings such as cheese, spinach, ground meat, and vegetables. Börek is a baked-filled pastry with either puff or shortcrust dough, and it is a typical breakfast food in Istanbul. The best time to get Börek is from morning until noon, and you can find it in many shops around the city. Still, the specialties of Karaköy and Sarıyer neighborhoods are particularly popular.

9. Kumpir
Kumpir is a giant baked potato filled with grated yellow cheese and butter and various toppings such as grated carrot, red cabbage, boiled mushroom and corn, black and green olives, sausages, pickles, Russian salad, ketchup, and mayonnaise. This street food is a favorite among local teenagers and students, and it is reasonably priced, incredibly filling, and extremely yummy.

10. Döner Kebab
Döner Kebab is a common and the most popular street food in Turkey, and there are thousands of döner shops in Istanbul. Döner kebab is made of lamb, beef, or chicken that is slowly roasted on a rotating vertical skewer. Wrapped with pita and sprinkled with salad or vegetables, including tomato, lettuce, cabbage, onion with sumac, fresh or pickled cucumber, chili, and various types of sauces.

11. Midye Dolma​
Midye Dolma (Stuffed Mussels) is a street food that is popular in Istanbul, which is surrounded by the Black Sea and the Marmara Sea. Mussels are stuffed with rice, cinnamon, onion, black pepper, allspice, sautéed pine nuts, and steamed cooked. They are usually eaten with lemon juice freshly squeezed over them, and it's a common snack for those who consume alcohol.

In conclusion, Istanbul's street food is diverse and delicious, and there are many different options to choose from. Whether you are in the mood for a chestnut kebab, grilled fish sandwich, or steamed burger, you will surely find something that will satisfy your taste buds. So, next time you're in Istanbul, be sure to take a walk around the city and try some of the delicious street foods on offer!