Despite having spent three weeks traveling around Turkey in 2001, Turkish food is one of the types of world cuisine I’m least familiar with. Many of the ingredients are familiar — eggplant, garbanzo beans, cucumbers, yogurt, tomatoes, olives, dill, cilantro — but the way in which Turkish cuisine combines them is endlessly intriguing (just like the country).
While wandering along Arab Street, we came across Alaturka and stopped to have lunch at their sidewalk tables. Alaturka is a narrow little restaurant among a row of eateries, with a detailed interior of brick, tile and wood that immediately communicates a Turkish sense of style and place. Tabletops have beautiful brocade coverings and serving trays have a unique old world quality — even water glasses were delivered from a brass tray hanging from three arms with a center handle.
We started with the Meze Tabagi (above) which included six dips, stuffed grape leaves and a balloon of lavash — just tear some off and start dipping. Hummus was familiar and delicious — they should sell this by the quart for take away. Surrounding dips were mysterious but equally fresh and tasty. We followed this with the Beyti Kebab and Sucuklupide. The Beyti Kebab wrapped perfectly spiced chicken in unleavened bread served with accompanying tomatoes and yogurt sauce (like tzatziki). Divine. The Sucuklupide was a simpler pizza-like entree with cheese and spiced sausage akin to chorizo. What a gorgeous, spicy lunch and not that expensive.
Oh, how I’d love to go back to Turkey and explore the food and the country more. If you’re going, try hiring a boat with a captain for an overnight trip to swim in the aquamarine coastal waters around Kas. Make sure you travel inland and view the astonishing tufa rock formations and abodes of Cappadocia. Visit the ruins of Ephesus and the white pools of Pumakkale, and of course spend a few days in Istanbul exploring the endless maze of the Grand Bazaar, the Hagia Sofia and a city that was once at the center of Roman rule and trade. You will need at least three weeks and you can take the excellent coach buses everywhere. There is so much to see and learn about. Just remember… it’s Istanbul Not Constantinople. Maybe you know the tune?