Continuing their intrepid exploration of Turkey's and Istanbul's hidden culinary secrets, the EatingAsia folks have just posted a great writeup of their adventures in Istanbul's Besiktas neighborhood, where they found a truly old-school bakery and a classic breakfast spot that serves the heavenly Turkish version of clotted cream, known as "kaymak." Their report is here. More on "kaymak" here.
Eating a fish sandwich by the the Bosphorous or the Golden Horn ("balik ekmek" in Turkish) is one of those classic Istanbul culinary moments. But from where exactly do the mackerel filets inside those crusty loaves of bread actually come from? Not the overfished waters of Istanbul, it turns out, but rather from far-away Norway. Max Strasser takes a closer look at the Nordic lifeline for one of Istanbul's iconic street snacks in a great piece on the Atlantic's website, here.
The small village of Yesiluzumlu in Turkey's southern Aegean region is blessed with an abundance of delicate morel mushrooms, that grow in the mist-covered forests that surround it. The village recently held a three-day festival in honor of the local fungus, with more details here.
Travelers sitting down for a meal in Turkey's Black Sea area could be forgiven for thinking that they somehow have been transported to the American deep south. With corn bread, kale, pickles and smokey-tasting bean dishes on the menu, how can one not think that? Indeed, while most of Turkey marches to the drumbeat of the kebab, the Black Sea area seems to live in a completely different culinary reality. More on this fascinating area's culinary traditions in this article by a Black Sea native. Also, for those interested in trying out some Black Sea cooking, Istanbul Eats has a recommendation.
In Turkey, the humble white bean is treated with reverence, placed on a culinary pedestal. Where else in the world are these legumes served, as Istanbul Eats puts it, by "chefs in tall toques carefully ladling out golden beans in a rich red gravy onto monogrammed flatware, served by waiters wearing bowties and vests. Even in the least formal of Istanbul’s beaneries, the guy manning the pot has the air of a high priest knowing that his incantations alone conjure something unusually delicious out of a simple dry white legume. This is no hobo fare."
For those interested in following Istanbul's bean trail, the EatingAsia blog has a recent post up listing some of their favorite "white beanerys." IstanbulEats' "investigative bean report" can be found here.
Turks are an entrepreneurial nation. Case in point: Isbir Holding, a Turkish mattress manufacturer which has just unveiled its latest product -- a bed for cows.
According to the company, the "Ranchbed" is going to revolutionize the dairy world. As company official says, through sleeping on the bed, "the milk production of the cows will increase drastically. Also the productivity per cow, which depends on it spending the half of the day resting and ruminating, increases, because an animal that rests for 8 only hours at most in a traditional ranch environment could extent its resting time on the Ranchbed to 12 and even 14 hours. This results in an approximately 30 percent increase in productivity per cow.”
Municipalities around the world have been applying in recent years to become officially recognized as "slow cities" by the Italy-based Cittaslow organization. Now officials in Turkey's Gokceada are hoping to get their little patch of land recognized as a "slow" island.
Located in the northern Aegean, Gokceada (once known as Imroz), was formerly a predominantly-Greek island. Having lost a large part of its population over the decades, it still maintains a distinctly rustic feeling, with small-scale production of cheese, wine and olive oil still taking place there (one village even has an old Greek coffee house where the coffee are still manually ground using a mortar and pestle).
If it becomes an official "slow" destination, Gokceada would join the Agean town of Seferhisar, which in 2009 became Turkey's first "slow city."
The creators of the great EatingAsia blog have a piece up on the Zester Daily website about their ongoing quest to find the best tasting hamsi (Black Sea anchovy) in Turkey. Along with telling of their visit to the little fish's ancestral homeland, the article also offers up a recipe for "hamsi pilaf," a time-consuming but worthwhile dish. The article can be found here.
Considering its diminutive size, the Black Sea anchovy (known as "hamsi" in Turkish) certainly creates a lot of waves, especially during the wintertime, when it is in season and readily available in Istanbul's fish restaurants.
Count the intrepid folks behind the great "Eating Asia" blog among those who have fallen under the finger-sized fish's spell. During a recent visit to Turkey, they not only tried the fish all over Istanbul, but decided to go on a quest to try hamsi at its source on the Black Sea coast. You can read about their delicious discoveries here. More on where to eat hamsi in Istanbul here.
The waters off Istanbul used to be teeming with large tuna, mackerel and other prized fish (that's what the city's old-timers say, at least). But those fish have not been seen in the city's vicinity in decades. And while there's lots of fishing activity going on in the Bosphorus, the strait that divides Istanbul's Asian and European sides, there is concern that the city's waters are being overfished. As a recent Wall Street Journal article points out, this year's run of lufer -- a bluefish that's very popular in Istanbul fish restaurants -- has yet to materialize.
Could overfishing be to blame? That's what many experts believe, although the article also quotes Mustafa Kokos, an Istanbul commercial fisherman and a fisheries advisor to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who seems to think differently:
"There's enough fish in Turkey to feed the world," says Mr. Kokos, who is also fisheries adviser to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He says he recently put a proposal to Mr. Erdogan to develop Turkey's annual fish exports to €5 billion in five years from €180 million today, in part by keeping the processing in Turkey. "We should put three hamsi (Black Sea anchovies) in a can, squirt some sauce on it and sell it to the Americans."