Istanbul has always been a vital trading center, a crossroads between East and West, and thus is known for its great array of spices, which are of the highest quality in the world. While on an eating tour of Turkey, freelance writer Erin Phelan explored Istanbul’s outstanding cuisine, culminating with a day at the Spice Market. The spices of the city add strong flavor accents to a cuisine which is focused on pure and simple flavors, created using only the freshest ingredients.
Enjoy a snippet of her story below:
It is hard not to get swept away in the Spice Market, a feast for the senses. The Spice Road was one of the most important factors in culinary history, under control of the Sultan who deemed only the best ingredients could be traded. This remains true today: Heaping mounds of apricots, dates, nut and barrels of Turkish Delight in all flavors and colors line the corridors along with spices in every color: bright yellows, blunt ambers.
Every five feet salesmen offer samples of their Turkish delight including the Viagra Turkish Delight (scientists have yet to determine its medicinal effects!).
As we shop we are given the customary tulip-glass of strong Turkish tea, with a cube or two of sugar it give me the caffeine kick so lacking in a country that believes coffee should be muddy and thick, or Nescafe. But we’re not done: Omer wants to have us taste and takes us to try “the best Turkish Delight in the county.”
We walk to Koska on Istilklal Caddesi (just up street from the Blue Mosque) and share nightingale nests, a variation of baklava dripping in honey, crunchy on the tongue, and buy the freshest Turkish delight I’ve ever eaten. Though others have argued that Haci Bekir, another Istanbul shop, owns bragging rights my stout belief is: Always trust the local.