Skip to content


What follows is the tale of the time I tried to taste everything in Istanbul. Spoiler: I ate so much I had to take a nap.

Our story begins at the charming locale of the oldest market in the world: the Egyptian Bazaar, where we meet our passionate and knowledgeable gastronomic guide Aylin. We’re surrounded by the smells and sounds of the busy marketplace. To my left, heaped piles of grains, dried fruits. To my right, sweets and cheeses. And all around, is the constant patter of market traders hawking their wares.

Stop One

To kick off our tour, we stop at Dogu Pazari, a store specialising in Balik Yumurtasi – a dried fish roe, salted, cured and covered in beeswax to protect its freshness. The tiny slice that I’m handed produces my first (and only) convulsive gag of the day. It was foul. I might have even shed (one, just one I swear) a tear. Verdict: do not recommend

Stop Two

We move on to cheese, (oh thank goodness), sampling some of the regions best cheeses, including Tulum, a traditional cheese made from sheep’s milk and fermented in a hairy goats-skin bag (which, better than Balik Yumurtasi I say). Verdict: recommend (but really, after the previous stop, the bar was low)

Stop Three

The next stop is Ucuzcular Baharat. The tiny store is a riot of colour and flavours. We’re led through the shop by one of the two owners, the lovely Bilge (see also her brother Ahmet), and we sample traditional spices like cumin and curry alongside more exotic mixes such as Ottoman spice (savory/spicy) and Janissary spice (sweet/spicy). They hand out little cards so we can rate and score each one. We leave the store with our arms full of new ingredients and our mouths burning a bit with the remnants of fiery spices. Verdict: highly recommend

Stop Four

We ferry across the Bosphorus, embark in Kadiköy and get straight to it, this time at the sweet shop Şekeci Cafer Erol, where we are treated like visiting royalty. The store itself is something out of film, thousands of individually made akide (sugar candy) are displayed in enormous jars with brass lids. Sugared plums, figs, apricots, and vast displays of Turkish delight line the rest of the store. The whole enterprise is presided over by a team of whitecoats. At this point I’m wishing for elastic pants and a long walk, but participation is mandatory and so I smile and keep chewing. Verdict: delicious

Stop Five

Our final, and dare I say, best stop is the delightful Ciya. Consistently listed as one of the best places to eat in Instanbul – the lunchtime tasting menu does not disappoint. Specialising in “lost” dishes, forgotten tastes and peasant food, the menu is as much an anthropological tour as it is a wonderful gastronomic experience. Our bread is made and baked in front of us and our medieval salads come with wild herbs. The meal rounds out with artichokes,  hummus and the most delicious doner kebabs, topped off with traditional Turkish ice cream and a sweet pumpkin dessert. Verdict: must eat

Bradley MacDonald is a friend of Trufflepig. He works at BFI (British Film Institute) and is a big foodie and drinkie (and after that tour, a big sleepy). 

At this point I'm wishing for elastic pants and a long walk, but participation is mandatory and so I smile and keep chewing.

Destination Details