A Foodie’s Tour in Istanbul

What do you do when you arrive in a city? Some people like to take a walking tour or the hop on-hop off red bus while others just like to walk the streets and see what they find themselves.

Me…I like to take a food tour!  There’s nothing better than being shown the secrets of a neighbourhood, a glimpse into the local way of life.

In Istanbul, Istanbul Eats offers four different walking tours all over the city. My timing was perfect to sign up for their culinary walk through and the surrounding areas. Tours last approximately six hours and with nine stops to taste the local dishes, I knew this would be a fabulous day


I met our Istanbul Eats tour guide, Jennifer and two other participants at a small local restaurant in the heart of Cihangir.

Our first stop was at Özkonak, the local pudding shop….for breakfast. The name of the shop means authentic food palace (Oz =authentic and Konak= mansion or food palace) and this shop loved up to its name.

My favourite turkish breakfast is menemen, a dish of eggs, tomatoes and peppers rather similar to scramble eggs that is served in a hot pan. Here the dish was every bit as good as I remembered.


Menemen at Özkonak,in Istanbul


Cay (tea) served with fresh bread, sweet strawberry jam and delicious kaymak followed. Jennifer was great with her explanations, describing how kaymak is turkish cream, very similar to clotted cream and is made from the cows milk cream and sometimes from water buffalo. It can even be a mixture of both! We also learnt that if you can’t hold the top of the tulip shaped glass that the tea is always served in, then it is too hot to drink!


Cay, bread and kaymank in Istanbul


As I mentioned Özkonak is best known for their desserts. The Kadiyf was just coming out of the oven.

Kadiyf is the name of the bird’s nest string pastry dough as well as the dessert that is made from it. Crushed pistachios or walnuts cover a layer of pastry. Another layer of pastry is placed over this, melted butter poured over and it is baked in the oven. Once it is out of the oven a sugar syrup is poured over…It is absolutely delicious and not at all fattening!

Keskül, an almond based custard dessert topped with crushed almonds looked delicious too but it was the famed ‘bottom of the cauldron’ milk pudding Kozandibi that we took with us to try at a later time.

Desserts from Özkonak in Istanbul


Wandering through the backstreets of Cihangir was a pleasure especially having Jennifer to show us the way. Antique shops stand side by side with wonderfully displayed fruit and vegetable shops. We even passed a horse and cart going round from house to house.

Scenes from Cihangir, istanbul

Streets of Beyoglu, Istanbul


After stopping at Datli Maya for the best pistachio biscuits in Istanbul and then at Asri Turşucu for a taste of the many different pickles that can be found in a local pickle shop, we found ourselves on Beyoglu’s main street, the long Istiklal Cadessi.

We were heading to Hayvore, a cafe specialising in food of the Black Sea. Dishes were being laid out ready for the lunch time rush. Home style food..stews, soups, beans, green vegetables and a fabulous looking hamsi (anchovy) pilaf look tempting but as we are only half way through the tour, we try the their delicious karalahana corbasi or kale soup.

Hamsi pilaf from Hayvore in Istanbul


Dishes from Hayvore in Istanbul


Crossing back to the other side of Istiklal Cadessi, we headed to Balik Pazir, the fish market. I had been here on previous trips but this time it was different with Jennifer stopping at her favourite places and and explaining things that I had previously been missed.


Balik Pasir, Istanbul


Hayvore was our intoduction to hamsi, the small anchovy like fish from the black sea that start arriving in the markets in autumn. Hamsi were everywhere in the market. Bowls of these small shiny fish waiting to be taken home and turned into a delicious dish.

Fresh hamsi from the market in Istanbul


We stopped at Vera Kuzu, a fish stand in Balik Pazir where fresh hamsi were deep fried and served hot with just a squeeze of lemon. Fried levek (sea bass) were also done the same way.

Husan, the usta (master) has been doing this since 1960. He was so cute, wanting to go and change his jacket before I took his photo!

Husan from Vera Kuzu in Istanbul


Dürümzade, is a small kebab shop that I would never had found or probably have not gone into if it wasn’t for this tour. Home of the the best adana durum I have had, we are told the secret is in the lavas or flatbread. Here it has been rubbed with a mix of pepper and spices which adds that little extra to the filling of chicken, minced beef or as we had, a mixture of minced lamb and beef. Popped on the charcoal grill then topped with onions, tomato and parsely and rolled and popped back on the grill, it is hungrily devoured. Turkey’s delicious sweet yoghurt drink, ayran was the perfect accompaniment.
This will be my first stop when I return later in the year!

Adana Duram kebab, Istanbul


The best Adana Durum, istanbul


Our next stop was a local convenience store in the market. Who would have thought that this would be a food stop. A stand outside the store was selling ciğ köfte, a raw ‘meat’ patty made not of meat but of bulgur, lentils, walnuts and spices. You can eat them wrapped in bread but we had ours in a lettuce leaf.


Selling cig cofte at the market in Istanbul


Market scenes, Istanbul


Sakarya Tatlicsi has been in business of making sweets for 50 years and here you will taste some of the best.

I hadn’t realised how lucky I was to be in Istanbul in autumn. Not only is it hamsi season but it is the time quinces make their annual appearance.  Ayva Tatlisi or quince dessert is not to be missed. The quinces are baked until they are soft and coated in a thick reddish glaze. Served with kaymak, this is incredibly delicious. They also make baklavas of every flavour…. We chose a selection and savoured every mouthful of each of them.

Desserts from Sakarya Tatlicsi in Istanbul


It was then coffee time!  In a quiet alley off Istiklal Cadessi, Jennifer introduced us to Mandabatmaz. In this tiny shop you will enjoy one of the best coffees in town. Don’t forget to tell Cemil Pilik, the owner if you would like sugar before he makes your coffee. The coffee and sugar are mixed together, water is added from the large silver samovar in the corner and then it is boiled on the small two burner range ..thick, black, unfiltered coffee..”coffee so thick a water a buffalo wouldn’t sink in it”….hence the name of the shop…manda means water buffalo and batmaz means doesn’t sink.

Mandabatmaz Coffee in Istanbul


I was thinking that goodbyes were in order but there was one more stop to make . Sahin Lokantasi is a tradesman’s restaurant (esnaf lokanta) where you can go for a cheap and hearty meal. Believe it or not we managed to try hakuru fasulye (stewed white beans), taze kasulye (stewed geeen beans) and my favourite, karniyarik (stuffed eggplant).

No dinner tonight!



Where have you taken a food tour that you enjoyed?


Related Reading
My Favourite Mosque in Istanbul: Rüstem Pasha
Istanbul’s Aya Sofia Museum
Istanbul’s Hidden Street
The Basilica Cistern



This was not a complimentary tour. I enjoyed it so much that I just wanted to let you all know about it!!




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41 Responses to A Foodie’s Tour in Istanbul

  1. The Wanderfull Traveler May 7, 2013 at 6:44 am #

    What a delicious day!
    6 hours is quite a good amount of time – usually tours are about 1-3 hours max around here.
    Definitely get your money’s worth but it also seems like you get an excellent immersive experience within the culture.
    When I first get to a city I like to explore my area by foot so that I can ground myself and get a taste of the local neighbourhood character.
    Then a cooking course, food tour or some kind of dinning experience is in order.

    Great post!

    • Jenny Freedman May 7, 2013 at 4:13 pm #

      Thanks Murissa. It was an fabulous day..I learnt a lot and will definitely return to these places when I get back to Istanbul.
      Walking is the perfect way to get to know a neighbourhood..especially if there are food stops on the way!

  2. Krista May 7, 2013 at 9:02 am #

    Oh my goodness! So much deliciousness. 🙂 Wonderful and inspiring post. 🙂

    • Jenny Freedman May 7, 2013 at 4:14 pm #

      Thanks Krista. Istanbul is one of my favourite cities with some of the best food!

  3. cosmoHalliltan May 7, 2013 at 10:51 am #

    What a spectacular culinary adventure! This makes me want to sign up for a food tour immediately!

    • Jenny Freedman May 7, 2013 at 4:15 pm #

      It was so much fun…I’m looking forward to doing another when I’m back in Istanbul!

  4. budget jan May 7, 2013 at 11:28 am #

    The perfect amount of time and at least the walking would help digest some of the goodies. It is wonderful to be shown around a local market and learn the ins and outs of a new city from someone who knows.

    • Jenny Freedman May 7, 2013 at 4:17 pm #

      This is a great way to get to know all about the area you’re staying in. I can highly recommend it Jan

      • budget jan May 8, 2013 at 6:41 am #

        I will be seriously considering one when we are in Istanbul. Hope to catch up with you there, meanwhile will be following you around Europe on Facebook and Blog 🙂

        • Jenny Freedman May 11, 2013 at 11:28 pm #

          The tour gives a fabulous insight in the area. It would be great to catch up in Istanbul Jan

  5. Sawsan @chef in disguise May 7, 2013 at 12:18 pm #

    Going to Turkey has been my dream for years! I will make there some day but until then I really enjoyed your post with all the pictures, colors and tempting foods

    • Jenny Freedman May 7, 2013 at 4:18 pm #

      Thanks Sawsan. Istanbul is a fabulous city and the food is so exciting. I hope you are able to visit one day!

  6. jenjenk May 7, 2013 at 3:17 pm #

    oh, i love, love, love Hayvore! reading your post makes me miss Istanbul and Istanbul Eats tour! 🙁

    • Jenny Freedman May 7, 2013 at 4:22 pm #

      I know how you feel Jen. I can’t wait to be back there either!

  7. Ingrid May 7, 2013 at 4:44 pm #

    I love your Blog Jenny … I often see your pictures on face book and I always just want to pack and go 🙂

    • Jenny Freedman May 7, 2013 at 5:07 pm #

      Thank you so much for your lovely comment Ingrid. I love sharing our travels with everyone on facebook and here on the blog.

  8. Dawnrichard May 7, 2013 at 11:54 pm #

    If you want a guest post on my blog then please put me a mail.

    My blog hanoitravelinformation.com


    • Jenny Freedman May 11, 2013 at 11:26 pm #

      Thanks Dawn!

  9. Life Images by Jill May 8, 2013 at 7:47 am #

    I love trying the local foods when I travel so a culinary tour seems a perfect way to immerse oneself in the culture of a place. Thanks for the tour and the wonderful images that have my mouth wanting to taste – and to get on an airplane straight away!. I have been watching a few foodie shows on SBS of late that are just as much a travel log as a food program.
    Thanks for another fabulous post – I love coming to your blog. Have a wonderful week.

    • Jenny Freedman May 11, 2013 at 11:33 pm #

      A pleasure Jill. I too have been inspired by some of the food tours I’ve seen on the television…infact I’m still trying to get to Jerusalem as a result of one of these shows! Glad you enjoyed the tour!

  10. Johanna May 8, 2013 at 8:55 am #

    What an absolutely temptatious tour! It must have been such fun trying all those amazing and so very different dishes. Your photos really makes the food jump off the screen, and I’m sitting here almost being able to smell it (as I’m about to munch my morning bowl of gruel I am a little bit green around the gills!). Thanks for another fabulous foodie feast.

    • Jenny Freedman May 11, 2013 at 11:35 pm #

      It was fun reliving the tour by writing about it Jo! I’m looking forward to another when we visit Istanbul again later in the year!

  11. Leigh May 9, 2013 at 8:59 am #

    I should have waited an hour to read your post. My mouth is watering and I’m in awe at the selection of foods you ate. I love your anchovy photo and enjoyed following you on this walkabout. What a great way to discover a city.

    • Jenny Freedman May 11, 2013 at 11:37 pm #

      Food tours are a fabulous way to discover a city Leigh and as you can see, we discovered all different types of food as well.Sorry to have made you hungry!!

  12. Zara @ Backpack ME May 9, 2013 at 1:43 pm #

    In my opinion, a food tour (or even cooking class) tends to be way more interesting that one of those hop on – hop off bus tours. One can learn SO MUCH through the food of a given place.. plus food tours tend to take you to places you maybe wouldn’t know otherwise. Plus in Turkey, being such a great destination food-wise, it seems like an awesome activity to take part in!

    I really like the way you made these photo collages with the pictures of the food and some images of the local life. It really transports you to the places!

    • Jenny Freedman May 11, 2013 at 11:42 pm #

      Thanks Zara…I agree with you. Food tours to different parts of a city will show you a side of life you might mot see otherwise. Istanbul is such an interesting city that it’s the perfect place to take these tours. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  13. [email protected] May 11, 2013 at 8:15 pm #

    Oh my goodness, I’d love to do this tour! I loved the food in Turkey and when I return I’ll definitely do this tour. I like that it took you to very local places and neighborhood. All your images look inviting. I’d love to taste those fabulous hamsi pilaf. I’ll keep Istabul Eats in mind. Thanks for the delicious post and tip.

    • Jenny Freedman May 11, 2013 at 11:49 pm #

      Istanbul is such a fabulous city and there are so many corners of it to get to know that this was, for me, the best way to learn more about this area. Hope you get to go back to Istanbul and do the tour Marisol!

  14. Jess @UsedYorkCity May 14, 2013 at 4:06 am #

    I’m also a HUGE fan of eating my way through a city via food tours! Some places are a bit harder than others as a vegetarian, but you can’t go wrong doing a dessert tour!;-) Your trip sounds amazing!

    • Jenny Freedman May 16, 2013 at 12:04 am #

      A dessert tour sounds like a great idea Jess. Istanbul is the perfect place for a vegetarian. Vegetables are an important part of their cuisine and they offer fabulous, creative dishes. It was an amazing trip to one of my favourite cities! Thanks for visiting!

  15. jill May 16, 2013 at 12:33 am #

    Thanks for the virtual food tour. Heading to Istanbul in the fall and can’t wait to try some of these myself.

  16. Dana Carmel @ Time Travel Plans May 22, 2013 at 8:04 am #

    I missed these places on my trip to Istanbul. I’ll definitely have to go on the food tour the next time around!

    • Jenny Freedman May 24, 2013 at 12:47 am #

      Food tours are a great way of learning about little hidden places. YOU’ll have fun if you do one next time in Istanbul! Thanks for stopping by.

  17. Trips to Istanbul May 29, 2013 at 1:41 am #

    I have planned many trips to Istanbul but all remained unfinished because of some or the other reason. But looking at your pictures I fancy Istanbul more and more and this time I want to finally go on a trip.

    • Jenny Freedman June 3, 2013 at 4:34 am #

      I hope you finally make it to Istanbul…It’s a fabulous city and you’ll have a great time!

  18. Michelle S June 15, 2013 at 10:05 pm #

    Jennifer is fantastic, isn’t she? We did the old city food tour with her last year…arse biting weather but she made it so enjoyable and the food….fabulous and we would have never found these places alone…Looking forward to doing their new kebab at night tour next time…

    • Jenny Freedman June 19, 2013 at 4:43 am #

      Yes, she’s a fabulous guide Michelle. I think all the tours that Istanbul Eats offer would be great. I’m looking forward to doing the Two Continents Tour. I’ve been to the markets at Kadikoy and eaten at Ciya but I’m sure I’m still missing a few fabulous places.

  19. Tala August 21, 2013 at 12:29 am #

    Hi Jenny,

    Thank you for sending me information on your post. I just signed up for the food tour after reading your delicious post.

    • Jenny Freedman August 22, 2013 at 11:38 pm #

      That’s great Tala. I know you’ll love it!

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