This post is the first in what I plan to make a regular series, highlighting my culinary adventures while traveling and my attempts to recreate favorite foods from time spent abroad.
Trying new foods is one of my favorite parts of traveling. Sometimes I wished I had asked first, like that time I ate fried “chicken elbows” in China (I’m still not totally sure what I ate. Cartilage of some sort is my best guess. All I can tell you for sure is they were incredibly tough and chewy.). However, finding new favorites is always fun. I have especially enjoyed my gastronomical explorations in Turkey over the years. Simply put, I love Turkish food. So, when I was thinking about things I wanted to do while in Turkey earlier this year, taking a cooking class was at the top of my list. And so, on a brisk Monday early in my stay, I did just that, with a group of fellow culinary adventurers from Switzerland, Wales, and the US, and our informative and entertaining guide, Oğuz.
We started with a stroll through Balık Pazarı (Fish Bazaar), a small area just off Istiklal Street lined with fish restaurants and stalls and shops selling foods, spices, and souvenirs. As we walked, we stopped off at various places to sample the offerings and to talk about Turkish ingredients and culinary specialties. Highlights included a pickle shop and a sweets shop. After picking up some fresh produce, we made our way to the Istanbul Cooking School, where we were promptly served tea and treated to a brief presentation on the regional variations in Turkish cuisine. We then made a complete dinner’s worth of dishes, and enjoyed them together. On the menu? Turkish style hummus (drier than it’s Arabic and Israeli counterparts), served on fresh bread with cornichons; eggplant salad, similar to baba ghanoush; sigara böreği, consisting of a cheese and parsley combination rolled in sheets of phyllo dough and fried; stuffed zucchini, peppers, and tomatoes; and semolina helva for dessert. Everything was delicious! Each of us left with a copy of the recipes. I made stuffed peppers several times while in Turkey, and will likely recreate all of the dishes at some point.