Istanbul, one of my favorite cities in the world, is a food-lover’s paradise. Maybe it’s because the cuisine reflects the way I love to cook and eat. A cuisine dating back to the Ottoman Empire, it is simple, sun-drenched and bright; loaded with fresh seafood, tangy yogurts, vegetables and lamb dishes.
In the food-filled markets and streets, kaleidoscopic bazaars and spice markets, you are aware you are in a country where people love to eat.
My son and I explored the food of this marvelous region. One of our most memorable meals was simple and inexpensive. At the mouth of the Golden Horn, little tables and small restaurants are lined up under the Galata Bridge. Only one item is served: grilled fish sandwiches (balik-ekmek).
The fish are caught in the Bosphorus at night, then sold during the day. Traditionally the fish were grilled over open fires on the boats; health department regulations have put a halt to that colorful tradition. Today the fish are grilled on land and served, skeleton intact, sandwiched in a roll.
Taking license, I’ve modified the memory of this recipe. Instead of grilling the whole fish, I now grill fish fillets.
But it’s not the same. Under the Galata Bridge, slowly savoring our sandwiches, we were allowed precious time to contemplate this colorful whirling dervish of a landscape, mindfully picking out the bones.