I may have only visited Istanbul, Pamukkale, and Cappadocia, but I still experienced the tastes and the smells of all the local street food from wandering around the various markets, especially in the Sultanahmet area of Istanbul.
You will notice that there is some similarity between Turkish street food and that of other Mediterranean countries, but I found that Turkey really does have a clear culinary identity when you examine things (or taste things) closely. So let’s now take a look through a dozen of most popular Turkish street food staples!
Simit is a very popular bread ring that is sold more frequently than anything else in Turkey! Locals can be seen enjoying their simit with a nice cup of Turkish Tea! As street food, simit rings are often stored on trays and carried around the streets on the head of the vendor.
Balik Ekmek is a traditional fish sandwich! It may sound a little weird, but Turks can’t get enough of it, especially in coastal regions, and beside the Bosphorus in Istanbul.
Kokoreç is sheep intestines and is sold regularly as street food, but rarely in restaurants. Some of these must be inspected for hygiene standards before eating, but it is still a popular sight to see kokorec stalls on the streets of Istanbul.
Pide Bread is a flatbread very similar to Naan from the Sub-Continent or Al Jabab Bread from the Middle-East. It is usually shaped like a boat and layered with toppings, which can range from cheese, tofu, eggplant, and meat.
Kestane is the Turkish name for roasted chestnuts, which traditionally are more popular in the winter months. The same vendors will often switch to roasted corn for the summer, yet Kestane have that dreamlike smell about them, and you can often smell them before you can see them!
Pilav is a form of rice that is sold frequently on the streets in Turkey. While people in most countries will eat their rice as an accompaniment to a main meal, Turks enjoy it by the bucketload and just eat it on its own – no meat needed! Pilav can be flavoured with juices or spices, and it can be interesting to roam the streets looking for the different varieties!
Kumpir is an insanely popular street food in Turkey. The potatoes are wrapped with foil and baked in special ovens. The potatoes are cut straight down the middle and the insides are mixed with unsalted butter and puréed with kaşar cheese. However, all sorts of foods can be added to the potato: mayonnaise, ketchup, pickles, sweetcorn, sausage slices, carrots, mushrooms and Russian salad.
Midye Dolma are stuffed mussels, and are known to be a major Turkish delicacy. In busy cities, it is not uncommon to see vendors of midye dolma on every street corner ‘showing off their mussels’. The mussels themselves can be filled with flavoured rice and currants.
Lahmacun is the renowned Turkish Pizza! It is basically a thin piece of dough topped with minced meat (beef or lamb) and minced vegetables, then baked in a portable oven (for street food). Lahmacun has existed for thousands of years but has become much more popular over the last few decades.
Içli Köfte (known as Kibbeh in some regions) is a Turkish snack of meatballs made of bulgur wheat, minced onions, and fine meat (beef, lamb, or camel). The best-known variety is a torpedo-shaped fried croquette stuffed with meat and sautéed pine nuts. Turkey has other kinds of kofte (meatballs), including skewered kofte, but içli köfte is eaten most voraciously on the streets of Istanbul and Ankara!
Dürüm Kebap is a wrap that is usually filled with typical döner kebab ingredients, such as chicken, lamb, or beef that is carved from a vertical rotisserie. The wrap itself is made from lavash or yufka flatbreads. Some street food vendors grill the wrap AFTER its has been filled to give it extra crispiness, which is something not available when eating döner kebab in a tombik bun.
Dondurma makes every list of most popular Turkish street foods, because it simply is so popular! Sold in specialised dondurmasi shops on street corners across the country, Dondurma is a hardened form of ice cream, made primarily of salep, which can withstand the heat of the Turkish climate.
For a little more information on Turkish cuisine, check out this list of some tummy-rumbling Turkish desserts!
I hope you have enjoyed a little taster of the kind of food you can find on the streets of Turkey! Please take a look at my other posts in the Snack Attack series to read about street foods in many other countries!