A Simit is a bread ring, typically encrusted with sesame seeds, that is found across Turkey and its neighbouring countries. I guess a Simit could be considered very similar to a bagel and it is part of Turkish working class culture.
Simits are sold by street vendors in Turkey (aka a “Lord of the Rings”), who either have a simit trolley with oven, or carry the simit in a tray on their head. These common bread rings are also affectionately known as “sesame kebabs”. I have even seen them being sold on cruise ships down the Bosphorus by eager vendors who are looking to make a few Lira! Street merchants generally advertise simits as “fresh” since they are baked throughout the day, and they can even burn your hand when not long out of the mobile oven. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I ranked the simit as the number 1 street food snack in Turkey, ahead of even kestane and the doner kebab!
The simit is generally served plain, or for breakfast with tea. There’s something so relaxing about sitting back with a simit and some delectable Turkish tea. I can really feel like a local when I am doing this. Turkish people on lower incomes rely on the simit as their foodstuff throughout the week and it has become a symbol of working class culture, especially in Istanbul. These “Lords of the Rings” are working class guys themselves and they know how popular the simit is, and while they will sell them to locals and tourists by the bucket-load, a simit doesn’t costs merely a pittance, so alas profits are small. This fascination with breads reminds me of the local scene in Cairo, where the Egyptian vendors will transport the bread (loafs not rings) on their heads as they go about their merry business. Bread plays an important role in the diet of the working class people in this part of the world.
I haven’t been to many parts of Turkey, but from what I have experienced in Istanbul the best places to get your giant Simit rings are in Istiklal Avenue and near the Hagia Sophia in Sultanahmet district. One fast food chain from Turkey is called Simit Sarayi, and yep, you guessed it, they specialise in the famous bread ring. However, one of the authentic street food simits sold by a “Lord of the Rings” are a much better way to enjoy local cuisine – so make sure you enjoy one on your next trip to Turkey!