Archive for Travel

Le Şener, Kuşadası

Our next stop on my Turkish road trip was Kuşadası, a seaside resort town in the Aydın province. It was a picturesque drive in as we were greeted by sea views. We parked at a nearby otopark and walked into the Ismail Cem Peace & Friendship square which extends into the waterfront dotted with public benches and bobbing boats.

The leisure walk along the waterfront towards the stretch of seafood restaurants at the end was pleasant as I had a good view of the daily catch of some men who were fishing by the waterfront. We walked around the restaurants a bit, checking their menu and finally decided on Le Sener, a restaurant that was adjoining the local fish market that allowed us to buy fresh sea produce from the fishmongers and then, cook it for us for a small fee.

Started with off some mezethes, consisting of yoghurt, cacık (yoghurt with cucumber and garlic) and egpplants with tomatoes. It was excellent to eat with the soft bread provided.

Then a fresh, piquant salad followed with abundant herbs. I am starting to really enjoy salads after this Mediterranean vacation!

As the hamsi (anchovy) season was reaching its end, we had to get our fill of them. We decided to have hamsi tava where the fishies are coated with cornflour and pan fried. The anchovies are arranged around the skillet in a ring and cooked until brown and lightly crisp and served as such. Just pick them up by the tails and eat them whole, in between bites of bread and salad.

My friend said that most of the calamari served in Istanbul are of the frozen variant so when we spotted fresh ones here at the fish market, she had to get them. Had the restaurant deep fry it for us and the calamari rings, lightly coated in batter were divine.

Next to the restaurant was a Midye Dolmasi (Turkish Stuffed Mussels) vendor and couldn’t resist getting a few to try. Stuffed with herbed rice, and complimented with a squeeze of lemon, these were really good! I would have seconds if I weren’t so full already. Slightly sweet, meaty and flavourful, I can see these being very addictive snacks.

After the satisfying lunch, walked around some nearby shops for a bit before we got in the car to head towards the Denizli province where the famed Pamukkale is.

Le Şener
Kuşadası Balık Hali Yanı
Kuşadası,Aydın
Turkey.

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Lezzet Lokantasi Kofteci Ali Usta’nin Yeri, Selçuk

Selçuk is the gateway to Ephesus, which is well known as the ruins of a Greek & later, a Roman city. By the time we got to Selçuk, it was past sunset and we found an inn to settle down. From what we saw as we were driving in, the town seemed on the small-ish side so we decided to walk around the area where our inn was to explore, but not before asking for a dinner recommendation.

One thing that really intrigued me was the storks’ nests on the nearby ruins! I later found out that the ruins were actually the remaind of a Byzantine aqueduct and the storks nest there year after year. Hmm, which explains all the bird poop. Lol.

As we were walking to the restaurant our innkeepers recommended, noticed that a lot of the shops were closed. But the teahouses were a buzzin! I have read about Turkish teahouses being the the men’s domain as they play backgammon while sipping on their çay. But to see it in action was quite something.

Typical start to a Turkish meal, ekmek or bread. Served with some local white cheese drizzled with olive oil and topped with tomatoes & spring onions. The cheese itself is really quite mild and was wonderful with the toasted bread.

A mixed salad of fresh green with beets. Crunchy & refreshing.

Skewered chicken with tomatoes and chunky fries. The chicken was juicy and very tasty.

We also had some Beef Kofte which was bouncy and flavourful.

The lamb chops, or pirzola was the highlight of our meal. Tender, moist and brimming with flavour. Even ordered a second portion as we cleaned this plate.

Complimentary fruits from the owner, perfect way of finishing the meal.

By the time we were done with our meal, it started drizzling so we walked back to our inn very quickly and watched some telly before calling it a night.

Lezzet Lokantasi Kofteci Ali Usta’nin Yeri Ev Yemekleri
Ataturk Mah. 25 Sk. No.18/N
Selçuk, Turkey.

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Tarihi Pidecioğlu Pide Firini , Bursa

We wanted to see some other parts of Turkey also apart from Istanbul so my friend suggested a road trip. We just wanted to go to some of the main sites over a span of 2-3 days which is doable even if a tad on the rushed side. To get to Bursa, we decided to take the ferry to cross the Sea of Marmara. The ride was about 40 mins long so most drivers either took a nap in their car or proceeded upstairs to talk over steaming hot çay. But as the cabin upstairs was predominantly a men’s area, i kept myself entertained by watching the changing scenery and was rewarded with the above shot. Hehe.

Bursa was actually rather pleasant. We parked near one of the tourist attractions, Yesil Cami (Green Mosque) and walked from thereforth. Bursa is also known for its quaint, picturesque Ottoman houses and as we wound through alleys and bridges, really took in the architecture.

We were walking through the Kayhan Carsisi towards the Koza Han (Silk Cocoon Market) when this scene caught our eyes. Men kneading away and putting the dough straight into a woodfire oven! The freshly baked tandir ekmegi, which is like our local naan, really tempted us with the aroma. So we decided to sit down and after seeing the amount of bread being hoisted into delivery vans to be delivered all around town, I think we made the right choice.

Anyhow, as per the sound of the name, it’s a pide restaurant. Pide is essentially a oval bread with topping, pretty much like a Turkish version of a pizza.

One of my favourites of the meal was this gorgeous Kuşbaşı pide, which is spiced lamb chunks. It was so good! Flavourful, juicy and piping hot!

We also had the etli pide which is spiced minced beef.

There’s also Kaşarlı Pide which is melted, gooey cheese filling.

What can I say? The freshly baked flatbread pizza was really one of the highlights of the meals I had in Turkey. In fact, my friend is even thinking of making a trip to Bursa just to have more of this as we talked about it recently. Yup, that yummy!

Tarihi Pidecioğlu Pide Firini
Kayhan Caddesi No:73,
16230 Bursa,
Turkey.

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Bostancı Favourites, Istanbul

During the weekend, for breakfast we headed for Bostancı, a neighbourhood in Kadıköy. It’s a waterfront at the Sea of Marmara and also the port where locals take the ferries to the Princes’ Islands. But mostly, it’s known for its vicinity to Bağdat Avenue, a notable high street. But most of all, Bostanci is well known as THE place to go for late night snacks.

A fish market consisting of several fish stalls greeted us as we walked towards Balik Ekmek Izgara, a small restaurant serving balik ekmek (fish sandwiches) with your choice of mackerel, hamsi (european anchovies) or whiting. Ever since I read eatingasia’s post on balik ekmek, I have put it down on my to-eat list for Istanbul. Sadly we didn’t have time to search for the stall she mentioned but I’m just glad we got to try them.

At 4TL, the size of the mackerel fish sandwich is quite substantial. Bottles of lemon juice is provided on the tables for one to squirt on to the fish before partaking of the sandwich. The mackerel is nicely prepared, with just the right balance of oiliness so that the sandwich isn’t too dry. One bite and I am in love with this simple sandwich.

Once we left the small establishment, we retraced our steps until we reached the Altin Eldiven Dürüm Evi, a kebab shop that does brisk business selling dürüm wraps throughout the day and especially late at night. My friend was keen to bring me here to sample some of the specialty wraps and boy, was I in for a treat!

At first glance, this dürüm wrap looks normal enough. Then my friends tell me this is kokoreç which is actually chopped lamb intestines seasoned with lemon, olive oil, oregano, salt, and pepper. As I usually eat pig intestines, I had no qualms about trying this. And was pleasantly surprised by the flavour and texture of the intestines. In fact, if I wasn’t told about the nature of the meat, I don’t think I would have guessed as it’s not chewy nor have an aftertaste. My friend who doesn’t eat intestines said this is the only form of it she’d try. It’s so well seasoned that it has absorbed all the flavours of the marinade.

We also had a portion of the Adana dürüm to share. Adana dürüm, a spicy minced lamb kebab cooked over a coal fire. Originating from Adana, it’s well known to be hand minced using a special knife called a zirh. Apart from hand mincing the lamb meat, the tail fat of male lambs is also added in. The meat is then seasoned with salt, sumak and hot pepper before being wrapped around the skewer. Then the skewers are worked over an intense white-coaled fire until it is ready.

I think the main attraction of this wrap is its signature spicy taste. The meat is also tender and juicy. As it was very juicy, the dürüm was perfect to soak in the dripping sauces.

There’s also a waterfront of sorts at Bostancı, where locals run or date to the romantic view of the Princes’ islands. But for me, it was the place to walk off brunch we had. Haha.

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Homecooked Turkish Meals, Istanbul

Having a friend living in Istanbul does make the travelling a lot easier. No language barriers, transportation issues etc and best of all, I get homecooked meals occasionally too! We actually didn’t have much opportunities to eat at home as there was so much to discover outside. But when we did, it was delightful…


This was my first breakfast in Istanbul. As soon as I stepped off the plane, we got back and after I freshened up, this was already waiting for me on the table. This is considered the typical Turkish breakfast, with an array of cheeses, fresh tomatoes, cucumbers & olives, hard boiled eggs and freshly baked bread.

For dinner one day we had sucuk or Turkish sausage. Usually eaten during breakfast with eggs, we decided to just pan fry it and have it with our bread. It’s a bit spicy, like a chorizo sausage and a little chewy. I do like it as it reminds me a bit of Taiwanese sausages, but the halal type.

During the same dinner I had my first taste of hamsi or Black Sea Anchovy. These anchovies are seasonal and I was lucky that there were still available. Easily cleaned, the hamsi is dipped in cornflour and then pan fried to make hamsi tava. These yummy fishes are then dressed with a squirt of lemon and pop them between bread and voila, you have your own hamsi sandwich!


For another dinner, we had patlıcan karnıyarık, stuffed eggplants with minced meat that were baked. Topped with tomatoes and some fresh yoghurt it was delicious. Tender and soft, and very tasty.

My friend’s neighbours gave us some homecooked Dolma, stuffed dried peppers (Biber Dolması) & eggplants (Patlican Dolması). It was interesting to eat re-hydrated peppers and eggplants though I thought the rice stuffing was a bit on the dry side. But still, I am glad I managed to taste them as I have wondered what they would taste like after seeing strings and strings of them hanging at shops and marketplaces.


Photo by Jennifer Hattam.

The practice of drying eggplants, peppers and even tomatoes during the summer was in preparation for the long winter and this has been done since ancient times. Even though these are readily available throughout the year now, the tradition of salting vegetables and drying them in long strings continue as they believe that dried vegetables retain a distinct flavour. I still like mine fresh though!

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Optimum Outlet Food Court, Istanbul

There are quite a lot of outlet malls in Istanbul but most of them carry Turkish brands. Optimum Outlet Mall is one of the nearest ones to where we were staying. I was quite surprised when everyone heading into the mall had to go through a body security scan. In some malls, the cars also has to be checked before allowed entry into the parking zone.

Even though I spotted a couple of brands I know, we were more interested in the food court than the shopping itself. The food court has various franchises operating instead of single stalls. Our main aim was Kayseri Mutfağı, a restaurant chain that serves cuisine mainly from the Kayseri region.


This is yaprak sarma, wrapped minced meat / rice in pickled grape leaves. The minced meat rice filling is usually seasoned with spices (allspice, cinnamon, black pepper etc) and herbs (fresh parsley, dill and mint). Because the vine leaves are pickled beforehand, I thought that this little meat parcel will have a sourish tinge but later i learnt that the leaves are left to tenderize in a brine solution. Ah. I actually do quite like these as the meat ones are usually served warm. Not sure how the meatless ones will taste cold.


My friend’s favourite is however the manti which is loosely translated as Turkish dumplings but is really more like ravioli. These are tiny! I mean, look at the ratio of it to the spoon. I am amazed they can even fit in bits of meat in there! Liberally doused with yoghurt, it was easy to see why my friend loves it!

Manti comes in different sizes depending on which region it is from. But really, these are the smallest I have seen. Dried mint and sumak is also given in case extra flavouring is needed.

When my friend recommended cow liver I certainly wasn’t expecting this to appear on our table. Originating from the Edirne region it’s no wonder this is known as Edirne Tava Ciğeri. Seasoned with dried red pepper powder, coated with wheat flour and deep fried, it’s then served with fresh onions and sun dried chilli. Honestly if I didn’t know this was liver, I wouldn’t be able to tell upon tasting it either. But I did enjoy munching on it.

Another dish I really enjoyed was this Iskender kebap from Bay Döner. It is named for the chef, Iskender Efendi who created the dish and also for the city where he created it, Bursa. The first thing that spoke to me was the huge dollop of yoghurt which is seriously one of the best I have ever tasted! The yoghurt is really the key to balance this rich dish of thinly sliced doner kebab that is stacked atop pieces of pide swimming in hot tomato sauce and melted sheep butter!

Everything we had here was so memorable that before we were due to fly back to KL, we popped by for another serving!

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Çiya Sofrası, Istanbul

Before I embarked on this trip, already my friend has asked me what I wanted to eat. My answer was simple – anything she thought I should try, specifically Turkish food. So for dinner on my first day, we headed for Çiya Sofrası in the balık pazarı , or fish market district at Kadıköy. Walking the streets was interesting as it showed me the market scene of Turkey.

It was raining a bit so we didn’t really get to linger. Our destination was Çiya Sofrası, a restaurant known for serving Anatolian cuisine from different provinces of Turkey. I reckon that this was a good place to start as it did introduce the flavours and taste that I would be enjoying through the turkish leg of my trip!

Çiya Sofrası displays the many dishes of the day cafeteria style, behind a glass panel. Reminded me of our own nasi kandar joints. The only thing about having cooked dishes on the constant low heat is that the dishes are prone to overcooking. I was lucky to have a local order for me, but fear not, they do have English translations of their menu.

Thanks to the rain and wind, it was getting rather cold. So to warm ourselves up, we started with ezo gelin, a delightful, heartwarming lentil soup with mint and red pepper. It’s really quite a simple yet earthy tasting soup that was great with the bread.

My friend’s favourite is the içli köfte which is described as bulgar wheat encased meatballs. It looks more like croquettes to me, but has a harder, crunchier shell. Actually this is one of those addictive snacks where you won’t know when to stop.

We also had lahana sarmasi, stuffed cabbage with minced beef, onions and spices. Lahana is Turkish for cabbage whilst sarmasi translates to “wrapping” so this is somewhat similar to chinese cabbage wraps or rolls. Apart from ground meat fillings, other versions also has rice fillings.

For a taste of the south, from Urfa, we had pazi borani, a medley of swiss chard, chickpeas & black eyed peas with yogurt. The Turks love to serve a dollop of yoghurt with their greens from what I noticed. I don’t mind coz I really love the yoghurt in Turkey. So yummy!

Another wonderful dish that I’m itching to cook at home is diyarbakir güveç, a savoury stew of lamb, cooked with eggplants and tomatoes. Güveç is the clay or earthenware pot that cooks the meat and vegetables slowly, bringing out all the flavours that gives this stew its heady aroma. Very satisfying.

We also had lahmacun another form of Turkish flatbread pizza with minced meat, red peppers and parsley. The bread base is so thin it’s almost like eating baked tortilla with a meat spread. We just helped ourselves by tearing at it and rolling it up and stuffing it into our mouths. So good!

The Turks love their sweets (think baklava, lokum and sweet çay and you’ll know what I mean) so it’s only right we ended the meal with a dessert. Kerebiç was our choice, a semolina flour ball filled with pistachio bits. It is served with a foam that is purportedly to aid digestion and dusted with cinnamon powder. Yes, it was sweet and crumbly but the foam balanced that a bit. It’s nice but not really my thing due to the sugar level. Lucky we had the complimentary kekik (wild oregano) tea to wash it down. Hehe.

Overall it was a delightful dinner discovering the taste of Turkey, so to speak.

Çiya Sofrası (www)
Caferağa Mah. Güneşlibahçe Sokak No. 43
Kadıköy, Istanbul,
Turkey

other reviews;
gastromondiale
ozlem’s turkish table
opining, whining & dining
mymerhaba
new york times

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