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!