Wednesday, April 14, 2010

from carrot cake to kokoreç

I found a new little café in Cihangir to hang out in, but as I was off in dreamland, I didn't get the name. Right down the street from Hanımeli on Ağahamam Caddesi, I treated myself to a scrumptious lemony carrot walnut cake and a perfect Americano. I often feel like I have no time to read anymore, and have discovered that the time magically appears when I find myself in a cosy café with a book. This will have to be my new haunt.

I'm going to take this post in a new direction. Now, I pride myself on trying just about anything when it comes to food. I haven't come across anything I don't like— except cantaloupe and kidneys. I have been known to enjoy a lengua taco on occasion— that's a beef tongue taco, or some tripe soup, and I'm mad for sea urchins and monkfish liver. For some reason for the past year I've been resisting the urge to try a very popular and beloved Turkish dish, kokoreç.

What exactly is kokoreç? Pronounced "ko-ko-retch," it certainly doesn't sound very appealing— and the ingredients don't offer much to get uh, excited about either. Lamb kidneys, lungs, hearts, sweetbreads and intestines are all wrapped up in seasoned offal into a long tubular shape, and grilled on a spit. Sweetbreads are deceptive in name— there's nothing sweet or bready about the thymus and pancreas, and offal sounds well, awful— it's the entrails and leftover bits of an animal. So why would I want to eat this? Because it looks so good when the sandwich guy chops it all up with peppers and oregano on a griddle, and every Turk I have asked about it gets this far-off Homer Simpson-y look of craving in their eyes and drools, "Oooooooh... kokoreç!"

I had no idea when I woke up this morning, that today would be the day. Tia and Gyl were back in town, and they, braver than I, had already tried it and joined the kokoreç appreciation club. Feeling a bit silly for having lived here for over a year and never tasted it, I figured it was about time. We found a little stand boasting the dish that the EU wanted to ban out of fear of mad cow disease, and ordered three sandwiches.

So what was it like? A little chewy in parts, spicy, soft and flavourful— pretty good. There were definitely some bites that tasted more like organ meat than others, and there was the occasional kidney-flavour that I wasn't too keen on, but overall, not bad. I would have it again, and I suspect it goes nicely with beer or ayran, but I have to say it was the carrot cake that I'll remember fondly.


black bear cabin said...

im game to try "just" about everything too, and it looked delicious...perhaps we are better off if we dont know whats inside first :)
glad you got past it so you can move on to other tasty more carrot cake ;)

szaza said...

It was pretty good until I tasted kidney... That I did not like.
Yes, bring on the carrot cake!