What kind of friend would I be if I neglected to take Lapin and Javier on a gastronomical tour of yumminess? There is no shortage of ways to feed your hunger in Istanbul— from lip-smacking, finger-licking street food to the delicate wonders of Çiya.
Our first stop on the tour was the infamous islak burger, or "wet burger." Yes, wet burger. Imagine a hamburger drowned in a vat of garlicky tomato sauce with a vague hint of cumin. This saucy beast is then stacked upon others who have suffered the same greasy fate, then heated by light bulbs in a foggy vitrine. It has taken me two years to taste one of these monstrosities, and ladies and gentlemen, I must report that the two lira islak burger is actually pretty damn tasty.
Next stop, perfection in a half loaf: balık ekmek. Mackerel, onions and lettuce thrust into bread that threatens to burst on your lap. Pour on the lemon juice and salt to get it just right, then end it all with a little tub of lokma— fried dough bathed in fragrant syrup. A great way to spend six lira.
So you've been getting lost in the maze of Istanbul— your feet are aching and your stomach is starting to make noises that are almost audible above the cacophony of honking horns. A man yelling something incomprehensible is pushing a little lopsided cart with what looks like an aquarium full of rice and chickpeas. Nohutlu pilav is simply rice and chickpeas. Sometimes you can add some chicken to it, but why bother? It's so good on its own. You might pay anywhere between one and two lira, depending on the mood of the guy pushing the cart.
Ah, the kumpir. A ten lira massive baked potato with its innards whipped up in butter and cheese, stuffed with toppings of your choice. I like mine piled high with a tomatoey bulghur mixture called kısır, black olives, pickled red cabbage and hot sauce.
And to think I haven't even included the famed döner kebap or lahmacun...