Tag Archives: istanbul

Full In Istanbul

We don’t usually write review posts for specific companies or activities; save for when Mike got a rub-down from the masseuse formerly known as Prince that is. But a cooking class that finishes like this…

Extra-curricular activites

… deserves special mention.

Istanbul Cooking School runs a half day cooking class for €50pp. It was a runaway highlight of our trip. The class included a walk around Istanbul’s markets and food shopping streets, cooking 5 traditional Turkish dishes and of course getting to chow down on your own handiwork afterwards. It’s run by a local chap named Oguz, one of the genuinely nicest guys we’ve had the pleasure of meeting so far on our travels (or before them for that matter!). Oguz is fun, passionate and very knowledgeable about his country and its cuisine, and keen to share both with visitors.

Close supervision

Also: far less psychotic than he looks there.

Having met up and introduced ourselves around our excellent group, we dived into Istanbul’s food markets and side streets. Oguz showed us his favourite delis, food stalls and specialty shops – including a few street-food tastes to whet our appetites – all with a nice running commentary along the way.

Pickles

Market

Lastly we stopped into a booze shop to grab some beer and wine to enjoy with our meal – with some helpful recommendations. Clearly the man knew his audience.

Having stocked up on supplies, we retired to the ICS kitchen to tackle the menu Oguz had prepared. The kitchen itself is a nice, airy space with plenty of room to stretch out and get your chop on.

Go team

Our menu was full of traditional Turkish favourites:

  1. Humus, a Mediterranean classic
  2. Kisir, a spicy cracked wheat salad with lots of spices and herbs from the southern region of Turkey
  3. Kozde Patlıcan, fire roasted eggplant meze
  4. Peynirli Sigara Böreği, ‘cigarette’ filo pastry wraps filled with cheese
  5. Irmik Helvası, a warm semolina dessert

The class is very participation focused without ever feeling like a chore – Oguz has an assistant who helps out with various tasks. We chopped, mixed, rolled, stirred and fried our way through each of the above with ease.

Finally we sat down with our booze to enjoy everything together. It was easily one of the best meals we’ve had all trip, super delicious. And not just ’cause we cooked it. With a meal like that and a lovely group of new friends to share it with, what more could you ask for.

Class

From left: M, K, Norman and Jan (from California) and Emily (another Aussie). A lovely bunch.

Then things kicked up a notch.

After the class, Oguz casually mentioned he was heading around the corner to meet some friends at a bar, and quite generously offered for us to join him. I’m not sure if he was expecting all of us to accept – but accept we did. Cue the above motley crew sidling in to a super cool Blues Bar on one of Beyoglu’s many buzzing alleyways. Sans aprons, thankfully.

There, with the fantastic Oguz and his equally awesome friends, things went from merry…

Good times

…to slightly crazy…

P1140633

…to slightly messy…

P1140632

…to all out mental.

P1140639

That last shot is about 4am, by the way, so you’ll have to excuse both the napping stranger and the grinning loon. In the end we managed to exhaust the bar’s supply of raki (probably) and AC/DC (definitely).

Finally, we were off to endure one last culinary experience with Oguz’s friends Rauf and Akin – Oguz having wisely slipped away some time earlier. Turkish wisdom has it that partaking in Tripe Soup, something of a local delicacy, will negate the troublesome after-effects of a night on the turps. It must have seemed like a good idea at around 5am and so we found ourselves in a non-descript eatery with perhaps the least appetising looking soup I’ve ever laid eyes on.

Tripe soup
Yikes

Needless to say, we conclusively proved that having the soup at the END of the night does absolutely f*ck-all to alleviate what turned out to be a hangover for the ages.

Bottom line: if you’re in Istanbul and at all interested in the food and culture of Turkey, we can’t recommend this class highly enough. Serefe, Oguz and team! Keep on cooking and sharing the love. With any luck we’ll be back some day – but next time, hold the tripe.

Istunbelievabul!

Istanbul. Europe-meets-Asia. East-meets-West.

Mike-meets-kebap.

Kag
Love at first sight

That’s a Cag Si- wait, wait. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Istanbul is also the place where this happened.

Ottoman

We don’t talk about it.

Most of all, Istanbul is a bloody great city. We had 5 nights in town and it really knocked our socks off. For starters it’s a visually stunning harbour city, spread across the ‘Bosphorus‘ (the strait connecting the Mediterranean with the Black Sea). The skyline is dotted with mosques and minarets; breathtaking vistas await around every corner.

Bosphorus

Sultan Ahmet Park

Even beneath the streets there’s something to see; take the ancient Basilica Cistern filled with tons of atmosphere and a busload or seven of Japanese tourists.

Cistern
Also, the original Phantom of the Opera set. Probably.

But despite this it’s still a very urban city – for one thing, it has the world’s longest shopping strip and a ton of bars, cafes and restaurants.

Istikal

And all this is before we even GET to the food. O Mama, the food.

The first pic is me marvelling at a Cag Sis. That’s a kind of sideways doner where the meat is carefully threaded onto a skewer and served with flatbread and sides. I’d picked this joint after reading that the lambs reportedly munch on wild oregano before they answer a higher calling. The result: tender, crispy, bursting with flavour, utterly addictive.

Master
This guy could get a gig on Savile Row.

We ate Durum; a special type of kebap wrap. Durum bread is somewhere between a tortilla and pizza; chewy, bubbly and so so good. Best with adana – minced and sharply spicy lamb. Anthony Bourdain gave these guys the tick of approval and it ain’t hard to see why.

Happiness
I regret I only have one stomach to give.

The Turks also came up with a little thing called Pide. Some more savvy research led us to a little hole-in-the-wall where a moustachioed Pide genius shovelled heaven in-and-out of a wood fired oven. The review said the guy loved tourists and boy did he. This man was the happiest person we’d met on our trip so far. Pide perfection and afterwards he gave me a big floury hug.

Helping

The result
I may have instigated the hug.

I wanted to eat all my food there, forever.

Nonetheless, all these meals and sights – and a truckload of unpictured delicious meze – pale in the wake of a cooking class we were lucky enough to do. An experience so epic it deserves its own post.

Needless to say if you ain’t been to Istanbul yet, get there asap. We’re thinking of going back – and if we do, there won’t be much of anything left afterwards.

More photos here.