4 December 2020

3 hours (or less) from Paris: A taste of Istanbul

Looking back....

  There were spices destined for recipes handed down from grandmother to granddaughter, from generation to generation. There were spices for dishes yet to be conceived, and spices whose odors triggered memories buried for years... The sheer quantity and variety on offer were enough to make heads spin faster than a Whirling Dervish, and all the usual staples were present: coriander, cinnamon, allspice, ginger, flame red paprikas, cardamom, golden turmeric, saffron, green cumin, ground coconut, black, red, green and white peppercorns, curry mixtures, licorice, dangling strings of dried eggplants, peppers, dried fruits, dates, chilies and okra; pastries galore, boxes, bags, tins and bins of rose waters, rose buds, oils, henna, natural sponges, herbs, seeds, beans and nuts of every persuasion and hue, including Turkey’s famously flavorful pistachios.

 From, "Turkish Delight on a Moonlit Night" © Barbara Pasquet James


Adjectives describing the ancient Ottoman city straddling the Bosphorus are as plentiful as the vendors selling bright pomegranate juice on almost every corner. But due to political upheavals and other factors over recent years, tourism in what was one of the world's most vibrant destinations - just a 3-hour flight from Paris - has dwindled dramatically. And that is unfortunate. Having had family based in Beyoğlu, the district of narrow cobbled streets bulging with hip cafés, restaurants and tons of ambiance on the European side, we were able to enjoy this city like locals. Forever in search of a gastronomic discovery, I especially loved exploring the fish markets with their small tables set up under bridges, the wood-pit rotisseries and Turkish coffee enclaves but mostly, wandering through the spices and food markets on the Anatolian or Asian side, which exuded an entirely different feel. - BPJ

  Above: food stalls in Istanbul's ancient spice bazaar Misir Carsisi a.k.a. The Egyptian market
Below: tea rooms line market passageways; simit, a twisted bagel-like bread covered in sesame or poppy seeds; women rolling out yufka, Turkey's paper-thin national flatbread;
classic Hagia Sophia skyline from a boat

(click photos to enlarge)

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