Make sure you try the special food items listed below, many of which you’re unlikely to find done nicely (or at all) except in Turkey (or Istanbul).
Kokoreç is a food that has Greek heritage made in Istanbul. It’s made in different ways in different Balkan countries and we think you really should give it a try. It’s grilled sheep’s intestines chopped into small pieces and usually served as a sandwich or in a half-loaf bread. The usual tradition is to eat these from a well-known restaurant (such as Mercan or Şampiyon). These can be found in Taksim and Kadikoy.
The Turkish (and in particular the Istanbulite) way of cooking mussels. Again these should be bought from reputable places. Some can be found in Kadikoy, Taksim and Beşiktaş. The specialty is the tarator sauce; the white sauce seen on the picture with a supposedly secret recipe. It’s typically served in a sandwich or half-bread loaf.
Another Turkish way of eating mussels is as a dolma. The best way to do this is to eat the midye dolma as an appetizer, or as a top-up if you feel hungry following a midye or kokorec sandwich.
Lahmacun is a Turkish thin-layered minced meat pizza-like food. Most people can eat between 2-4 of them as a main course, and some people like to put salad and onions in it. There are sometimes hot-spiced varieties, and vegetarian variants. It should be safe to eat from any decent kebab house/restaurant. Sometimes a small lahmacun is served as an appetizer before a different kind of kebab.
Typically this is a follow up soup after a night out. It helps the stomach deal with the alcohol. Again, typically, it is only eaten at a reputable restaurant, as when done badly it can make you very sick.
Although it’s become more of a global food these days, you’re still encouraged to try İskender kebap for the original deal in a restaurant in Istanbul.
Fish in bread
An excellent choice of a quick and relatively healthy fast food if you happen to be by the seaside in central Istanbul. You can find fish in bread (balık ekmek) on the shores, particularly around Rumelihisarı and Kadıköy seaside.
Delicious pasta filled with minced meat, served topped with yogurt and garlic and spiced with red pepper powder and melted butter. Look for specialized restaurants dedicated to mantı which offer the best.