A blog about food in Thailand
and elsewhere.



Fish sandwiches in Istanbul

Posted date:  October 4, 2011
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If I hadn’t been reminded of it by a recent post at EatingAsia, this blog probably would have continued sitting in my Out box.

I spent fewer than 48 hours in Istanbul, but in this short time got the impression that eating takes a distinctly different form there.

Take, for example, the costume and showmanship associated with serving Turkish-style ice cream:

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or tea:

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Or the city’s alleged signature dish, balık ekmek, a type of fish sandwich, which, of course, isn’t just a sandwich, but a show performed on rocking boats:

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The boats, which are moored by the foot of the Galata Bridge on Istanbul’s European side, are floating kitchens where men griddle fillets of a mackerel-like fish and serve them in sandwiches. You pay on the pier and when the wave is right, the sandwich is handed over:

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Served in a spongy roll with a bit of lettuce and onion, and seasoned with little more than salt and lemon juice, I have to admit that my first balık ekmek was, quite frankly, rather underwhelming as a sandwich.

But eaten at the waterfront, with the view of Asia across the way, and the New Mosque as a backdrop:

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it seemed to embody that uniquely Istanbul intersection of ceremony and setting, where sometimes taste is only part of the experience.

Fish sandwich vendors
Golden Horn, Istanbul


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