Istanbul’s food culture is so varied and rich that it overflows restaurants into the streets. No matter what neighborhood you are in or no matter what season it is, you can certainly find all kinds of street food. During your trip, you should certainly try these and enrich your Istanbul experience.
The most famous of such delicacies is the historical “balık-ekmek,” i.e. fish sandwiches sold in Eminönü district, located on the waterfront of the historical peninsula overlooking the Golden Horn. Fish is grilled or fried in small fishing boats and served in half a loaf of bread with various vegetables and pickles of your choice. After getting your fish sandwich, you can enjoy your delicious meal at this magnificent point, where Suleymaniye mosque forms the background and where the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus meet, watching the Bosphorus Bridge and the passing large ships in the distance. Especially during rush hours, It is possible to see tourists waiting for fish sandwich side by side with the residents of Istanbul who rush to the vendors to satisfy their hunger after work. Moreover, after recent regulations, some of the fish and bread vendors started to serve in traditional decorations and costumes.
No doubt, Istanbul’s most authentic street food are kokoreç and stuffed mussels. Originally a Greek food, Kokoreç, prepared with the cleaned intestines of lamp grilled on a horizontal skewer over charcoal fire, is one of the best selling street food all around Istanbul. After cooking, Kokoreç is finely chopped with peppers and tomatoes and served in a half or quarter loaves of bread; you can specify how much spice you prefer and whether you want it with tomato or not. We especially recommend Kokoreç grilled over charcoal fire.
Stuffed mussels, on the other hand, are prepared by stuffing herbed rice filling into cooked black mussels. Stuffed mussel, eaten with a little lemon squeezed on and using the two shells of the mussel, is not only a street food, but also one of the much loved appetizers for drink tables. If you are hungry, you can eat dozens of stuffed mussels, which are famous for their flavor rather than being hearty. Kokoreç and stuffed mussels are known to be street foods that go well especially after drinking. One of the essentials of Istanbul experience is tasting these foods on your way back to your hotel room after drinking.
If your goal is to satisfy your appetite fast rather than trying authentic flavors, your preference should be döner kebab, meatball sandwich or chickpea pilau. Döner, one of the most important foods presented to the world by Turkish cuisine, is both a satisfying and delicious street food option served in a half loaf of bread or a pita. The meatball sandwich vendors are fewer, however, they are easy to find during crowded activities, like sports matches. If you go one of the matches of Istanbul’s big football clubs, while waiting outside the stadium before the match, you can quickly satisfy your hunger by eating a charcoal fire grilled meatball sandwich. The chickpea pilau, on the other hand, is one of the cheapest fast food options in Istanbul, especially when serviced with chicken, salad and ayran (yogurt drink).
Apart from these heavy meals, if you prefer lighter snacks, depending on the season, you can try roasted chestnuts, sweet corn or simit (Turkish bagels) widely sold in the streets of Istanbul. If you are on a winter tour, charcoal roasted warm chestnuts will warm you up; in summer months, boiled or charcoal fire grilled fresh sweet corns and one of the favorite breakfast foods of Istanbul residents, simit, are among the delicious street food options available to satisfy your appetite.