My Eats in Turkey (Part II) - Istanbul, Cappadocia, Fetihye, Pammukale, Selcuk, etc

It's been nearly two months since I went on my Turkey trip so this post is awfully late but better late than never, right?

My second week of my two week trip in Turkey was spent primarily outside of Istanbul as I hit up Cappadocia, Fetihye, Pamukkale, Ephesus, Selcuk and more.

It was a whirlwind of a trip and with Turkey being so enormously vast, some days I spent the whole day just getting from one destination to another!

Up in the skies over Cappadocia...

Here's the rest of the eats I had in Turkey, continuing on from part one.



 After spending a week in Istanbul, I finally ventured out to my first stop, Cappadocia.

While many opt to take the really nice long-distance express buses for travel in Turkey, some of the longer routes can take as much as 9-12 hours! Being short on time and with a pretty extensive itinerary of things I wanted to see/do in my brief two weeks, I opted to take budget airlines for some of the longer routes I traveled.

Cheese sandwich served on my Anadolu Jet flight from Istanbul to Cappadocia (Kayseri)

Despite the flight from Istanbul to Kayseri being only an hour, a simple cheese sandwich with beverages were served on the plane which came as a welcome snack for myself who had one heck of a time getting to the Sabiha Gokcen Airport that morning...

Breakfasts in Turkey were some of my favorite meals. Being more of an afternoon/night guy, breakfast has often been an overlooked meal for myself but I always made sure to eat a hearty breakfast in Turkey everyday.

The lovely cave hotel I stayed in in Cappadocia (Koza Hotel. Highly recommended!) ended up serving the best breakfasts I had in Turkey. It was your typical Turkish breakfast buffet with olives, various cheese, hard boiled eggs, bread, yogurt, spreads, cold cuts, cucumbers and tomato, fruits, juices, coffee, tea and whatnot... but this was all fresh and high quality stuff.

Much more offered than I could fit on a plate...

                                         
The breads were cooked or toasted by the owners, the vegetables and cheese were fresh and the yogurt.... oh my Lord... the yogurt... Thick, fluffy, creamy... I'm almost embarrassed how many servings of yogurt I ate for breakfast each day. Big, heaping spoonfuls of it with just a light drizzle of honey or jam... 
This sort of Turkish/Greek style yogurt isn't easily purchasable in Korea so I think I was just eating my missed out fill. The owner lady even later commented to me that I must really love yogurt.Yes, ma'am. Yes, I do. 

These sort of fresh, satisfying and balanced breakfasts were the perfect fuel for long days of walking and exploring about and just right to hold you until lunch without making you feel heavy. Sigh... Oh, I miss you so Turkish breakfasts...

Now, Cappadocia with its breathtaking scenery, wonderful people and small-town feel ended up being my favorite place in Turkey. But I'll confess that my eats there were good, but not at the level of being my most memorable eats in Turkey.

On one late night, I read about an inexpensive but great food eatery called Nazar Borek Cafe & Restaurant and visited it.

I ordered the special barley soup (to try something different than lentil soup) and was told it was a special soup they made for weddings in the region. 

With bits of barley and other goods, the savory soup was hearty and reminded me of minestrone. It was good with the baskets of bread. 

Thick and hearty!

The place is most famous for its Borek which is this flaky pastry-like dish with meats and veggies stuffed inside. It came with a tomato sauce and yogurt sauce on the side. I also ordered a shepherd's salad and tea with the meal.

Turkish tea, shepherd's salad and Borek

The Borek, to be honest, underwhelmed. It was certainly good- flaky yet moist and filled with various ingredients. But I didn't find it as amazing or memorable as the other reviewers I read. The sauce seemed like it was just sauce from a can as did the yogurt. 

Inside the Borek

If I recall, you could order various fillings for the Borek. Perhaps it was because I visited during the off-season in April (Goreme almost seemed like a ghost town at nights when I was there) and because I visited the restaurant so late but my meal was very forgettable.  

I must say though, while the food was average for me here, it was the owner, Mr. Refik, who overwhelmed me with his kindness, positive attitude and bright spirits.

Refik is so jovial and cheery and has one of those infectious attitudes where you find yourself smiling along with him. Besides me was another table of two French backpackers and Refik easily conversed with them in French and myself in English. He also speaks a number of other languages including Japanese and he shared a bit about his adventurous life living in Europe and such too. 

Attentive and so funny, in the middle of our meal, he busted out his traditional Turkish instruments and started playing and singing for us along with his cook! 




Video I shot of one of the performances of Mr. Chef and Refik

Refik and I! Such a cool guy

On another day I went out for a hike in the Ihlara Valley and for lunch I got, what I was told, a local specialty of trout from the Melendiz Stream that runs within it.


T'was pretty good.The fish arrived in a hot plate and tasted fresh if a little lacking in flavor. The rice, though it looked flavorful, was also a bit bland. That grilled pepper packed some heat though woo-wee! And I'm Korean! :P 

My final dinner meal in Cappadocia was spent at Dibek where I made it a mission to try out the local specialty- Testi Kebab (also known as pottery kebab).

Dibek is housed in a 475-year old building and was originally used as a stable and storage area. The restaurant has been beautifully renovated with traditional touches and complete with traditional floor seating. With the ambiance and everything, I saw the place was filled with many couples while I remained the only one there solo as far as I could see (ㅜ_ㅜ) 

Quick snapshot of inside the lovely restaurant. Note the real fireplace that was being used on the right!


The Testi Kebab is a dish which requires one to make an advanced order a few hours ahead and features meats, veggies and spices slow cooked within a clay pot and then cracked open at the table. You could order a chicken, beef or vegetarian version and I opted for the beef. 

Soon after being seated, the waiter arrived with a piping hot clay pot which he placed on my table and with a few whacks, the top came off as he poured the steaming contents over my rice and pickled beets. 

Whack! Whack! Goes the hammer and off comes the top!

Ground beef, various vegetables simmered with sauce

I have to say, despite the show and everything, taste-wise I wasn't blown away. The way the description made it sound I thought the flavors would really pack a punch with deep and complex flavors from the long cooking time but it didn't seem anything that one couldn't get by cooking in a regular pot. 

It was a nice hearty dish but considering its price, which wasn't crazy but definitely on the higher side for a Turkish meal, I felt after having tried it once I didn't really have a reason to order it again. 

With my meal came a small side of various pickled vegetables, some pickled beets and a basket of bread. I ordered a cup of their house wine. The red wine was pretty good and was an excellent way to cap off my long day.

My full spread

I'm not a big dessert person in general but I wanted to try out something local so I ended the meal by ordering a plate of Aside. This is a traditional sweet of the region which is made from flour, oil and grape molasses which are cooked into little cakes and topped with a nutty sauce.

Aside

Aside, like the pottery kebab, was another dish that I decided after sampling I didn't really feel the need to order it twice again ^^;; It was pleasant enough, the little cakes were not overwhelmingly sweet and the nutty sauce a nice complement. But the texture- not quite cakey but not too soft either- was a bit odd for me. When chewing it was the kind of feeling one gets in your mouth when your trying to eat a big tablespoon of peanut butter. I had to drink a lot of water to help bring it down. 

When the dish first arrived I thought the serving seemed rather small but by the third cake, I was already feeling a bit heavy as the cakes were a bit on the oily side. 

All in all, with Dibek, I would give the restaurant top marks for its environment and setting but the food was so-so....

With that, I spent almost the entire day the following day on planes, buses, shuttles and whatnot to get to my next city destination in Fetihye way down in the southern part of Turkey. It was an exhausting day and though my day began at 6 in the morning, it wasn't until 8pm or so that I finally arrived in my lodging in Fetihye. 

Starving, I trekked around the charming Fetihye downtown at night to a place called Pasa Kebab which I had read from my handy dandy Lonely Planet guidebook.

The place was a bit hard to find but was teeming with people- most of them Turkish (always a good sign when you see locals in your restaurant visits abroad). 

I was intrigued by their Pasa special and put in an order for that along with their Pasa special salad.

The Pasa special salad arrived with a basket of bread and already looked spectacular. A medley of diced tomatoes, onion, green pepper, parsley, cucumber and mint were dressed in an amazing house made dressing comprised of walnuts, olive oil and pomegranate. 

The amazing Pasa Special Salad

I don't think I can go on enough about how amazing this salad was. So many textures and tastes combined in such a fresh manner... the crunchy bits of walnuts, the crisp cucumbers, the bits of parsley and mint and other ingredients came together beautifully with the pomegranate/olive oil dressing. 

To me, it was as close to the definition of a perfect salad as anything and marks one of the few times in life that I found a salad so memorable. 

Already in high spirits from the excellent salad, the enormous Kebab Special soon arrived accompanied by a big old flatbread fresh out of the oven. 

Flat bread hot out of the oven!

Pasa Kebab's Kebab Special is described as being a dish of minced beef wrapped in flat bread and seasoned bulghur wheat, topped with cheese, cheese and more cheese which is baked then topped with a big dollop of sour cream.

The enormous Kebab Special

I was immediately taken back by the sheer size of the dish. Though the dish was meant to be for one, it definitely could have been shared by two. Despite my love for cheese, sour cream and such, the initial thought of how many calories this dish struck me as a slight concern at first but I reasoned that after a grueling day I deserved a nice treat. And plus, I had an excellent light salad! 

Whatever concerns I had though, immediately dissipated after I dug in for my first bite...

Digging inside the Kebab Special... I am drooling as I type this...

Hot damn, was this good... The morsel of meats were nestled inside pillowy soft flatbreads and with melted cheese all around and enhanced by the cold sour cream. Health concerns aside, this was just comfort food at its finest and the more I dug into the dish the more I found myself just smiling as I gobbled down. 

The kebab was all the more excellent when washed down between bites by a frosty Efes beer and before I knew it, I had finished up that big old plate and was knocking back my last gulp of my Efes... 

Hot damn. What a memorable meal. Pasa Kebab definitely made my top three eats in Turkey. For. Sure. I still dream about that salad and kebab to this day... The huge flat bread served on the side was left over and taken home by me which made a nice snack the next day :) 


I also tried my first Adana Kebab in Fetihye for lunch one day. This kebab is a spicier one which came from Adana, also from the south of Turkey. 

Adana Kebab! 

An enormous puffed up bread was brought straight from the oven along with the Adana Kebab platter. My eyes grew round at the sheer size of the bread but I found once I tore into it, it was hollow inside making it more manageable. 

The strip of Adana kebab came with grilled potatoes, grilled onions and a bed of different vegetables. 

Looks big but it's empty inside :)

See the bits of spices embedded within the kebab?


The Adana Kebab had a nice spicy flavor and was nice eaten with the accompaniments or by itself. The grilled onions and potatoes must have been cooked somehow with the meat because they had a wonderful grilled aroma to them. 

I should also mention that Fetihye has a famous fish market where fresh fish and seafood is brought in from the Mediterranean and sold for great prices. Situated right next to the fish stalls are restaurants who will prepare and serve your fish/seafood with unlimited salad and bread for a flat, cheap price. 

Sadly, I was a bit out of time to be able to try it out but I did swing by the market and found it very fascinating. 

Fresh seafood!

Moving on from Fetihye I had a quick daytrip in Pamukkale. That was another day of interesting travels as I ended up on this slow and packed mini bus through winding villages where random village folks would get on with their crops and goods and I was the lone foreigner on the bus.

I arrived in Pamukkale starving from my travels and quickly found an eatery to fill my stomach and escape the drizzle outside.

I ordered a chicken kebab platter and also received a generous plate of meat, veggies and carbs

Standard chicken kebab platter

Arriving late in Selcuk, I met another fellow Korean who was staying in my same hotel and we decided to grab dinner at a place he had found beforehand. 

The place is apparently known for their skewers and their cheap prices. They also have a very popular lamb stomach sandwich but I wasn't feeling too adventurous after traveling all day so I opted for the beef skewers. 

Grilled onions, tomatoes, arugala and beef skewers

Served with bread (of course), the entire thing was certainly dirt cheap but nothing worth remembering. The owner was quite friendly though despite us arriving at closing time and even gave us Turkish cay for free.

The next day, on the way to Ephesus, it just so happened Selcuk's weekly market was being held that day which I dropped by for a peek..

Sausages

Setting up their goods

All around me were tables and tables of fresh produce, spices and other goods. The prices were excellent and I was tempted to just pick up a few things there for a fresh picnic for lunch later that day but running short on time I was only able to look :(

Returning from Ephesus I was beginning to run low on funds and determined not to have to exchange at an ATM since it was a Sunday and all the banks were closed, I had to begin really stretching my Liras. 

I found a cheap place to grab a bite at a little eatery in downtown Selcuk which was full of locals.

I grabbed a beef sandwich which was quite big for 5 Turkish Liras. Granted, it was mostly bread and little filling but it did the trick to hold me over until dinner. Definitely was hearkened back to my poorer study abroad days in university!

Beef kebab sandwich

My final dinner meal in Selcuk was a beef patty and eggplant dish. The meatball patties were flavorful and moist and certainly tasty. The grilled eggplants were a bit of a strange texture and not very flavorful so I wasn't too big of a fan but I made sure to eat everything on the plate except for the peppers which were mad hot. 

Meatballs and eggplants!

Returning back to Istanbul for my final stretch of my trip, I finally managed to be brave enough to try out a Lokanta in Turkey. These are casual eateries with ready made foods, from stews to salads to main dishes, laid out and ready to be heated and served. You just grab a tray, point to the different things you want, receive your food, pay at the register and sit and eat. It's almost like a Turkish cafeteria with homemade food.

If you're an adventurous eater and looking for authentic local food in Turkey, Lokantas are some of the best you can do. There's hardly ever any English signs and the workers will speak limited English at best but this is where it gets fun since you can clearly see all the different dishes laid out but you don't really know what it is!

On my first dinner at a Lokanta I just pointed at different things that looked good and here was my spread:

Some sort of a meatball and potato stew!

A cold, sweet and tart dip made from tomatoes and other vegetables

Chicken kebab platter

Chicken kebab and veggies stuffed inside my bread with the dip

It was a big hit of a meal for me. I loved the hearty stew with the meatballs and soft potatoes. The chicken kebab platter was your standard kebab platter but paired with the unknown dip, it really took my chicken kebab to another level. 

Looking it up online, I believe the dip was acili ezme which is described as a spicy tomato dip. I didn't find the dip spicy at all and I'm not even sure if you're supposed to eat it with kebab but I loved it and wolfed it down. 

Another meal was spent at a very special Istanbul institution and that is the grilled mackerel fish sandwiches by Galata Bridge...

The famous fish grill boats right by Galata Bridge

Known more to non-locals as "fish kebab", these floating boats houses giant grills which grills up fresh mackerel and serves it in a big old hunk of bread with onions and a bit of greens. After a squirt of lemon juice and some salt if you want, grab a cup of pickles and you have a cheap and filling, very fast meal.

Mackerels being grilled

Handing out fresh sandwiches to eager customers

Come around lunch time and the tables by the boats will be filled with locals. While seated, guys selling cups of pickles, beverages, wet napkins and such will come around. You can also pick up the pickles at the pickle stalls nearby.

Pickled veggies for sale. A must with the fish kebabs!

At every table is lemon juice and salt for your personal preference

Mmm mm..

Many of those who have been to Istanbul have told me this was one of their most memorable eats and I could see why. The fish tasted fresh and the sandwich itself with the pickles were so cheap and fast! Granted, I think the ratio of bread to filling was a bit skewed with a little more bread than I would have liked. Nevertheless, I'd definitely recommend a visit for anyone who visits Istanbul!

For my final meal of my Turkey trip I contemplated going out somewhere fancy... but being by myself I felt lazy and less inclined to do so. After giving it some thought, I ended up going back to the Lokanta I went the night before and just ordered a bunch of dishes again and was certainly not disappointed!

Lokantas will always have a fond spot in my heart for my dining experiences in Korea. It just felt and tasted like homely meals and definitely filled up more than just your belly especially when one had to often eat alone!

 For my final meal, I opted for a nice salad to begin with. Salads aren't that big in Korea and I've always loved a simple and light salad so Turkish cuisine worked well for me in that regard.

Simple, fresh and delicious

The soups were also such a unique and memorable part of my eats in Turkey. It's such a simple dish really but the tastes were so unique yet tasty that I celebrated with my last bowl of Turkish soup, this one a red lentil soup. 

With just a simple spritz of a lemon wedge, the soup becomes something so much more!

I'm such an embarrassingly crazy fan of potatoes and this little guy caught my eye. A mound of a mashed potato looking ball sat atop a big patty and was encircled by fries. I could not say no!

Why, hello there

Cutting into the beef patty

This turned out to be great too. The beef was seasoned with various spices and moist. The mashed potato mound on top had just a bit of cheese that had been lightly cooked, I'm guessing in an oven, that gave a nice crispy cheesy skin. 

Meat and potatoes... can't go wrong with that can we? Granted, I'm not sure how authentically Turkish this last one was...

The last supper...

Though my last meal was quite simple and homely, I think it really encapsulated what I concluded about Turkish cuisine in general. It was not only made with fresh, top quality ingredients but simple yet homely. It had all the feelings of a meal and not just a hashed out serving of food. 

Granted, I know I only just scratched the surface of a complex and wide-spanning cuisine but my crash introduction course on Turkish food 101 was a sheer delight and my various eats in Turkey certainly one of the most memorable highlights of my Turkey trip. 

Elinize saglik, Turkey! And teşekkür ederim!

Look out for my full Turkey photo albums coming up on Facebook soon!