Kadikoy Market + Ciya Sofrasi
Over the holidays, I took an eye-opening, culinary trip to Turkey visiting the region of Cappadocia, Istanbul, and Bodrum. You couldn’t have picked more different landscapes, and each came with regional specialties and stylistic differences in cooking. It was, in sum, amazing, and I can’t wait to share some of my Turkish inspired recipes over the next few months.
But first…while in Istanbul, I spent the morning of New Years roaming Kadikoy market, a serious culinary destination on the Asian side of the city. I spoke with a few home cooks and chefs, and this is THE place to shop for all of your food needs with everything from (ridiculously) fresh fish, fresh produce, spices, cheeses, prepared foods…you name it. As the morning went on, the area became frenzied as people picked up their last minute provisions for the night.
There were some firsts for me…like being invited to have tea while in an offal shop. Staring atkokoretsi, a lambs’ intestines specialty, or brains, or the tripe (that is stewed for a signature hangover cure there) while sipping sweetened tea was new! I also drank an entire (well…almost) glass of pickle juice, which is to say the brine used to pickle different vegetables; it’s quite popular there for health purposes and is said to ward off sicknesses. Finally, I tasted an unexpectedly delicious Turkish cave cheese and spooned a stuffed mussel from a street vendor into my mouth.
After much taste-testing (I’m a double-roasted pistachio Turkish delight kind of gal) and food shopping, I ended my tour of the market with lunch at the famous, Ciya Sofrasi and a chance encounter with the incredible Chef Musa, a visionary in the culinary world. Chef Musa has developed what you could call an anthropological approach to his cooking – visiting the far reaches of the country to learn regional specialties and true home cooking from the diverse ethnicities that populate Turkey. He also sources purveyors from around the country to find only the best, regional, seasonal ingredients – using everything from mountain greens to local wild mushrooms.
The restaurant is very casual with all of the salads, soups, stews, and desserts laid out for the picking. We had a mountainous mezze plate with the best yoghurt and eggplant dip I’ve tasted, flavorful dolmas and fresh zaatar salad. Then, on to the fresh sausage, a flurry of stews including my favorite lamb and quince, and an elegant dessert plate with what I can only describe as candied olives. Delicious.
Both the market and any of the three Ciya restaurants (within a few feet of each other) are a must for a visit to Istanbul. For the best in sweets, check out Beyaz Firin, which has everything from traditional Turkish desserts to French pastries and macarons.