Tag Archives: Street food

Eating in Istanbul

6 Feb

I suddenly had to go to Istanbul for a few days (long story). So, of course, I have to fit in some eating:

People were drinking Turkish tea in small clear glasses with a lump of sugar everywhere I went. In the Grand Bazaar, I’d see delivery people running around with trays of 5 or 6 glasses of it. I finally happened on a tiny tea stand in the market where the runners were picking it up:

I had a few glasses over the course of the day– it was the default drink to get with any food, and as a slightly bitter and acidic drink was a nice break from all of the intense sweets and fatty meat:

My favorite food so far was at Kara Mehmet, which I’d read about on Chowhound and some random blogs. It’s an informal little cafe in one of the quiet courtyards (Cebeci Han) nestled within the Grand Bazaar. It took some time to find, but I finally noticed a sign with an arrow pointing towards Cebeci Han.

Their Adana Kebab is a mix of minced lamb and some “tail fat”, giving it a rich flavor and cohesive texture (reminding me of  meatballs I’ve had wrapped in caul fat). And the onions covered with slightly-acidic sumac were a great complement, along with a charred pepper. I highly recommend this place. And it was only about $7.


I also had a Turkish Coffee, which came in this presentation:

One piece of Turkish Delight (gel, sugar, mastic, some date puree perhaps?), and the thick, silty, sweet Turkish Coffee, which may have now edged out Vietnamese Coffee as my favorite strong-small-sweet form for coffee.

Lamb shawerma / gyro, cooked on a spit in front of a stack of coals, with a nonchalantly elaborate tile wall, also inside the sprawling Bazaar:

Served with bread, pickled hot peppers, and a shaker full of sumac powder. Tasty, and cheap, but not change-my-life amazing (perhaps slightly better than Truly Med in San Francisco):

Many street stalls selling fresh-squeezed pomegranate juice for $1:

I’m a sucker for roasted chestnuts when it’s cold out. And for old mechanical balances for weighing them out:

Even a normally-boring hotel breakfast isn’t too bad– olives, fish, a sesame sweet similar to halva, dates, and so on (Turks are comfortable eating sweets any time of the day):

And, a street bread vendor in the Book Bazaar:

Off to a good start…

Eating in Singapore

25 Jan

If a few days of eating near Shanghai let me down, eating in Singapore blew me away– the food was so consistently good, and varied. And some of my best experiences were street food or other inexpensive food (I already posted some photos of my amazing chicken rice experience at 109 Bukit Batok, West Avenue 6). Some other photos:

The Maxwell Road Hawker Center (near Chinatown), a combination indoor/outdoor bazaar of many independent food vendors.

In particular,  I had the grilled whole mackerel with grilled chicken, rice, chili, and pickles from the “Japanese and Korean BBQ” stall, and it was fantastic:

I also heard that Halal Seafood and Tian Tian Chicken Rice stands in the Maxwell Hawker Center were good, but I didn’t get to try them.

Roti prata (fried flour-based pancake, almost like a naan but a bit thinner, with a curry dipping sauce), also from a stand in the same hawker center (I don’t remember the exact name):

Getting even further away from the shiny new hi-rises to the Arab Quarter and the Mustafa Center, a sprawling many-block-long complex of grocery stores, housewares, moneychangers, and other shops.  Here, there were three long aisles of only different kinds of rice:

A whole aisle end cap of ghee…

And durian, which I didn’t try, alas (though apparently I wouldn’t have been able to bring it on the subway afterwards…)

Peeling and eating longan (a.k.a. dragon eye), which I know is common in Southeast Asia, but I’d never had it. It was something like a lychee in taste and a grape in texture, and the solid seed inside was a surprise. I liked it quite a bit.

I saw someone making what I thought was another roti prata [edit: but ended up being chapati, an unleavened flatbread] in a random street stall near Mustafa’s, perhaps on Serangoon Road, and had to get it:

Tangentially related, an elegant museum exhibit of spices, behind an exhibit on street food:


Sugar cane juice, fresh squeezed in a mechanical press, from a street stall:

Another day, as part of a big group lunch with hosts: a salad including raw fish, shredded radish, and many other ingredients, which we stood around and tossed / mixed together communally with our chopsticks to celebrate the New Year. A later Google search suggested this is yusheng a.k.a. “prosperity toss”.

I asked for something spicy, and they brought out very hot red peppers in vinegar as a condiment. Two pieces mixed into a pile of rice was enough, four pieces was painful. But it had real flavor– it wasn’t just a macho spice experience.

One evening, I went down to Boat Quay, where dozens of open-air restaurants crowded along the water. At an Indian place (perhaps Haldhi? I’m not sure), I had a whole sea bass, prepared tandoor style. It was what I wanted– protein and not too rich a sauce, and was good, but not great (other people I ate with had the same feeling about the restaurant). Part of the attraction here was to be eating in balmy evening weather along the water, in a bustling cheery area.

At one point in the trip, I had a mango jelly with chunks of fresh mango) with tapioca pearls and condensed milk– quite good.

There was more eating packed into the week, but this was the most memorable food.