Fish Börek like at Balikçi SabahattinHome >> Recipes
Turkish cuisine is very rich, but finding a really Turkish gourmet meal is not easy. Balikçi Sabahattin, Istanbul top fish restaurant, is located in a beautiful ottoman house in the historical district Sultanahmed, and is no longer off the beaten track. But despite the large number of affluent tourists, the food suffers no compromises.
I visited twice and was so impressed by their simple concept. Cook simple Turkish food to the highest order possible. As you arrive, the boss greets you and locate your table on one of the three floors. A waiter comes with a large tray covered with little jars - the mezze. Choose anything you like - roasted peppers, aubergine salad, yogurt or order from the hot starters menu their delicious mussels pilaf and the divine fish börek.
Here is how I managed to make at home one of my three favorite dishes at Balikçi Sabahattin - their gourmet fish börek. Most böreks are deep-fried little cylinders or triangles of filo dough filled (photo) with bad fresh cheese, spinach or meat. But this one had the complexity of a long-simmered Italian crockpot delicacy or of a french braisé. Amazingly fragrant.
You then choose your fish - red snapper or sea bass will not disappoint you - and wait. The whole neighborhood is bathed in the delicious smell of the fine fishes grilled over hot charcoal at Balikçi Sabahattin, but they grill one fish after the other, so it can take some time. But my friend, it is well worth the wait. Despite the utter simplicity of the dish, it really takes a restaurateur at the top of his art to deliver consistently perfect fish grilled in this way. And don't miss the desserts - that's your opportunity to give traditional Turkish cuisine its fair chance. So often you get a bland mixture of fat, sugar and some starch in Turkey, but here the gloriously rich simmered quinces will carry you to new heights.
Some people assume that asking a restaurant for a recipe will have you meet a brutish fate. I don't think that's true. Restaurateurs and chefs are often flattered that a patron liked a dish enough to want to make it at home. They like it when somebody notice all the care and flair they bestowed on an appetizer most clients will gobble down in a second while talking on their cellphone. And chefs just don't meet their clients that often.
I managed to ask the courteous but overworked waiter if he could spare a minute and get me recipe. The third time around, he came back with a three-ingredients-list. I don't speak Turkish, but there were certainly more than three ingredients in this börek. So I asked the boss, who kindly jotted down 7 ingredients on a piece of paper 'I wrote them in Turkish - you'll have to forgive me'. I thanked profusely and tipped as generously as ever and came back home.
To get the procedure right, I asked a Turkish friend to call the restaurant up and ask the chef how the ingredients came together. The only thing I
didn't get were the quantities, but they are easy to assess as you make
*The original recipe calls for fresh pelamid or anchovy fillets but I used with excellent result the freshest catfish money can buy on Lake Geneva. I bought frozen filo dough but a real he-man Turkish chef would do it himself, with undoubtedly better results. The chef at Balikçi Sabahattin recommends using fresh tomatoes. You can substitute isot biber with your favorite chili flakes but it won't be the same.
Serve hot as an appetizer. I will certainly make this dish again!
Balikçi Sabahattin Restaurant