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Buying Spices in Istanbul's Egyptian Bazaar (page 2 of 2)

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This bazar in downtown Istanbul is a cult destination for the spice lover as well as a century-old tourist trap. Find out where to look for the real thing.
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Red peppercorns to serve with fresh goat cheese.

 

2. SWEETS
Half the shops in the Egyptian Bazaar sell Turkish sweets - baklavas, turkish delight, you name it. A friend of mine says that all oriental pastry can be summed up in the question 'Fat or sweet?'.

Turkish delight is not hard to find, and you get a rather large choice of flavor. Now this is never gourmet confectionery, just flavored jelly coated in cornstarch, but buy some for fun.

 

A favorite Turkish sweet brings together two national favorites - nuts and sugar. These are big loaves of pistachios or hazelnuts glued together by a sweet flavored gel. My favorite is the red one - hazelnut and pomegranate.

 

3. THE NUTS
The shops who don't sell spices or sweets sell nuts.

Nuts of all kinds are a good buy in Turkey and here at the Egyptian Bazaar you certainly have a choice. Almonds, pine nuts, hazelnuts and mounds of pistachios.

I bought some of these shelled unsalted raw pistachios to prepare my own pistachio paste at home.

 

4. THE REAL BAZAAR
FXcuisine.com is not about tourist honeytraps and I will now tell you about the real bazaar. Enter the building by the main entrance, walk to the end and exit by the door in front of you instead of turning left into the second aisle.

In those narrow streets, you will find what regular Turks buy - simple cheese (that doesn't look gourmet grade), stuffed wine leaves and several shops selling rustic Turkish cookware. The real thing. Some even have fixed prices, which allowed me to buy huge hand-made shish (skwers the size of sword) for 1€ each.

If you like olives you're unlikely to find as much choice anywhere else than Turkey.

Ada çay is wild sage used as herbal tea, a popular drink in Turkey. I bought some although the leaves never look that good.

What I didn't buy

Every single merchant in the Egyptian bazaar will press you to buy Turkish Viagra, a herbal mix that will enable you to 'make love 5 times in the night'. I managed to escape by saying I wouldn't settle for less than 10 times in the night until one merchant answered 'You'll need to buy two jars for that'.

Published 17/04/2007
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32 Comments

  • #1
  • Comment by Audrey
  • on: 14/05/2007
Dear Sir,Thanks for the above information.I went to Spice Bazaar last week and bought some Turkish delight from a shop. My family loves it but it was not sufficient. I thought of contacting the shop owner in spice bazaar to purchase more goods. If I am not wrong the shop is called "petaspice" or "pataspice" or "patespice). Do you have the contact? If yes, it would be great. Thanks for your help.RgdsAudrey
  • #2
  • Comment by misbah rukhsar
  • on: 02/09/2007
I went to the spice bazaar 10 year ago and also bought some turkish delight for my family, they loved it.  I am thinking about going back this year but was wondering what the prices are like now, is it expensive and what is the price per kilo for the turkish delight?Thanks
  • #3
  • Comment by Kaite
  • on: 07/10/2007
Thanks for all the info. I'm heading to turkey in 2 weeks for a 6 week stay. I hate the thought of buying "the wrong thing" or being taken. Just about everything you can get on line these days. I hope I can find what is hard to find!great web site!
  • #4
  • Comment by  E
  • on: 14/02/2008
I would like to know if you have Naboot el Gafir it is a sweet long sugary stick with sasamee.  Many thanks for a quick reply.
  • #5
  • Comment by dermengi
  • on: 17/02/2008
I like very much Istanbul.is a best place for shopping. For any turist Istanbul is a paradise.....many interesting places. Every year I go there.
  • #6
  • Comment by sunay
  • on: 18/02/2008
Este vederea din istanbul
  • #7
  • Comment by cheryl S.
  • on: 23/03/2008
If Disneyland is for kids, FXcuisine is for adults!Thank you for this amazing site.I'm dizzy!
  • #8
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 24/03/2008
Cheryl thanks for your kind words, I hope you get to visit this amazing Spice Bazaar!
  • #9
  • Comment by Utkun
  • on: 09/04/2008
Hi,
First of all I want to say, I can't stop reading your wonderful blog. Everything is so nice about it. Thanks for it. I'm very happy, you visited Turkey and Istanbul. I am a resident Istanbul and I must agree with all you have written here about the bazaar, shops, desserts etc. I must say you are a very good observer but I want to add some more to your observations just to help people who thinks of visiting Turkey.
Turkey has a nice kitchen which have the origins from Ottoman Empire. Some of them, became popular like Turkish delight (actually it's called "lokum" in Turkish), kebabs, doners etc. When they became popular, tourist hunters tried to make them or some people tried to make them cheap and sell them in streets. So the real and good ones became very hard to find in even Turkey. Only Turkish people can tell you where to eat kebab or get lokum. For example you can't find any eatable lokum in Istanbul because it's made in another city called "Afyon". You can only find good kebabs in %5 restaurants in Istanbul because it's made in another city again "Adana". So Istanbul seems to be a good place to find anything you want but it's not a good place for quality stuff. You need to learn the exact place of it in Istanbul. But your choices were great, nuts were very fine in that Bazaar and maybe some spices.
And one last thing for the Turkish viagra. I really hate these names, Turkish delight, Turkish viagra etc. These are just for tourists. The real name for viagra thing is, "mesir". Mesir is made from 41 kinds of spices. It has a very unique, wonderful taste and as you may guess you can rarely find the quality one in Istanbul. Hope you visit Turkey again, I'll show you where to get the quality ones next time. :)
  • #10
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 09/04/2008
Utkun, thanks a lot for your message! I would very much like of where are the best kebabs and lokums in Istanbul. Would you have any addresses for me? Are there other markets where more authentic Turkish food and ingredients could be seen?
  • #11
  • Comment by yashavanth
  • on: 13/04/2008
I will be visiting turkey by end of this month. Iwill be eager to know more about bying the nuts and dry figs from the spice bazaar. Please advise good shop to buy from.
  • #12
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 13/04/2008
Yashavanth, just spend some time checking the shops in the Egyptian Bazaar and you'll see the nuts and figs you like best. Have a good trip!
  • #13
  • Comment by elsie leung
  • on: 05/06/2008
Hi there,
Thank you for all info on your web? Have you come acoss any rose essential oil in spice bazzar as I planned to buy it from my last trip , but I was too rush to find it. If not available there, should I go to drug store for that? Pls advise.
Thanks,
elsie
  • #14
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 05/06/2008
Elsie, they must have a swimming pool filled with rose water in this bazaar, it's a very common ingredient. Now rose water is distilled rose, not an oil, perhaps you mean something else.
  • #15
  • Comment by arda
  • on: 22/07/2008
Hi, i have just returned from Istanbul and regret that although I bought many things at the spice bazaar that I didn't buy one of the small wooden boxes with the containers of various spices.  Is it possible to have a contact for buying several of these from Melbourne Australa?

Many thanks
Arda
  • #16
  • Comment by Tina
  • on: 25/07/2008
I just recently returned from a trip to Istanbul.  I bought some beluga caviar but not enough (two 4 ounce containers) as I was afraid I could not get through customs. I was able to bring it home and would like to purchase some more.  Can you tell me how I can obtain some more?  Thanks.
  • #17
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 26/07/2008
Tina, you are now like most people in the world - not enough caviar! I am not sure how well caviar withstands air mail. Perhaps grow your own sturgeon in your spare bathtub?
Absolutely right, you have found the best market outside the tourist one; coffee roasters, spices, and cookware. One of my favourite souvenirs of Istanbul is a set of lovely olivewood spatulas, costing about 50 euro cents each, that we bought near Rustempasha mosque - I oiled them gently when we got home and they are still looking splendid after six months' hard use. You can even buy paddles for the pide (pizza) ovens, though they are a bit hard to smuggle on to the plane!

Street food in Istanbul is great -  I don't know if you saw the vendors carrying huge piles of simit (sesame bread) on their heads, or the itinerant borek vendors? All to be washed down with a glass of tea, naturally. We also found roasted chestnuts on sale in April -  not a gourmet meal but absolutely delicious on a crisp morning.
  • #19
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 15/08/2008
Andrea, it's a great market, but would you know of other places like this or just of interest to the discerning foodie in Istanbul?
If Disneyland is for kids, FXcuisine is for adults!Thank you for this amazing site.I'm dizzy!
Hi I am looking for a reasonable source for saffron and gunluk resin (turkish styrax officinalis) have any ideas?
  • #22
  • Comment by Fraigo
  • on: 22/12/2008
Constructed in 1663 as a part of the adjacent Yeni Mosque complex in order to generate funds for the upkeep of the mosque. Misir in Turkish means "Egypt" and it is called The Egyptian Bazaar due to the fact that the spices came from India and South-East Asia to Egypt and from there to Istanbul via the Mediterranean Sea.

Thanks for sharing with us this wonderful experience
  • FX's answer→ Thanks for the precise historical details, indeed the Mosque is very big and just next to the market, one cannot shop there without admiring it!

  • #24
  • Comment by Janine
  • on: 23/02/2009
I have just begun exploring spices in cooking--I really am a beginner, but I love making my own spice mixes, starting with whole spices, toasting, grinding, etc. Some friends of mine are going to Istanbul in a couple of weeks and want to get me something at the spice market there--do you have a couple of suggestions for spices they can buy whole for me that would be of good use in meals (as opposed to candy or desserts)and would push my horizon a little without being completely impractical?
  • FX's answer→ Janine, I revisited that market this year and I think the most exceptional spices they sell are the foot-long cinammon sticks and pure vanilla crystals bags. Your friend will need to look for those though, but they are worth it as I use them every week!

  • #26
  • Comment by Sherrine
  • on: 20/05/2009
I would like to know how to ship spices and seasonings back to USA and how much can I bring home with me?
  • #27
  • Comment by brian
  • on: 06/08/2009
Hi, i would like to know how long this bazaar is opened daily, i habe to work in Istanbul and i would like to go there after work, what dou you think, does anybody know this??

thanks, Brian
  • #28
  • Comment by cutavasanjobo
  • on: 30/08/2009
Hello. Great website, but just like mine it needs updating.
fxcuisine.com – Super! By.
  • FX's answer→ Indeed it does.

  • #30
  • Comment by Fasulye
  • on: 07/11/2009
I see form your report that Istanbul offers a paradise of fresh spices and herbs. where I live buying fresh herbs is very limited, even on markets. People with an own herb garden are privileged. I think Turkey has a different culture using more fresh ingredients than are available here in Germany.
Fasulye
  • #31
  • Comment by Stavros
  • on: 01/04/2010
Concerning the Gum Arabic.
It is also refered to as "mastiha" and it is the resin of a specific tree that only grows in the Greek island of Chios.

It is so common in Eastern desserts (and not only) because when Greece was under the Ottoman occupation the Sultans payed special attention to the gum, for their personal delight as well as for trading purposes.

Modern gum-processing factories use it to flavor almost anything, from liquers (makes sense) to tomato sauce (overkill?). Anyway, it is considered to be very healthy and it is a very interesting ingredient to experiment with.
  • #32
  • Comment by Farzad
  • on: 01/05/2010
thanks fx,it was a nice article with nice pics,the bazaar was well explained and the notification about the spice was very useful,good luck...

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