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Ramadan Kebabs in Istanbul (page 2 of 2)

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A reader invited me in a neighborhood kebab house in Istanbul for the first night of Ramadan. After a short introduction, 50 pictures to take you through the whole meal from preparation to finish. Don't miss this!
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During Ramadan, muslims start to eat only when the sun sets. At 19h27 we sit down and wait a few minutes for the ezan, the moment when the sun has disappeared and you can start to eat.

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The first item to arrive on the table was a plate of fresh herbs - mint, parsley and rucola. Metin will show us how to eat them in a little while.

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A fresh salad looking much like North African chermoullah arrived. I'm not keen on fresh tomatoes and didn't try it, but it certainly contains pomegranate seeds, cucucumber dices, freshly ground walnuts, green onions, fresh tomatoes, mint and olive oil.

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Soup - some of us get a light lentils soup but I make the right choice and go for yuvarlama, a meat, chickpeas, mint, olive oil and yogurt soup (recipe). This amazing soup is typical of Anatolia, a mountainous and rural area of Turkey where all the restaurant staff and its owner come from. The owner Hayrettin Sürmeli is away, his daughter Eda, after which he named the restaurant, marries in Gaziantep, his hometown. They only make it once a year, for the first day of Ramadan apparently. It has a wonderfully tart flavor and white color, both on account of the yoghurt. The lentils soup tastes bland in comparison.

Alcohol is widely consumed by Muslims in Turkey, but not during Ramadan. My Turkish friends drink what Utkun translates as carrot juice with pepper. I try it and nearly puke - this things is like a purgative medicine and then some. So bitter. It looks like the delicious sour cherry juice seen everywhere in Turkey, but I won't acquire its taste tonight. Utkun's father also drank the popular savory liquid yogurt. I got myself a Coca Cola Zero from a huge tray.

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Irfan makes good-humored remarks while we discuss the war with Georgia. Is this a danger or an opportunity for Turkey?, I ask Both, they answer gravely.

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Shortly after 20h00 this platter of kebab arrive, with the bread on top and the vegetables on the side. All use forks and knives to serve from the platter but I can't help grabbing a piece of bread with my bare hands under Metin's scrutinizing glaze.

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Metin undertakes to demonstrate me how to eat a kebab like a Turkish gentleman, while the rest of the table cheers him on.

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You take a piece of flat breads (much flatter than the ones we saw being prepared a moment before). Place a few pieces of grilled lamb, one hot pepper, an onion and a roasted tomato.

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Garnish with a twig of parsley.

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Roll like a cigar...

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... and enjoy!

I follow suit and for half an hour we gorge ourselves on these luscious kebabs mixing the smokey, spicy but tender meat with the juicy roasted vegetables. For a moment I thought I was in heaven.

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As more food arrives, my face turns pale. How many people have choked to death on bad versions of these içli köfte? In my country you get the impression that they are made a month before you eat them. I was suspicious at first, but ended up eating three of them. Just amazing. Ground lamb meat is mixed with spices and herbs and ground walnuts. Then each ball is wrapped in crunchy cooked bulgur (steamed wheat grains) and deep-fried. The crust is light and crunchy, and the inside wet. These were better than most Arancini I've ever eaten.

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The lahmacun topped with melted cheese - a pure delight.

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Suddendly the chef rushes to our table and grabs me. It is half past eight and the restaurant is chock-full. He wants you to see how they make the house specialty, explains Utkun. Inci Kebap or 'Pearl Kebab' is made from a ground lamb kebab grilled on hot coals, just like the kebabs we just ate.

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The grilled kebab is sprinkled with cheese and wrapped in a thin uncooked flat bread.

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They brush the roll with oil and place it in the wood-fired bread oven until crispy.

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The rolls are cut in thick slices, then garnished with eggplant caviar, tomato sauce, melted cheese, freshly pounded pistachios and a few roasted hot green chili peppers.

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If you saw this in a regular kebab joint in London or Zurich, you might hardly give it any notice. But here in this neighborhood kebap restaurant in Istanbul, where everything is cooked fresh, including the bread, the pearl kebab works out to be a gem. The bread is slightly crispy, with a decadent layer of wet roated tomatoes and eggplants and cheese, and the meat inside will make any Western kebab look like Cornish pasties. Extraordinary!

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While we reminisce our delicious meal, ...

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Soner arrives with the most delicious, homebaked baklava (bottom) and sweet cheese pudding künefe (top right).

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You see baclava in every döner kebab joint but they are rarely as good as this - soaked in sugar syrup and made with freshly ground pistachios.

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The chef is concerned about what we think of his künefe. We like it. He explains that he makes it with a layer of angel hair pasta at the bottom, then grape molasses, pistachios, sugar and unsalted cheese. This is no cottage cheese but real seasoned cheese that contains no salt. Utkun mentioned a cheesy dessert, which I pointed out would not work out to be an attractive name in English. I meant a dessert made from cheese, he replied good humoredly. The pudding is then baked in the oven for 10 minutes and turned upside down and covered with syrup.

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Do you eat like this every Ramadan night?, I ask. If you do, I'm willing to convert to Islam tonight. All laugh and protest that this is an exceptional meal. The gentleman standing explains that he has not drunk a single glass of water nor eaten anything for the whole day. It's now past nine at night and he is off to the Mosque for prayer before he has his first meal of the day.

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Half past nine. They ask me what I'll have for drinks after the dessert. Coffee, very sweet., I answer. I smile while Utkun first says kahve, then the waiter asks him How sweet?, like they always do. They laugh and Lokman, who came to sit with us, tells me: Francois, we call those who drink sweet coffee: «students». Grown-ups don't need any sugar.

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The coffees and teas arrive. I try to take a picture of the cup, but the head chef (in blue) adds a glass of water next to the cup. He explains that You drink the water before the coffee to cleanse your mouth of the meal's taste so you fully enjoy the coffee. I dutifully drink some mineral water before the coffee, the move the cup away for the picture.

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I like my coffee sweet. Turkish coffee is served with the coffee powder at the bottom of the cup. The more you drink, the riskier it becomes to fill your mouth with coffee lees. And you can't add the sugar yourself as this would mean unsettling the lees at the bottom with a spoon.

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While we prudently sip our Turkish coffee, Utkun looks up a word in his dictionary. How thoughtful! Utkun speaks and writes great English, but he wanted to be sure to be able to translate accurately special spices or herbs' names for me. Please send me more readers like Utkun!

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When I go in the back to pay discreetly for the whole meal, as I had planned, the chef comes back to the table with an angry face. He starts speaking in Turkish to my hosts who all burst in laughter. Utkun translates. The chef said you wanted to pay for the meal? No way. You were kind enough to come and visit us, we pay. They would not have it any other way. Metin pulls out a credit card and quietly pays while Utkun tells me I think if we stay any longer they'll ask us to clean the dishes. The staff now wants to go the Mosque so that they can have dinner. As we leave, Metin asks if I get paid to make FXcuisine.com. I sure don't, but from time to time I get a free meal is my answer. They all laugh and disappear into the night while Utkun drives me back to the ferry.

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Eda Ocakbaşi (Kebab House «Eda»)
Kaya Sultan Sk. No:73 (corner of Kaya Sultan Sk. with çevre yolu streets)
34742 Kozyataği - Kadıköy
Istanbul
Phone: +90 (0) 216 463 34 23

Published 08/09/2008
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100 Comments

What an amazing experience! Eating with locals is definitely the best way to enjoy the cuisine of a particular country.
  • #2
  • Comment by brocha
  • on: 08/09/2008
I have to go to Istanbul.  Anyway when You will be in Poland (Krakow) I will invite You for making real pierogi. ;)
  • #3
  • Comment by Jason
  • on: 08/09/2008
Thank you for a great journey and Happy Ramadan to all in this story.
  • #4
  • Comment by Joanna
  • on: 08/09/2008
FABULOUS ... I, too, love Turkey, although I have never visited Istanbul. Now you make me want to go there .... the photographs were better than ever

How did the swim go? Did they do it? How long did it take?

Joanna
  • #5
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 08/09/2008
Joanna, thanks for visiting! The swim went fine, all of those who went in got out on the other side. Thanks to the favorable current and nice weather it took the swimmers about an hour to cross.
  • #6
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 08/09/2008
Brocha, I'd love to visit Poland and was speaking about making an article about Polish cuisine yesterday, but I need some props which I couldn't find here so far.
  • #7
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 08/09/2008
Fran, this really was a memorable meal and there is just no way I'd have experienced anything like this were it not for Uktun's kind help. The Turkish people are really nice and welcoming, anybody with a negative view on "muslims" should really have a vacation in Turkey to change his view of the world. Delightful people.
  • #8
  • Comment by brocha
  • on: 08/09/2008
anyway you're invaited :)
A Great journey to a fabulous location.

Looks like he had a great time.

Dave
  • #10
  • Comment by trish
  • on: 08/09/2008
Another amazing article - you do the most wonderful job of letting those of us who will probably never have these types of experiences enjoy your travels. I really, really enjoyed this adventure - keep up the good work!

Trish
Omaha, NE, USA
  • #11
  • Comment by Richard Clayton
  • on: 08/09/2008
Hi Francois,

What a fabulous evening you had!

In the late 90s I went travelling around Europe with a friend. We decided at the last minute to push on to Istanbul and had a tremendous time. As a result we went further East into Turkey and ended up spending a month there.

They are a truly wonderful people. Extremely generous and warm. My friend and I had similar experiences to you. We started chatting to someone in a shop or a bar and they'd arrange to take us to the village they grew up in or cook us a meal. This happened consistently throughout our journeys. Nobody wanted or expected money or anything but shared company in return.

As a resut it takes a while to disengage the suspicious, cynical and guarded Western attitude to "strangers". To actually mix and feel instanly welcome and relaxed (thus letting your "natural" guard down) with people you've only known a few hours is something really special.

You've made me long to go back. Oh, yes and then there's the food. Your beautiful photographs really take me back and I can smell the charcoal grill and the charred peppers the spiced lamb, the pide bread.

As you have, I cannot urge people enough to go and visit this country and its people and sample the hospitality and food.

As sala'amu alaikum

Richard
  • #12
  • Comment by Sarah
  • on: 08/09/2008
Wow...what generous people and beautiful food. Southern California has every type of food but we don't really have that "One Dish" that everyone - EVERYONE - eats. I love that it's a mish-mash of cultures here but sometimes I wish we had something like kebab in Turkey that identified us. I'd love you to visit L.A. and take you to dinner but...what would we eat?

Fantastic photography, as always.
  • #13
  • Comment by Paul Mckenna
  • on: 08/09/2008
Great article. You covered local culture, local food and how to make the dishes.

Tell us about the use of flash in these pictures.

Paul
  • #14
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 08/09/2008
Thanks Paul! For this one I had to travel light so only one Nikon SB-900 flash gelled CTO (orange) to match the incandescent light in the restaurant, held by a friend and synchronized by a wireless device known as a "Pocket Wizard". The flash is on 1/8 power manual and the camera in manual too - once you have the F stop matching the flash you set the shutter as high as possible to kill off the ambient light - bang, bang, bang the flash recharges as fast as you shoot. The main issues were positioning of the flash from my voice operated light stand and distorsion from the wide-angle Sigma 10-20mm lens and the 10.5mm fisheye lens. Obviously the tenebrist lighting is a choice that goes contrary to what most photographers try to do nowadays - hard light and deep shadows are not very common in contemporary pictures but that's the way I like them.  
  • #15
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 08/09/2008
Sarah, I have eaten more than decent hamburgers in California back in the days, I'd love to have one wtih you one day! However haven't travelled to the US in many years.
  • #16
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 08/09/2008
Richard, indeed these are fine people who have a friendly attitude towards strangers that here in Western Europe we can only find in rural areas nowadays. I'd very much like to visit Anatolia and see people baking bread in tandir ovens or make traditional cheeses in goat stomachs. Too bad I don't speak Turkish, this stuff would be even more cool!
  • #17
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 08/09/2008
Trish, I'm glad my article had you travel the world for a few minutes! Istanbul is a very easy city to visit, if once you have a chance, you won't be disappointed.
  • #18
  • Comment by Nate
  • on: 08/09/2008
I am just floored by this post.  It is most excellent in every way.

I too was wondering about the flash. It looks as if it were off camera, sitting on the table.  Very interesting positioning, and yet it captures the mood of the evening so well.  Or is it your words?

You *should* be paid for an article like this.
  • #19
  • Comment by Cynthia
  • on: 08/09/2008
I... I can't tell you want a pleasureable journey this has been. Thank you.

Ramadan Mubarak to all.
  • #20
  • Comment by Derin
  • on: 09/09/2008
Hello, Although I'm studying abroad for the time, I'm from Istanbul as well and I thought I could help out with a few things. The peppered carrot juice was "şalgam", a drink made of fermented turnips and purple carrots with spices by preference, and as you probably recall from tasting it, a lot of salt. Feel free to mail me any questions if you plan to stop by again.
  • #21
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 09/09/2008
Derin thanks for your precision, this şalgam thing is definitely an acquired taste, really the only item on the menu I could not drink! But the men had salted liquid yogurt, that's good too.
  • #22
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 09/09/2008
Cynthia, thanks for your appreciation!
  • #23
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 09/09/2008
Nate, thanks for dropping in! Yes if you know any editor that wishes to *pay* me for running my stories, feel free to drop my name! The flash was placed on the table with a small diffuser cap and a red "CTO" gel, much like a candle in a George de la Tour painting, of which we rarely see the flame. I think it gives a more intimate look to the scene. Glad you liked it!
  • #24
  • Comment by Diane
  • on: 09/09/2008
What an amazing set of pictures. Thanks for taking so many and sharing this wonderful meal with us!
Some very interesting kebabs there that I'm sure taste as good as they look.
  • #25
  • Comment by Alan
  • on: 09/09/2008
Francois, this is fantastic -- I'm in despair listing down all your recommendations in your site that I should follow up. You deserve a medal for your work as an ambassador for all the world's good cooking. I know I said you were a demon of hedonism, now I think you're also the patron saint of anyone and everyone who's ever happily enjoyed a great meal. Btw, you should really come to Southeast Asia and try the food, you won't know where and when to stop
  • #26
  • Comment by Rosa
  • on: 09/09/2008
OMG, what a gorgeous meal! Everything looks fantastic and mighty tasty! I love Turkish food...

Cheers,

Rosa
  • #27
  • Comment by Bine
  • on: 09/09/2008
I really like the lighting in the photos when it's already dark outside, even though you were obviously using a flash it looks like you were sitting by candle-light. The food looks amazing too. Makes me want to go visit the Turkish butcher around the corner, get some minced lamb and try and put my own kebap on the grill - even though it probably couldn't come anywhere near the fabulous food you got to eat in Istanbul!

PS: What a coincidence - just when I got your e-mail notification the web radio was playing the song "Istanbul Not Constantinople" by They Might be Giants. :)
  • #28
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 09/09/2008
Bine, thanks for dropping in! To make proper kebab you need charcoal and long skewers that can hang above the charcaol brazier, that's the main point.

For the lighting in the last picture I think it's close to the effect that a big candle on the table would have had - glad you like it!
François,
A mesmerizing documentary. The photography was wonderful. I want to share this with my Turkish student at school today. Luckily he is too young at present to fast; I'm certain his mouth will be watering when he sees the delicious meal you were fortunate enough to share.
I am currently researching the building of an outdoor wood oven - I meet with the builder on Thursday! It is articles like this, along with your tandoor article, that have inspired me. Thank you for fx.Cuisine. I look forward to your next post!
  • #30
  • Comment by mmsarwani
  • on: 09/09/2008
Even after breaking my fast, I still have sufficient room to consume the dishes!
Ramadan Mubarak.
  • #31
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 09/09/2008
Alan, don't worry, life will provide for opportunities for you to have many a fine meal! I know very little about Asian cuisines and don't speak any languages from this part of the world, but really wish to visit.
  • #32
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 09/09/2008
Kelly, I'm glad you liked the article! I would love to have a wood oven and already bought a few books about it, the best were from the US. You must send me pictures when yours is built!
  • #33
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 09/09/2008
Ramadan Mubarak, thanks for your visit and hope you enjoy many meals like these!
Wonderful, seriously I now have this feeling of personally have visited the place
  • #35
  • Comment by Rubi
  • on: 09/09/2008
Everything look marvelicious.
It’s my dream destination.................

  • #36
  • Comment by Mary-Jane
  • on: 09/09/2008
you never cease to amaze me!!!! you live your dream and passion for food and I envy that!Thanks for bringing this alive via your blog! You have inspired me so much that I bought myself a camera and i have begun to photograph some food and recipes.....
I am saving to go to Italy in a couple of years and hopefully will be able to live my dream too!Thanks again for bringing the world to this little part of Australia MJx
  • #37
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 09/09/2008
Mary Jane, thanks for your kind words! I am sure you'll find much to shoot in Australia too, no need to go abroad. You must have gorgeous fruits, great edible cacti, this bread cooked in the ashes an Australian friend told me about and of course the pie floater from Harry's Café de Wheels! I've been trying to get my hands on a good serie of pictures of how they make them pie floaters at one of their locations, that would sure make a good article. Have fun!
  • #38
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 09/09/2008
Amarnath, thanks! Maybe one day FXcuisine.com on Condé Nast?
Looks like a fantastic meal. I think I'll tackle making that not pizza myself sometime. It sounds delish!
  • #40
  • Comment by Jennifer
  • on: 09/09/2008
Thanks for sharing another great food/cultural adventure!  As always I enjoyed the wonderdful photos and article.
  • #41
  • Comment by Andrew
  • on: 09/09/2008
This was such a fascinating and fantastic documentary from start to finish. Your photos capture both the lighting and the friendly ambience without any pretence at sophistication (or do I mean sophistry?) - just down-to-earth, superbly competent fly-on-the-wall photography. Just how you can do that *while* enjoying a meal and without disturbing the intimate and natural atmosphere beats me. You are a master (and due to become a patron saint, as somebody said!).

Now I shall be going back over the whole article again, following the links and taking notes. I have never been to Turkey but your article makes me want to go. In the mean time, I shall certainly be attempting some of the dishes.

Good health and long life to you from Cambridge, UK.
  • #42
  • Comment by Annie N
  • on: 09/09/2008
Francois,

I am the green-eyed monster right now.  I had initially planned a trip to Istanbul for 2009, but had to delay that trip due an unforeseen event.  The photo looks amazing and delicious.  Hopefully, I can follow your footsteps in 2010 and have those lovely kebaps, now that I know how one should be consumed.  Thank you!
  • #43
  • Comment by Nina
  • on: 09/09/2008
Dear Francois.
This experience is amazing and makes me ready to go pounce upon the Butter chicken with aniseed, saffron, cloves and tomatoes in my fridge. That took me back to a time in 1986 when Dad, I and the younger sibling Binky , the three Mosquitoes on an exploring  trip North , had an authentic Kashmiri Waazwaan, yakhni, gushtaba and rotis at Pahalgam in our official guest house made by kashmiris in about the way you described it for the nominal cost of 1 dollar 50 cents. They must have spent an equivalent of about 5 dollars to show their appreciation of one tourista family who came all the way from India- Yeah, it's a part of our country, but alienated- to ask for pure Kashmiri fare.. . Well, the gushtaba was  minced meat with a hint of bitter gourd,cream, eggs, tomatoes and let's say every spice in the larder tarragon, basil,bishop's weed, saffron and anything else you can dream of, wrapped in a meat covering, (ummmm intestines) but hey, talk about heaven. The huge  double naan size rotis were six in number for three "hongry" grizzlies and Dad told us to leave one for reasons of etiquette.
We  started  on our trek to Ladakh a couple of days later, from Srinagar, and subsisted on cheese, tomatoes lettuce sandwiches for snacks , which was enough because the meal we had took four days to digest, I kid you not.
The Kahva is herbal tea, brewed in a silver samovar, salted and buttered and drunk like soup.IN Ladakh also, we had that tea, salted ,buttered along with yak meat. So so for our palates, spoilt with Gushtaba.
Comme je suis desolee Francois, que vous ne pouvez  pas manger la cuisine de la cachemire parce que la situation politique la bas est affreuse, quel dommage.
But oh, that Wazwaan!
Let me tell you something more about Ramzan.Sorry this is getting to be a long yakettyyack letter, but you might find this historical aside amusing. During Ramzaan, a true believer does not even swallow his saliva, because that is equivalent to drinking water. Hats off to them. Actually I am a Sikh and about two centuries ago, Muslims were our heriditary enemies. So guess the month when we sikhs went all out to teach those maurauding muslims a well needed lesson and get our kith (women folk) and cattle back.During Ramazan but everything is fair in war, and when your enemy will not pick up his sword, you naturally take advantage.
The reason why the Muslim Kashmiris were so glad to feed us Sikhs well is that we are not allowed to eat meat prepared by a muslim and vice versa. But when the food is delicious and made with love, I am definately not a Sikh, but a ravening, appreciave beastie.
Thanks for sending me this article and I hope you are feeling hungry after reading the desription of Kashmiri fare.
Enjoy,
Nina.


  • #44
  • Comment by Chuck
  • on: 09/09/2008
François
Amazing!  Thank you for sharing this marvelous adventure.  We are cruising the Med in October with Istanbul as one of the stops. Do they serve lunch? Hopefully we can have enough time and can convince our guide to search out EDA.  One of our cruise mates reads your blog regularly and posted this one and we are so glad he did.  Being in the Hospitality Industry in the USA, I am glad to have a new source and can assure you we will promote your blog within our network.  And to all our Muslim friends, Ramadan Mubarak.
  • #45
  • Comment by David Levine
  • on: 09/09/2008
I loved the whole thing. But I couldn't get over the idea of having a Coke -- especially with artificial sweetener -- with a wonderful meal like this. I think it would spoil one's palate. I know it would spoil mine.
  • #46
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 09/09/2008
David, I'd glady have had a glass of wine, but that was not an option. The drinks on offer were salted liquid yogurt, the terrible red carrot juice and ... soft drinks.
  • #47
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 09/09/2008
Chuck, thanks for your comment! Yes I am sure they serve lunch at Eda, just have your guide call them up, there is the phone number at the end of the article. It's a nice residential neighborhood so you can have some taxi drive you there, there are so many in Istanbul! If you go take a picture and send it to me, I'd love to know how you liked it.
  • #48
  • Comment by Andrew
  • on: 09/09/2008
I was mesmerised by the photographs and story. Thank you so much for your passion and honesty.
  • #49
  • Comment by Scott
  • on: 09/09/2008
This post - and indeed your entire blog - give me hope for humanity. I sit here in the middle of Missouri in the middle of the U.S. and tear up at the generosity and welcoming spirit you encounter. What a tribute to the better angels of our nature. There is hope still.

Bravo, bravo.
  • #50
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 09/09/2008
Nina, thanks a lot for your reminiscences about Kashmiri cooking, I am told this part of the world looks very much like my home country Switzerland! We enjoy punjabi cooking here by a sikh gentleman who has a restaurant, mighty fine. I only tried kashimiri dishes based on books, I hope one day the situation will find some peaceful issue and tourists will feel safe visiting again!
  • #51
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 09/09/2008
Annie, no need for envy, these kebabs will always be available at a very reasonable price in Turkey, you can enjoy them in the future with the added benefit of gluttonous anticipation!
  • #52
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 09/09/2008
Andrew thanks for your appreciation! I hope to find proper recipes for some of these dishes so that everybody can try them at home! I am not very much of a fly-on-the-wall kind of person and really participate and interact a lot with the people I interview and photograph, but they feel confortable with me (I guess) which means soon they see me as just another colleague.
  • #53
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 09/09/2008
Jennifer, thanks for your visit and hold on for more culinary visits to be published soon!
  • #54
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 09/09/2008
Dana, thanks for dropping by! The "not-pizza-but-close" is really nice and quite basic, most of the attraction in from the fragrant, spicy topping. But the köfte were even better, with their crispy bulgur crust and lovely meat-and-walnuts filling!
What an amazing meal and extraordinary experience.  
where do I apply? :-)
Dave
I agree with Scott#49, touched by how warm and generous people can be all over the world. Thank you Utkun/family and you FX for this window into kebab. On another note I find it humorous that you would be identified by the infamous "knoedel picture"- see they're good for something.
  • #57
  • Comment by Luci
  • on: 09/09/2008
Francois, what a fantastic article.  Thanks so much for posting that - it couldn't help but smiling at your photographs and recollection of a wonderful evening.  Thank you.
Bravo! You usually just amaze but this one was scintillating.
  • #59
  • Comment by Carolina
  • on: 09/09/2008
Oh, the memories. I lived in Turkey (Ankara) from 1965 through 1968. While there, I attended METU (Middle Eastern Technical University) Of course I took advantage of the location and traveled all over Turkey, as well as the rest of the middle east. Things were not as 'dicey' back then. I traveled to Lebanon, Israel, Iran, Iraq and of course, Greece. I consider myself very lucky that I was able to see all of these countries, and especially before so much was destroyed by these senseless wars. I have an especially soft place in my heart for Turkey, which even then was quite different from 'traditional' Muslim countries. Actually, Iran was much the same as Turkey back then as well. (Before the Shah was overthrown) Of course I learned to LOVE middle eastern cuisine while there as well. Luckily I have always been a very adventurous eater, so I tried everything I could. I do remember Turkish Donerkebab, apparently they are different now? Because the ones I had most often WERE the lamb slices wrapped hugely onto a skewer, seasoned of course, then cooked on a rotating vertical spit (often turned by hand) They were NEVER dry. My favourite way of having them was piled on top of pida, with yoghurt on top and sprinkled liberally with sumak, plus Turkish cheese, similar to Feta, and roasted onions and peppers on the side to add as desired. It was almost always served with a salad on the side, the typical middle eastern style salad with cucumber, onion, tomato, onions and herbs with olive oil and vinegar, and often more cheese. OH YUM! I dream about this often. It's just one of those things that can never be made at home. I have, of course, had the other types of kebabs, and love them too. Luckily I can make a fairly good version of those myself. OH!! And the pastry shops!!! Out of the world. Mmm...and the seafood!! SO fresh and succulent. The meze...oh my gosh. One would go out for dinner, and they would bring at least 2 dozen different ones to the table, plus breads and olive oil, nearly the moment one sat down. By the time we worked our way through those, there was little room left for the mains!! (But, being young and healthy...we found room!)  I honestly had some of the very best times of my life there. Oh, and inexpensive. You could NOT believe. A huge meal at a seafood restaurant, including all the meze and dessert, plus raki and other beverages would come to possibly $3 American per person. Honest!!! And, the Turkish tea. No matter where you were, at the hairdresser,at the markets, anyplace at all, tea was offered. The business owners would send a 'runner' to the nearest 'chi' shop to carry back glass after glass of this wonderful tea, and would never accept money for it. (We were allowed to tip the boy who brought it to us, but that was all.) I'm really sorry for being so wordy here, but you have brought back so many wonderful memories with this article. I really COULD write a book about it all. It is so sad that the situation in the middle east, as a whole, has become so very bad. I am so proud of Turkey for rejecting all of the 'crap' that has engulfed the rest of the Muslim world. I would so love to go once again and visit 'my' beloved country before I die, but that really doesn't look feasible at present. Thank you SO much for this wonderful post. I hope you do get to travel through Turkey at some point, there are so many beautiful places there. I did manage to see nearly all of it, thanks to having so many great Turkish friends who loved nothing more than to show their amazing country off, not to mention the foods.  I know what I will be dreaming of tonight!
  • #60
  • Comment by Marie
  • on: 09/09/2008
Francois,
Your journeys are amazing! Thank you for the experience!
The food was beyond words!
  • #61
  • Comment by Ales
  • on: 10/09/2008
I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoy your website. Every article IS a new adventure, indeed. Well done!
  • #62
  • Comment by ayhan uçmaklı
  • on: 10/09/2008
Eda is few hundred yards away from where I stay, İ'd love to join the party. anyway kebabs are the 5% of the cuisine so more to discover. let me know your next visit, I'll take you to Mahmut Usta. He runs a esnaf lokantası which can be roughly translated as tradesman restaurant. By the way you should visit Utkun's hometown Bursa which has some amazing stuff like çibörek,cantık,pideli köfte etc.
  • #63
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 10/09/2008
Ayhan, thanks for your comment, I will definitely try to visit Bursa in the future!
  • #64
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 10/09/2008
Ales, thanks for visiting FXcuisine.com and hold tight for more adventures soon!
  • #65
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 10/09/2008
Marie thanks for reading my article, the food indeed was beyond words, but hey, what's beyond pictures?
  • #66
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 10/09/2008
Carolina, thanks for sharing your beloved memories of Turkey with us! Indeed I would very much have liked to visit the "old" Persia back when it was a tad more open to the West. But I'm told people are still very warm and welcoming. The Turks are some of the most friendly people I know and that's an easy country to visit!
  • #67
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 10/09/2008
Rajesh, thanks for reading FXcuisine.com and I'm glad you liked my Ramadan adventure!
  • #68
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 10/09/2008
Luci, thanks for your visit and I'm glad I could share that evening with you through my article!
  • #69
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 10/09/2008
Callipygia, thanks for your appreciation! Indeed it was fun to hear Utkun say 'Are you the man eating the Knödel? - then I'll recognize you'!
  • #70
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 10/09/2008
Dave, I think you could share 70% of the experience at least by just showing up at Eda during Ramadan, people there are very friendly with everybody!
  • #71
  • Comment by CKfusionist
  • on: 10/09/2008
Now that is something fantastic.. Surely someone could pull that off and change the local kebab joints to that...
  • #72
  • Comment by Tina
  • on: 10/09/2008
FX, what a wonderful article - and I loved the pictures!!  Recently I spent a month in Pakistan for work, and I ate so much Naan, Parathi and Kebab that I thought I would need two seats for the plane ride home.  I have always wanted to go to Turkey, and after looking at your pictures I'm practically keening for a vacation!  Thank you.
  • #73
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 10/09/2008
Tina, although I'm unlikely to visit I would very much like to see Pakistan, the closest (culturally) that I could get to was Lucknow, a muslim city on the Silk Road in Northern India. But my culinary tastes attract me to Pakistan and Persia, not the easiest places to visit nowadays. Glad for you that you could visit Pakistan!
  • #74
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 10/09/2008
CKfusionist, I think such a place in the West would work really well, but most Turkish immigrants go for low-end, cheap kebab joints.
What an amazing experience you must have had. Not only did you get to see the "real" cuisine of Turkey, but the locals went out of their way to show you their culture and the experience of your food. You could not pay enough for that, the experience would be priceless.
  • #76
  • Comment by cris
  • on: 11/09/2008
I enjoyed a lot this fantastic article about "authentics kebabs", I love turkish cuisine and Istambul and this article was like to be there with all of you.More articles like that.

  • #77
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 12/09/2008
Cris, thanks for your praise, I'm happy to hear my little article helped you imagine the meal in your mind, I'll try to post more of the same but such memorable meals are not legions!
  • #78
  • Comment by parshu.narayanan
  • on: 12/09/2008
The iftar dinner from turkey by fx is magnificent proof of my cherished theory that food is the most civilized way  to resolve the clash of civilizations. I strongly recommened we foodies campaign to appoint f-x one of the goodwill ambassadors of the UN for promoting world peace and international understanding in such a delicious way.
:-)
Eid Mubarak, in advance, to all of Adam-jaat ( humanity)
  • #79
  • Comment by Rosedarpam
  • on: 12/09/2008
What a marvelous evening you had.  I have always wanted to go to Turkey and it is now higher on my list of places I haven't visited.  I once had the pleasure to visit Iran, during the Shah's reign, and had a similar experience.  Iranian food is extraordinary.  
  • #80
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 14/09/2008
Rosedarpam, I wish one day I could visit Persia too!
  • #81
  • Comment by pixen
  • on: 14/09/2008
omg... you had very good adventure! Your site is so informative and I never miss reading it. Thank you so much for all the articles. For this article, you helped me to write Turkey in my Top 10 list! I wished I can meet such readers who are so helpful like in FXCuisine! Thank you!
  • #82
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 15/09/2008
Pixen, thanks for your kind words, indeed Utkun is a reader like you dream of. Him and the gentlemen who invited me to his castle in France!
  • #83
  • Comment by isaak h
  • on: 30/09/2008
wow! super interesante y ciertamente se me hizo mas que agua la boca. me muero  por ir a Istambul a probar esa deliciosa y autentica comida. gracias por la informacion
  • #84
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 30/09/2008
Isaak, gracias por tu visita y ojalá que tu visitas a Istanbul, es una ciudad muy hermosa!
  • #85
  • Comment by Jennifer
  • on: 11/10/2008
HI FX!  I was invited to a Succoth party.  My best understanding of a Succoth is an ancient Hebrew Harvest Festival.  The hosts were providing the Kababs, but asked that everyone bring a harvest dish to share.  I just picked my (lucky) 13 pomegranetes off my 3 year old tree, and thought they would be nice to share, but I needed to do more than show up with my pomegrantes.  I then remembered the dish you wrote about in this article and decided to let it be my insperation.  I took mint, tomatoes and pomegrante seeds, from my garden, and mixed them with  chopped cucumbers, red & yellow bell pepers, green onions, parsley, and almonds.  I then added a little truffle salt, basalmic vinegar, and olive oil.  It was a refreshing hit at the party that went well with the Kebabs.  
As always thanks for sharing your adventures, and expanding my repretoire of recipes!
Jennifer in NM., USA
  • #86
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 12/10/2008
Jennifer, glad to see my Ramadan adventure inspired you for a successful dish of your own invention. Well done!
  • #87
  • Comment by Carrie
  • on: 15/10/2008
STOP! You're making me so hungry!  My Father was U.S. Air Force and we were stationed in Adana from the time I was 3 mos to 4 years old.  Our housekeeper/nanny was and my Mom and were like sisters and she taught my Mom how to cook Turkish but the food just doesn't taste the same.  It is one of the great unsung cuisines.  We've been back for visits a few times but it's been many, many years.  Thank you so much for this wonderful story.  Now for the real question - can you deliver to San Antonio??
  • #88
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 16/10/2008
Carrie, I think if one of those guys making hard-core kebabs in Istanbul would set up shop in San Antonio, there would be a queue three blocks long!
  • #89
  • Comment by ALPER
  • on: 23/01/2009
Hi Francois, i love your site.Never seen anything quite like it.I am turkish,so it pleases me to see that you really enjoy your Turkish experiences.I suspect what you mean (or the gentelman who was having it)by "carrot juice with pepper" is in fact a drink called "salgam suyu" in local language.Which translates as turnip Juice.Although It is not only turnip Juice but mixed with some other herbs.i hope it makes some sense.I can`t wait to read your next article.
Thanks again
  • FX's answer→ Thank you for your insight Alper, you must be right about that vegetable juice!

Wonderfull, wonderfull blog! Keep up the good work and if ever in Denmark please visit me and stay at my home .
  • FX's answer→ Thanks a lot Vinod!

  • #93
  • Comment by Fasulye (HTLAL-Forum)
  • on: 06/10/2009
Thank you for this illustative report about your culinary visit in Turkey! Cok tesekkür ederim, this is an nice impression of the country for me a learner of the Turkish lanugage, it gives some practical insight into the Turkish culture. Fasulye
  • FX's answer→ Thanks and I hope you get to visit Istanbul some day!

  • #95
  • Comment by mivanhoxcss
  • on: 06/03/2010
Great Site. Was added to mybookmarks. Greetings From USA.
  • #96
  • Comment by Stavros
  • on: 04/04/2010
Hello! I am from Greece but I really enjoyed this "virtual meal" as I am familiar with the meals displayed.
The "savory liquid yogurt" is called airan (or ayran). I am not fond of it myself but all decent kebap shops serve it together with their spicy food. That is because milk (and its subproducts) is the liquid that most effectively relieves you from the burning of pepper.


PS when you described how you wanted to pay for the meal I smilled, because I could imagine the ending :P
  • #97
  • Comment by ekiwhick
  • on: 03/11/2010
I find myself coming to your blog more and more often to the point where my visits are almost daily now!
I visite Istanbul recently and fell in love with it; it felt middle-eastern yet with a bit of European efficiency (more than the middle-east, for sure)
I love all middle-eastern people and their warmth and generosity.
Thanks for recreating your dinner here and those wonderful photos.
  • FX's answer→ Thanks, I would love to visit Beirut too!

  • #100
  • Comment by Benjamin Heyden
  • on: 24/02/2011
Thank you very much for these "Ramadan kebabs in Istanbul"! I've been studying Turkish for 3 years now for my job, and I really fell in love with the country and its inhabitants. I loved the bit when you explain you tried to pay and they refused: this often occurred to me in Turkey and the Middle-East. Not when you are in an ordinary tourist/seller relationship of course, but when you get the chance to meet local people and show mutual respect and interest, than you can enjoy the real taste of things! And frienship is very often around the corner!
Well, I'm hungry now!

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