Wednesday, October 22, 2014

My Istanbul Food Obsessions. Tavuk Kanat and Lokum.


When in Istanbul, I eat. I have loved Turkish long before I ever set foot in the country, but since my first visit back in 2008, I have grown to appreciate the culinary tastes of this country even more.  With each visit, I bring back a new food obsession with me.  On my first visit it was the ice cream and bilek ekmek.  On my second visit, it was döner kebab and fırın sütlaç. On this visit, it's tavuk kanat aka grilled chicken wings and lokum....but not the cubed stuff sold in boxes targeted at tourists.


Let's start with the chicken.  First taste was in Kuşadası. Second taste was two days ago when we stumbled upon a place near Rüstem Paşa Cami. Today, we were both salivating at the thought of those chicken wings. Bro wanted to know if I could find the place. Of course, I could!  I showed the way.  From Topkapı Palace, we walked back towards the Gülhane tram stop and from there, down the hill to Yeni Cami. I might not have taken the shortest route to Yeni Cami but I got us there. I work like a GPS device :-)

Confidently, I led Bro down the narrow street that leads away from Yeni Cami towards Rüstem Paşa Cami. Bro recognized exactly where we were but he was curious if I knew exactly which street to turn on. Of course I did, silly Bro! I kept my eyes out for the entry sign to Rüstem Paşa Cami. That was my navigation marker to turn left. As we rounded the corner, we both immediately saw the orange colored store front on the left hand side. You can't miss Közde Kanatçı Muro aka our chicken wing rotisserie joint. To be exact, we were at:
Uzun Çarşı Cd No: 220
Tahtakale Mh.
34200 Fatih/İstanbul


The same man was manning the large horizontal roaster, skillfully rotating skewers of wings and drumsticks between hotter and cooler sections of the grill so everything cooks up beautifully.

We took a table inside where we could watch the guy do his magic.  As Bro said, this is the kind of place that only focuses on cooking one thing and they do it well! Watching how the guy worked with such ease, it's obvious he's been doing this one job for years, if not decades! There's a lot of experience in his hands.



We guessed that it's the man and his family that work the joint.  The woman who seated us was most likely his daughter.  And the woman manipulating a large plastic bucket filled with tomato cucumber salad was his wife.  There was another young man working to dish up food.  Four people who know exactly what they have to do; the place runs like a well oiled machine.


Just because kitchen operations are smooth doesn't mean the food is good but in this case, it's phenomenal.  Perfectly flavored (not too salty, not too spicy), perfectly roasted (not too smoky), plump and juicy chicken wings.  Six wings, rice, salad, a wedge of grilled onion, and pita bread for 9TL....just a little over $2.


This time I had my own plate - no sharing!  This Istanbul street food at its best and I want a full portion all to myself!


We had arrived towards the end of the lunch period so things were winding down a bit.  The guy behind the rotisserie was able to finally take a bit of a break.  He was most definitely NOT camera shy and in fact, wanted me to take photos of him. Very friendly man and I am sure that if we could have had a conversation with him (meaning either we spoke Turkish or he spoke English), we might have ended up staying in the place much longer, just chatting.


Of course, it was just a break for him and a very short one at that.  Time is money.  Soon enough, he was back at work, clearing out tables.  I loved how he saved time by taking a smoke break all the while working.  No, he was not smoking when he was manning the roaster.


After lunch, the plan was to go to the Archeological Museums which are located inside Gülhane Park, on the small street heading up towards Topkapı Palace.  That meant that we would pass the Spice Bazaar along the way.

Bro spotted the figs.  It was his last chance to buy any and he was not about to pass up the opportunity so he got a few.


We found a curbside spot to sit and munch on our figs.  From there, we had a front row view of the corrugated tin covered façade of the Spice Bazaar.   Not a pretty view. Looks like it's being renovated.

The place was hopping with activity though.  Tourists and locals were going about their shopping business. Of course, I spotted the simit vendor right out front.  I had to have one.....for old time's sake.   They guy was doing a fairly brisk business - I think he's secured himself a great spot.


Simit is basically a snack in Turkey.  At best, it tastes like a softer, thinner version of a bagel. At worst, it tastes like a stale bagel.  Mine was somewhere in between.  Maybe I got an older one, I don't know.  Bro definitely did not have any sort of an affinity for it.

When our break was up, we resumed our walk.  We didn't get far.   15 feet to the right of the simit vendor to be exact.  We came across a store selling sausages.  I had in mind a meal of mantı (Turkish dumplings) cooked up with sucuk (a dry, spicy Turkish sausage). I don't know that they are ordinarily served together as I was envisioning but it seemed to make sense to me so when I saw the sausages hanging up, I took the opportunity to by a few links.

Back on our walk and again, we didn't get far.  We rounded the corner and I saw a crowd of people standing in front of the store, a Turkish candy store called Osmanlıoğlu Kuruyemiş.  It's a chain of sweets shops which explains why I had seen the store logo before.  The one we were at is located at:
Küçükpazar Hacı Kadın Caddesi No:112
Eminönu/ Istanbul
Everyone was drawn in by different sweets.  For me, it was the logshaped lokum.  I don't know it there's a special name for it in Turkish to distinguish it from the kind you usually see - the cubed stuff in a box.


The guy helping me offered me a sample.  Flavor wise, it tastes similar to what you get with the cubed lokum but it's far more flavorful, much stiffer in texture and because it's stiffer, it can hold more nuts.   You have to buy an entire log.  I love any juice that is red in color and I love pistachios so I bought one of the the green coated colored logs in the lower right hand corner of the photo.

I shall be leaving Istanbul with two new food obsessions.  I will now have to figure out how to make both at home until I can get back to Istanbul and have the *real* thing!

Update:  October 26.  I'm home.  I'm munching on that lokum.  Not too sweet, slightly fruity from the juice, pack filled with pistachios.  I started with a small slice and I think I'm on my fourth piece.  I must stop.  I am obsessed with it and will carefully ration out the rest so I can extend the time I have to enjoy this.  I should have bought more!!!