Turkey Recap Pt 1: Vegan Street Food in Istanbul

Merhaba!

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As you may have gathered by my recent posts on Instagram and Facebook, I spent the past two weeks galavanting and vegan-venturing around Turkey. In addition to Istanbul I also stopped over in Fethiye for a retreat in the mountains by the south coast of the Aegean, before ending the trip with a visit to a popular beach town in Bodrum.

It feels surreal to be back now after such a whirlwhind and hectic trip – but I enjoyed every last second of it. Needless to say, I tried to jam pack as much as humanly possible during all three legs of the trip, so I have much to share, but first; an introspective into something I did not expect to find so much of in Istanbul: vegan street food.

Stumbling across a Nohutlu Pilav vendor outside the port of the Besiktas – Kadikoy ferry was a delightful surprise.

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Yes, it is just chickpeas and rice, and yes it was delicious.

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With a sprinkling of salt and black pepper – the perfect mid-afternoon snack.

Just a stone’s throw away was an old man selling freshly sliced apples, and sliced cucumbers with salt.

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I didn’t get any, but it looked (and smelled) unbelievably fresh. Plus the apple-coring meets spiralizer device was pretty cool.

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On the topic of fresh produce – another thing found in abundance all around Istanbul, is juice bars.

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Or as they refer to them; vitamin bars.

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From this particular vendor in Eminönü I had a deliciously spicy carrot, orange and ginger juice. 

Perhaps the most ubiquitous street food item in Istanbul is simit – a circular type of bread coated generously with sesame seeds.

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While what appears to be Turkey’s answer to the Bagel is in fact vegan, I must admit that I wasn’t a fan, it was too sour and dry for my liking – had I had it with some jam and tea however I might be singing a different tune right now. But anyways, I digress.

Roasted kestane however, I love.

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Thankfully the roasted chestnuts almost just as ubiquitous as simit.

Also on offer was some grilled sweetcorn – the smoky smell of which evokes childhood memories of summers spent in Egypt.

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And of course after a long day of sightseeing – what could be better than an ice cold piece of juicy watermelon?

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But to be honest, the biggest (and tastiest) surprise of all, was discovering Çiğ köfte.

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Pronouced “chee kufta”, it literally translates to raw meatball. Funnily enough, the traditional recipe calls for raw minced meat (similar to kibbeh nayyeh, in Lebanese cuisine) as of 10 years ago, the government in Turkey dictated that  the version sold in fast-food outlets must be meatless by law due to hygienic reasons. So in fact, unless you’re eating it at someone’s home, it is completely vegan!

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To say my face lit up when I saw this 200 or meters or so away, is probably an understatement.

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And right around lunchtime too! I took the plunge and ordered a durum wrap with all the trimmings, minus the spicy spread.

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A good call, since the bulgur mix itself was already pretty spicy, though offset perfectly by the pomegranate molasses sauce.

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Perfectly filling and flavourful with a serious crunch factor courtesy of the crisp veggies. Definitely on my list to recreate soon.

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And that’s all for now! Stay tuned for part 2 of my trip recap for more delicious vegan eats in Turkiye.

What is street food like where you’re from? Is any of it veg/vegan friendly?

13 comments

  1. Milady says:

    This is great! I want to go here at some point, and I’ll use this as a manual. Love the Cig Kofte being vegan. brilliant! looks like an awesome trip.

    Not sure we’d have any street food here in the UK… more in the ethnic areas. unless you count weirdly caramelised peanuts or sausages with onions from a handcart…

    • Nada says:

      Unfortunately not! I ate all of my meals at the retreat when I was in Nepal, but it was delicious and I actually preferred that it was less spicy than Indian food.

  2. The Peace Patch says:

    goodgolly what a feast in the streets you’ve found…they all look so wonderfully yumful! We don’t have many streetcarts or stalls here but we do have foodtrucks with some delicious vegan choices. Clearly Istanbul is blissfully veganfriendly…thanks for the post and all the hunger-teasing photos! :)

  3. Amey says:

    Wow! I love love love finding vegan street food when I travel. It’s such a joy to find authentic vegan snacks and foods. It all looks pretty great, but that vegan lavash wrap is practically giving me heart palpitations. It looks amazing!!

  4. kum says:

    Did you ask if the rice was cooked in vegetable stock or chicken stock…

    In many Mexican and mediteranean restaurants rice is cooked with chicken or beef stock…

    blog : global vegan fare

  5. Rana says:

    I am going to Turkey in 2 weeks, I am so happy to see it is vegan friendly! But then again I think all Arab countries are to some extend with the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables :)

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