Ideally this part of my recap should have been focused on all the wonderful vegan restaurants and cafes I frequented in Istanbul. But one thing that no Lonely Planet book or Happy Cow app will tell you about the city is that during Bayram (Also known as Eid, the three day Islamic holiday that follows the Holy month of Ramadan), pretty much everything is closed. Or, as the locals put it: kapılı.
I tried hitting up the likes of Parsifal, Galata Kitchen, and Zencefil - all to no avail. I was even more disheartened when I realized that Datli Maya, a rustic eatery boasting vegan and gluten free Lahmacun was also closed for business on the first day of Eid.
But on the second day…
My prayers were answered!
Located in Cihangir, an up and coming quirky neighborhood speckled with a plethora of antique shops and vintage clothing stores, Datli Maya’s bright blue storefront is hard to miss, and the heavenly aroma emitting from their traditional wood fired oven even harder to bypass.
I fell in love with the interiors instantly, the staff was so lovely, from the free tea station to the incredibly well branded menus – the entire place gave off this undeniably cool yet charming and quirky vibe.
Our waitress, who just happened to be vegan herself, recommended we start with a stew of fresh seasonal vegetables and a meze platter.
Accompanied with some freshly baked bread, of course.
I cannot stress just how FRESH everything tasted. The tomato sauce was light and not the least bit greasy, and the hints of sweet and savory were truly delightful. The flavors married brilliantly, nothing was over seasoned and I couldn’t help but marvel at the sheer simplicity yet sublime taste of the meze dishes.
Then came the vegan lahmacun and pide.
Made with beet, Jerusalem artichokes, olive oil, parsley stems, Taşköprü garlic, dry and canned porcini mushrooms, and Himalayan salt and various spices.
To say it was delicious would be doing it a serious disservice.
I should note that because it was Eid, they didn’t have the GF dough available, so I wasn’t able to sample that which was a shame. But I happily chowed down on the wheaty version all the same, especially having read that 70% of all flour used at Datli Maya is whole wheat and whole rye, with the remaining 30% is white flour.
A cup of licorice tea to seal the deal.
All in all, easily the best vegan meal I had in Istanbul. I spent the rest of my trip in Turkey hankering after their pide, and I would most definitely visit it again.
It should come as no surprise that I thoroughly enjoy grocery shopping when I travel – and if one were to grocery shop in Istanbul, then MacroCenter would definitely be the place.
Think of it as an upscale supermarket, meets gourmet deli, meets health food store. I noticed they were pretty much ubiquitous in Istanbul and yet again the sleek branding drew me in.
From wild rice and quinoa, to non-dairy milks and gluten-free products, they had it all.
I was even surprised to find Siracha – which I myself have yet to experiment with although it’s readily available in Bahrain too.
Raw snacks from Saf! I picked up a few for on-the-go snacks and they were a lifesaver.
The fresh produce section was tempting as ever – but alas, lack of proper cooking facilities at my hotel restrained me from indulging. Instead I headed to the ready foods section and picked up some delectable looking mezzes for a quick dinner.
Artichokes stuffed with sauteed tomatoes and peppers, red quinoa tabbouleh (which tasted nothing like tabbouleh, but delicious regardless), apple and raisin kisir (a post-modern take on a traditional Turkish bulghur dish), fava (a bean dip made from a high protein pea called Gambilia, native to Turkey, beluga lentil salad, curried lentil kofte (also known as mercimek kofte) and some gluten-free quinoa crackers. All atop some fresh greens – words can’t express how tasty and light this makeshift vegan dinner was.
Do you have some must-visit vegan or foodie spots when you travel?
That’s all from me for now, dear readers, but keep your ears peeled for the next installment of my trip recap, where I’ll tell you all about my peaceful retreat in Fethiye and the wonderful vegan cooking class I attended in Bodrum.