Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Turkish Fast Food in Istanbul: Fish Sandwich (Balik Ekmek) + Pickle Juice (Salgam) + Lokmasi (Honey Doughnut)

I mentioned in an earlier post these ‘balik ekmek’ boats in Fatih located just off the Galata Bridge on the mouth of the Golden Horn. You can read it here: Istanbul: Eminönü Balik Ekmek Boats (Fish Sandwich Boats)


These boats are traditional fast food joints on the quay that seems to be loved by many Istanbulites. I was really attracted to the localness and uniqueness of the place. Where can you find a fast food joint that has a boat as its kitchen? Every time a ship passes by the Golden Horn, the boats and the cooks bob up and down. Isn’t that just so cool? And then you’ve got the very low wooden tables and chairs, they bring me back to my kindergarten days in the 70’s.

There is only one item served on the menu here though and that is the fish sandwich (balik ekmek). I quite liked the simplicity of the sandwich. Other ingredients added are lettuce and onions. The fish is cooked in a very modest way. There is nothing fancy schmancy about it. But it tastes good and is very fresh. Simplicity and freshness. Yes, these are what makes a balik ekmek.

I settled with the pickled juice with pickled vegetables in it called ‘salgam’ for my drink. There were several salgam cart vendors in the area. I spied them earlier during the day and I could not contain my curiosity, I must try and taste it! It is quite sour and salty, but I like it. Nothing to worry though if you are not into the pickled stuff as there are sodas sold here as well.

For dessert I nibbled a piece of ‘lokmasi’ which is a small fried doughnut dipped in honey. It is very, very sweet and juicy. They were peddled by food cart vendors as well who were selling them in a one-size portion boxes, which obviously I cannot finish. So I negotiated with the lokmasi vendor for just a piece. He obliged. Thank you!

This is the cheapest dinner I have had in Istanbul and I enjoyed it very much. It cannot get more traditional, original and local than this.

As they say in Turkey, ‘Lezzetli!’


Ordering the balik ekmek from this man. You can see the boat kitchen at the back.


The cooks grilling the mackerels.


Cheapest but coolest dinner in Istanbul =)


I am not a bread person so I only finished half of the bread but I ate all of the fish, as well as the salgam pickled juice and vegetables.


 A piece of lokmasi for my dessert.


Travel Period: May 2015
Destination: Fatih (Istanbul – Marmara), Turkey

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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Istanbul, Turkey: Last Minute Bosphorus Cruise

There are many cruises offered in Istanbul. From the ostentatious dinner cruises to pushing it to the next level by hiring your own private yacht with crew, or you can go with the regular folks on the round-the-clock cruises in Eminonu, just off the Galata Bridge in Fatih. Just take your pick.

Many of these cruises come in various durations as well. You want a short one? Check. A full-day cruise? Of course!


The cruise thing was not really planned in my agenda. Before the cruise I was in the Galata area watching the Whirling Dervishes. I will post an entry about this special religious dance ritual soon. After this, I decided to go down to the Galata Bridge, thinking perhaps that an early dinner of fish sandwich at the Balik Ekmek boats would do me good. It was here that I saw the hourly Bosphorus cruises anchored on the left side of the bridge (if coming from Beyoglu) in Fatih.

Hmm, a Bosphorus Cruise... looks like this is an opportunity. I’m done with my day, except for dinner but this can obviously wait, so um, why not?

I rushed down to the dock and approached the stocky guy letting passengers on board. He said that the cruise will take approximately 1.5 hours of sailing time and the route is the Bosphorus Strait. The boat will sail all the way to the Bosphorus Bridge, then make a U-turn and go back to where we are, here at the mouth of the Golden Horn. It wasn’t very expensive as well so it definitely sounded like a plan. I paid and went on board.

To make sure I am seeing the sights without obstruction, I grabbed a front seat on the top deck. Half an hour later into the sailing, more than half of the people on the top deck sought shelter inside. Towards the end of the sailing, it was just me and a couple left standing, er I mean, sitting. Martyrs haha!

It was quite chilly on the deck with the sharp wind blowing against our faces and bodies, but mind you, this born in the tropics gal can handle cold temperatures very well. Am I cool or what? =)

The cruise was really worth the time and money. The scenery and highlights I saw were amazing. I did not expect Istanbul to be this beautiful from the boat. On the Bosphorus Strait you will see remarkable old architecture and lovely sights of the European and Asian parts of the city. Stunning palaces, mosques, ruins and villages.

On the European side you will sail along the municipalities of Beyoglu, Besiktas and a little bit of Fatih (which is where this boat took off). On the Asian side, Uskudar.

Beyoglu is the entertainment, going out and shopping capital of Istanbul. Besiktas is the business district and home to many upmarket residential houses and subdividions. Unfortunately I was not able to visit Uskudar in the Asian side. I would love to next time.

This was a nice way to end my day. A bit of spontaneity and flexibility sure does have its own little rewards as well.

TIP: You do not need to book in advance for this round-the-clock cruise and please do ignore the peddlers on the streets as well. Just go direct to the boat, pay and hop on board.


The Galata Tower in the municipality of Beyoglu.


The cruise started with eager participants. Half an hour into the sailing many of them have gone inside the boat.


These guys didn't make it to the end of the sailing. They chickened out and went inside.


This is the Asian side of Istanbul: Uskudar.


Al fresco restaurants near Kabatas in Beyoglu: Kaptanlar Cay Bahcesi.


The pretty Ortakoy Mosque in Besiktas.


I have to wrap the shawl around my head like a hijab to protect my face and neck from the cold sharp wind, and as you can see on the next page, most of the passengers have left. We were not even halfway through the cruise.


The Dolmabahce Palace in Besiktas is the main administrative centre of the Ottoman Empire.


The Besiktas Ferry Terminal.


The Ciragan Palace which is now a Kempinski Hotel.


On the Asian side is a beautiful rolling panorama of Uskudar. I wish I have visited this part of Istanbul. Perhaps next time.


The Bosphorus Bridge connecting the European and Asian parts of Istanbul.


Beautiful historical buildings on the water in the European side.


The 'Rumeli Hisari' aka the Fortress of Europe just off the Bosphorus Bridge.


This scenery in the Asian side reminds me of Lake Como in Italy.


Beylerbeyi Summer Palace in the Asian side of Uskudar.


The Kuleli Naval Academy in Uskudar.


Nice waterfront scenes in Uskudar in the Asian side of Istanbul.

Travel Period: May 2015
Destination: Uskudar - Besiktas - Beyoglu - Fatih (Istanbul - Marmara), Turkey

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