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Tag Archives | Spice Market

Multicolors of Istanbul; Spice Market, Grand Bazaar, Street Food & Time Out at the Princes' Islands

Overlooking Eminonu. Golden Horn, Spice Market, Istanbul

Overlooking Eminonu. Golden Horn, Spice Market and Yeni Cami, Istanbul

Istanbul’dan Merhabalar – Greetings from Istanbul!– I am embracing the many, vibrant colors of Istanbul; the Golden Horn, Spice Market, Grand Bazaar and the always vibrant Eminonu. This is the hub of life for many locals along with visitors in Istanbul.

The Eminonu district is the heart of Old Istanbul housing the Spice Market, Grand Bazaar, lot of local small businesses. Yeni Cami – New Mosque is at the center of Eminonu, and the place is always vibrant, buzzing with locals as well as tourists doing their shopping, hopping on and off to the ferry, Vapur, to travel to the Asian side of the city, as well as to the Princes’ Islands. I can just sit and watch the world go by here anytime of the day..

Gaziantep's Keme Kebab with Keme truffles and meat

Gaziantep’s Keme Kebab with Keme truffles and meat

Have you ever had Gaziantep’s Keme Kebab? Keme is a type of a special truffle that’s grown in Gaziantep region between March to June; it is meaty and very delicious. Keme kebab features Gaziantep’s famous truffles with chunks of lamb. Look out for Keme if you are visiting at  this period, you can enjoy this delicious kebab in Istanbul too.  Gaziantep Cuisine is a culinary delight; here is some more information on the fabulous Gaziantep Cuisine and history.

Evie perfected the art of holding Turkish tea glass, cay

Evie perfected the art of holding Turkish tea glass, cay

After a good meal – or to be honest, any time! – a glass of cay – Turkish tea, is in order. Dear Evie from our Culinary tour, soon perfected the art of holding the Turkish tea glass : )

Pul biber - red pepper flakes-, cumin, dried mint, sumac and many more - Spice Market is a foodie's heaven

Pul biber – red pepper flakes-, cumin, dried mint, sumac and many more – Spice Market is a foodie’s heaven

 If you like spices, then you are in heaven in the Spice Market, Istanbul. In this ancient food market, you can find a great variety of spices used in Turkish cuisine. Spices feature an important role in Turkish cuisine, as we add  a lot of flavor to our dishes through the artful use of spices. I use the pul biber, the Turkish red pepper flakes with almost every savory dish ( and even sometimes in desserts like this Choc0late cake with a touch of red pepper flakes). Cumin is another commonly used fragrant spice, and it is cumin, what makes hummus, taste like hummus. How about the tangy sumac? This fragrant spice adds a delicious, zesty flavor to salads like to  this piyaz salad with onions, tomatoes and parsley with sumac.

Dried fruit like dried apricots, dried figs, dried peppers and nuts are also great buys at the Spice Market.

Dried fruit like dried apricots, dried figs, dried peppers and nuts are also great buys at the Spice Market.

Spice Market is also the right address to get delicious dried fruit like apricots, figs and many more. Shops even sell dried water melon, lemon and oranges, such wonderful colours and packed with flavor. Turkish dried apricots are one of the world’s best; they are very healthy and makes great snacks. This simple but delicious dessert, baked apricots with walnuts, is very easy to make and tastes wonderful. How about the dried peppers, okra, eggplant and corn? We dry vegetables when they are in season, then use them in stews, as well as stuffing them with aromatic rice in dolmas. They have a rich, delicious taste.

Grand Bazaar - Kapali Carsi, Istanbul
Grand Bazaar – Kapali Carsi, Istanbul
Ancient Grand Bazaar - the building itself and colours are mesmerising

Ancient Grand Bazaar – the building itself and colours are mesmerising

























Over 500 years old Grand Bazaar, Kapali Carsi in Istanbul is most probably the ancient shopping mall in the world. It is a popular place to shop for the locals as well as visitors, though you would expect high prices. I like to go to the Grand Bazaar just to admire this magnificent building, the colors, ornate columns, a living history. It is also a good place to get small souvenirs.


Time Out at the Princes’ Islands, Istanbul

On the ferry to the Princes' Islands - over looking the Topkapi Palace, Istanbul

On the ferry to the Princes’ Islands – over looking the Topkapi Palace, Istanbul

As much as I love the city of Istanbul, it is always refreshing to take a little time off and visit the charming, quiter Princes’ Islands. You can take the ferry from many ports in Istanbul (Kadikoy, Besiktas, Karakoy) and within an hour time, you are in the charming Princes’ Islands.

Locals in the ferry reading their papers

Locals in the ferry reading their papers

Many locals use the tradional ferry to travel between both sides of Istanbul and going to the islands. I love watching the locals doing their rituals; reading the paper, chatting with friends, doing the puzzle.

A glass of cay at the ferry, is a part of the ferry ritual

A glass of cay at the ferry, is a part of the ferry ritual

You can have a glass or cay, Turkish coffee or other drinks and snacks at the ferry. Sipping a glass of cay is a precious memory and a ritual for many, including me.

Anyone for simit? You can have it at the ferry too.

Anyone for simit? You can have it at the ferry too.

Reflections and taking it all in at the ferry

Reflections and taking it all in at the ferry

You can also sit outside, at the terrace or at the side benches at the ferry; the view is amazing and the reflection is inevitable.

Horse Carriages, Fayton, at the Heybeli Island

Horse Carriages, Fayton, at the Heybeli Island

What makes the islands so special is the serenity, relaxation it provides. No cars are allowed at the islands; you can ride on the horse carriages to explore around the islands, you can also rent a bicycle. It is lusciously green, and you appreciate the slower pace of life after the exciting but (can be) tiring Istanbul.


The grounds of the Halki Seminary is beautifully kept and offers wonderful views.
The grounds of the Halki Seminary is beautifully kept and offers wonderful views.

Heybeli Island is one my favorite islands and The Halki Seminary is located at top offers magnificent views. You can take the horse carriage to reach here.

Traveling in good company at Heybeli Island

Traveling in good company at the Heybeli Island

It has been a real pleasure to explore the islands during our culinary & cultural tour with our enthusiastic travelers like Evie, Mary and Natalie. Natalie and Mary are over 80 years old; we all admired their enthusiasm, thirst for Istanbul and zest for life.


Mussels stuffed with aromatic rice; delicious street food.
Mussels stuffed with aromatic rice, Midye Dolma; delicious street food.

 I like to eat sea food, especially the street food while in the islands. You can enjoy midye dolma – mussels stuffed with aromatic rice, the fried calamari or freshly fried mussles in most of the cafes. They are fresh, delicious and good value.

Mussels fried in a light batter; fresh and delicious

Mussels fried in a light batter; fresh and delicious


Fried calamari; crispy and delicious

Fried calamari; crispy and delicious



















A delicacy; kokorec - have you ever tried some?

A delicacy; kokorec – have you ever tried some?

Have you ever tried kokoreç ? It is a dish of the Balkans and Anatolia, consisting mainly of  lamb and goat intestines, as well as including  sweetbread, hearts, lungs or kidneys. Kokorec is usually roasted on a horizontal skewer over a charcoal, gas, or electrical burner and it is seasoned with red pepper flakes, salt and oregano. It is certainly an acquired taste but once done properly, it is delicious.  Kokorec is enjoyed widely in Turkey, you can have kokorec in the Princes’ Islands too.

Kokorec, flavored with oregano and red pepper flakes; delicious when it is properly made

Kokorec, flavored with oregano and red pepper flakes; delicious when it is properly made

On the ferry again; time to go back to Istanbul

On the ferry again; time to go back to Istanbul

After a wonderful relaxing day at the Princes’ Islands, we got on the ferry again and departed for Istanbul. Seagulls racing with the ferry, the wind behind and the afternoon sun on us, we recharged our batteries  for more adventures in Turkey.

The Maiden Tower, Kiz Kulesi by the Bosphorus, Istanbul

The Maiden Tower, Kiz Kulesi by the Bosphorus, Istanbul

Our ferry came nearby to the Maiden Tower, Kiz Kulesi, what a sight I thought, what a beautiful country.. One of those moments that you seal in your memory and have felt very grateful to be here, for this very moment.

Now full of new excitement again to hit the road; Ephesus, Didyma, Dardanelles, Gallipoli, all await to be explored, and shared. I hope you enjoyed what you have seen & read, and I hope you can make it to this wonderful land sometime.

Istanbul’dan Selamlar – Greetings from Istanbul,






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Fascinating Istanbul where old and new co-exists; time to take it all in

Over looking the Topkapi Palace and Hagia Sophia from the Istanbul Modern Museum

It’s my last few days in Istanbul, the city I love, the city I feel alive – is there any city in the world you feel this way? Today, I have been visiting a few of my favorite spots in Istanbul, old and new, both breathtaking in their own ways.

Istanbul is a city, where old and new co-exists. I have been to the wonderful Istanbul Modern – Istanbul Museum of Modern Art-  in Karakoy, Istanbul today. İstanbul Modern embraces a global vision to collect, preserve, exhibit and document works of modern and contemporary art and make them accessible to art lovers; a fascinating place to be.

Istanbul Modern is also now hosting some wonderful exhibitions like Fifty Years of Urban Walls: A Burhan Dogancay Retrospective

and After Yesterday; an exhibition of images from the İstanbul Modern Photography Collection.

While at Istanbul Modern, you can have a nice break at their cafe, with stunning views of Sea of Marmara, Topkapi Palace and Hagia Sophia.

Just next to the Istanbul Modern is one of my favorite mosques, Nusretiye Mosque (Cami), built in 1825; it still looks stuning, though unfortunately in need of repair.

Wonderful Nusretiye Mosque, Istanbul

From Karakoy, you can take the tram to Eminonu; our next stop is Spice Market, Misir Carsisi!

Entrance of the ancient Spice Market, Misir Carsisi

Built in 1664, Misir Carsisi, Spice Market is a feast to all senses; it’s the place both Turks and visitors come to stock up spices, nuts, dried fruits and nuts.

Time to shop; Spice Market

Dried apricots, figs and dates stuffed with nuts, very inviting!

Fruit teas and cezves - long handled pots to make Turkish coffee

You can also get herbal and fruit teas at Spice Market; Turks love cay, black tea leaves, but the fruit tea is not a traditional drink with us. It is always a surprise to see the popularity of apple tea in Spice Market.

Stalls and shops are friendly and generous to share the treats!

I am happily accepting the offer of Turkish Delights, who couldn't?

And here are Turkish Delights with different flavors; plain, with rose water, with pistachios, walnuts and many more. Did you know you can make your own Turkish Delights? Here is the recipe if you would like to have a go.

Make sure to stock up your spices at the Spice Market

How about spices, with their mesmerising smells and colors? We add wonderful flavors to our dishes with the use of spices in Turkish cuisine. Make sure to stock up on dried red pepper flakes, dried mint, cumin, ground black pepper, sumac, zahter (wild oregano) at the Spice Market.

Nuts stall, full of delicious pistachios, almonds, hazelnuts and more

There are other treats like these colorful lamps, decorations, scarfs, even kaftans and costumes at Spice Market!



My daughter helping to prepare our Bayram - end of Ramadan - breakfast

I hope you enjoy these shots from different parts of Istanbul; so live, so vibrant. And I hope you can make it here sometime : )

Until next time,  Mutlu Bayramlar &  Best wishes from Istanbul 🙂


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Let’s Explore My Homeland; Fascinating Istanbul and Breathtaking Land of Turkey

It’s that time of the year, and we have holidays, travels, exploring the exotic and perhaps the unknown in our mind and hearts. I have the travel bug in me again, as I will be departing for Istanbul in August. But before that, I wanted to share an exciting itinerary with you; our 2013 Fascinating Istanbul and Grand Turkey Tour Brochure, from March 29th to April 8th 2013.

Grand entrance of the Dolmabahce Palace, Istanbul

I was born and bred in Turkey, lived and travelled in my homeland extensively over 30 years. No doubt, I love my homeland, and it is a joy to share all the treasures of Turkey through my blog. While I was teaching Turkish Cooking Classes at Central Market Cooking School in Austin, Texas, folks coming to my classes expressed an interest to see Turkey from a local’s perspective. Now, thanks to them (especially to dear Pam Wood, for the initiation) once a year, I team up with Four Seasons Tours, organize and host a culinary and cultural tour to Turkey.

We are having a hands-on experience on carpet making at Nakkas Rugs

So, what do we do in our tours? My foremost aim with the tour is to show my homeland, through a local’s perspective; the places we Turks go for a delicious bite to eat; the markets we shop for the best spices, baklavas; the sites and many more. With our highly knowledgeable guide Kaan Gulcur, we visit some of the finest and most fascinating sites in Turkey. Here is a taster of what happens in our tour:

Fascinating Hagia Sophia, as seen from the grounds of the Blue Mosque


The fascinating entrance of Hagia Sophia, Istanbul

I lived in Istanbul over 15 years; it is a city where old and new exists together, it is old but not tired, ancient, yet alive. Here is the breathtaking Hagia Sophia; a pioneer of architecture and once the largest church in the world prior to the St Peter’s in Rome. I must have visited Hagia Sophia over 15 times, it still amazes me.

Entrance of Hotel Armada, with their vintage car in front

I have been staying at the Armada Hotel at the heart of Old Istanbul over 15 years. The location is superb and their hospitality and Turkish breakfast overlooking the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia is unforgettable.

The very inviting Turkish Breakfast at the Armada Hotel

Istanbul is a big city with a population of over 12 million, and the Bosporus strait divides the city into two parts. One of the best ways to appreciate both the old and the new parts of Istanbul is to take a boat cruise, like we do at the tour. Try to take a small size boat, where you zig zag at the both sides of the Bosphorus to see the Yalis (wooden, residential summer houses for the Sultan and high official’s at the Ottoman Empire), Palaces, or just simply to witness how the day goes by at the side streets. Local ferries, Vapur, might also be a good and cheap way to explore Istanbul in both sides.

Traditional ferries, Vapur, provide an affordable way to cruise along the Bosphorus, and you can get to see a part of locals’ daily rutine

How can we not visit the Spice Market when in Istanbul?  Spices are an important part of Turkish cuisine, that’s the way we add flavor to our dishes. So a visit to the Spice Market is a must to stock up wonderful spices, Turkish tea, Turkish Delight, nuts and many more. I could spend hours at my favorite spice shop, Malatya Pazari at the Spice Market.

Entrance to the ancient Spice Market, Misir Carsisi

Spices, nuts, dried fruit, tea, Turkish Delight galore at Malatya Pazari, Spice Market

Now comes the Grand Bazaar; renown as the world’s oldest shopping mall, it is so worth seeing for its architecture, colorful shops selling a huge variety from gold to leather, to china and many more. I would be careful to shop there for big items like rugs, as you will most likely to get tourist prices there. But the atmosphere is magical and well worth it.

Ancient Grand Bazaar is well worth a visit even for its magnificent architecture

Baklava is a delicacy that is perfected at the Ottoman Palace kitchens and Gulluoglu Baklava is one of the best places to sample the real thing. We also like to take demo baklava classes there and witness how this delicious treat is made; it is one of the highlights of the tour!

We are having a go at making the delicious baklava wth Gulluoglu experts

Why not have a go and make baklava at home? It is easy to make baklava with fillo pastry sheets at your home, and you can adjust the syrup to your liking. Here is my recipe, you will be amazed with the results.

My home made baklava with walnuts; so easy to make at home, so delicious

Turks are a very hospitable nation and they regard the visitors as “God’s guest” and their door is open to them. Wherever you go , you will be offered tea, Turkish coffee, or like  in this case some pine nuts and local honey by this local village man near Pergamum.

Friendly local nearby Pergamum, offered us his pine nuts and local honey

You will be offered Turkish tea or Turkish coffee wherever you go in Turkey

At the Aegean, a visit Ephesus, provincial capital of Asia Minor for the Roman Empire and one of the seven churches of the Revelations is always a highlight. As one of the best preserved Roman cities, its monumental theater was where St. Paul preached to the Ephesians. Ephesus also boasts one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Temple of Artemis, and the resting place of St. John the Evangelist is in the Church of St. John.

Ephesus and the library, breathtaking site, still intact

Entrance of the Virgin Mary’s House, Ephesus

While we are at the Aegean, we take a hands-on Aegean style Turkish cooking class, where we knock up wonderful casseroles, mousakka,  gozleme  (Anatolian flat breads with various fillings), and delicious salads dressed with the local olive oil. This experience stay with us a long time, and it is always lovely to hear participants making all these wonderful dishes they learned to their family and friends back at home.

Local ladies showing us how to make Gozleme, cheese and vegetables filled traditional pastries

Hatice Hanim and I making the Mousakka, Aegean style


Enjoying the delicious spread we made at the end of our class

Kusadasi is a wonderful port we stay while at the Aegean. Dining out overlooking the turquoise Mediterranean is a real treat.

Gorgeous colors of Kusadasi

View from Kismet Hotel overlooking Kusadasi Bay, so inviting

On the way back to Istanbul, drive towards the Dardanelles to see the battlefields of Gallipoli, view Mount Ida,  the site of the beauty pageant that led to the Trojan War.

It is always a pleasure to share the wonderful treasures of my homeland and this is a tiny little snapshot of what Turkey offers. Participation for our tour is limited to 15 people. If you would like to join us to explore the fascinating land of Turkey, do please contact me, and also view photos from my previous tours. If you can’t, I do hope this post may inspire you to visit Turkey sometime, and give some ideas.  For some additional and fantastic travel posts from Turkey, please also visit Turkish Travel Blog; Natalie’s travels, stories and photos across Turkey are simply mesmerizing.

The entrance to the Dolmabahce Palace through the Bosphorus

Have you ever travelled to Turkey? I would love to hear your experience, please share with us.

Happy Travels to All!






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