Category Archives: Turkish

FOOD - "The Delicious" - Turkish

ABA Turkish Restaurant near Columbus Circle

May 8, 2011

So Istanbul Cafe is now “ABA Turkish Restaurant.” The menu is pretty similar to what it has been with some slight (better) alterations to the dishes. Take the manti for instance:


The dumplings are little smaller, but they added more spices and no longer just dump a messy dollop of yogurt on top. I think it’s the first time I’ve had their chicken yogurt kebaab, but it was also much better than the kebaabs alone that I had when they first opened (which a lot more dry):

Yogurt chicken shish

The good thing is they still kept the Turkish decor, and friendly service. The meat is also halaal in case you’re wondering! The prices increased a tad, but they also now serve Turkish Breakfast which I’m looking forward to trying now. I never had Turkish food for brunch but the authentic Turkish Breakfast I had in Istanbul (with fried halloumi cheese, mixed vegetables, and olives) is something I crave pretty often! We’ll keep you posted on how it compares…

Restaurant Info:
ABA Turkish Restaurant

325 W 57th St
between 8th Ave & 9th Ave
New York, NY 10019
Midtown West


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Coffeehouse/Cafe - Dessert - FOOD - "The Delicious" - Tea/Drinks - Travel Feasts - Turkish

Salep and desserts in Taksim

February 7, 2011

When I was in Turkey, I saw little carts on the streets near where my sister was living with signs for something called salep but I never knew what it was. My friend Bunny, who was awesome at giving me a ton of suggestions of what to do and where to eat (she did live there for a few months after all), told me I had to try it while I was there. I didn’t know what was it in, all I was told was it was a yummy drink to have when it was cold. So I listened.

IST Cafe in Taksim

Coffee + salep

When I was there, I asked the waitress what salep is exactly. She was having trouble explaining it to me, only mentioning milk and sugar and that it was “OHhh so good.” I may have cheated a little and ordered a coffee/salep combination. The coffee on top was thinner than what I think was the actual salep on the bottom, which was thicker consistency and tasted (and forgive me, this is the only way I think I can describe it) kind of like egg nog? It was REALLY good though, and I tried looking up a more detailed explanation of what I just had.

I found out the hot drink is made from crushed tapioca root extract. Apparently, it has been noted not only for his health benefits (treating such conditions as dysentery, tuberculosis, and typhoid), but also for its aphrodisiac effects. In Greece, they flavor it with honey and eat it for breakfast; in India, it’s mixed with milk and spices and served to the sick; even in France, it’s served as soup or jelly. In Turkey though, it’s mainly served during the cold seasons. The tubers are collected in the summer and hung to dry. Apparently, the popularity of salep has led to a decline in the population of wild orchids so it’s now illegal to transport it out of the country. So if you want it, you’ll have to make a trip to Istanbul!

Ozsut cafe

While you’re in Taksim, you should also stop by Özsüt (215 Istiklal Caddesi) for their pastries. They have a full picture menu (well, I guess like a lot of restaurants in the touristy areas of Istanbul), but I was pleasantly surprised when our hazelnut/chocolate/cookie cake came out exactly the way it looked in the picture.

Cake from Ozsut

And also super delicious like most of the desserts we had there!


FOOD - "The Delicious" - Travel Feasts - Turkish

Chicken at Tatseven in Istanbul

January 21, 2011

At Tatseven -- and yes, all of my pictures from Turkey are of me drinking tea

This is my little sister Haji -- she's too cool to have tea.

Ok, so when you go to Istanbul (and you have to go at least once in your life), you will probably make a trip to the Spice Bazaar, one of the oldest bazaars in the city. It’s right off the Eminönü stop on the tram, next to the Yeni Camii mosque aka the New Mosque. Right near that mosque is a place I still dream about: Tatseven.


It’s nothing fancy. The first thing you’ll see is probably the rotisserie chicken being cooked out in front. I randomly get really intimidated when there’s rotisserie displays at any restaurant…something about it seems really…brutish to me? Is that weird? But my little sister insisted the chicken here is one of the best. She discovered it when my aunt and uncle came to visit her in Turkey right before I did. They needed directions and the owner (who was actually a Turkish guy who lived in Ohio for many years if memory serves me right) was so nice, my uncle insisted that they go back to eat there.

Chicken kababs

I ordered the boneless chicken kababs. They were so juicy, tender, delicious! My sister ordered the rotisserie. I was pretty sure I wouldn’t like it as much since I tend to favor boneless, but WOW.

Rotisserie chicken

The chicken is so fresh and spiced just perfectly. I guess I wasn’t expecting it to be that great because it seems like any other food stand but it’s a great place for a pit stop — especially after all that shopping.

Restaurant Info:

Mesih Paşa Cad. No:1/A
Aksaray, Fatih, İstanbul – Avrupa (I’m not 100% sure if this is the right address — but I think you should just go off my directions :) It’s right off the Eminönü stop on the tram, near the mosque…just look for the chicken?).


Coffeehouse/Cafe - FOOD - "The Delicious" - Tea/Drinks - Travel Feasts - Turkish

Tea in Istanbul

January 6, 2011

Turkish Tea

There are so many things I miss about Istanbul, and one of them is that there was never a shortage of tea to be had. It’s a big part of Turkish culture. I love that it’s always served piping hot, fresh, and totally appropriate for any time of day. I still remember certain times when I could smell the aromatic, full-bodied drink in the air from people scurrying around on the streets, holding a metal tray with freshly-brewed Turkish tea. I was eating at Divane restaurant in Sultanahmet my second day there and after a delicious brunch, I got up to use the restroom. When I came back, this was waiting for me at the table:

Apple Tea

Our waiter, I think his name was Mohsen, said we were his guests and wanted us to have some complimentary tea…a sweet reflection of the hospitality and friendliness we ran into so often during our visit there. This was the first time I’ve ever tried apple tea (Elma Çay). It’s so fragrant — I think my first reaction was that it reminded me of apple Jolly Ranchers if you could liquify it. I don’t know if that’s a good description or not, but I loved it. The way people drink and enjoy their tea there reminds me of life’s little luxuries — moments to bond with people or savor your drink. It’s the calmness after a meal or during the day that I feel we don’t get enough of in a bustling city like NYC.

Turkish tea

Lighter apple tea

One thing I also learned while I was there was, if you notice, the tea glasses are shaped like a tulip. The intentional shape represents Turkey’s national flower. If you ever have a chance to visit, you have to pick up some fresh tea leaves from their bazaars. The Spice Bazaar is a good place to load up on tea. I bought a few packets from there, and they seal it air-tight for you to ensure it stays fresh until you get back home.

This is probably also a good time to mention that as much as we ran into very sweet, friendly people in Istanbul, the bazaars are REALLY nutty, so ladies…beware of some of the weirdo merchants there. They might straight up embarrass you by calling out to you long after you’ve left their store. I feel like my oddest exchanges were around these bazaars. If you don’t believe me, I’ve attempted to create a short film of a REAL conversation I had right outside the Spice Bazaar. This is not an exaggeration, by the way:

NOTE: The video doesn’t seem to be working in all browsers — here’s the direct link:

(Sorry, they had limited character selection — the guy was actually short and heavy set, and I am not nearly as pale nor a redhead…but you get the idea).


FOOD - "The Delicious" - Seafood - Travel Feasts - Turkish

Stuffed Mussels in Istanbul

November 6, 2010

Most people know I’m not really big on seafood. The thing is, I want to like it, so I’ll always give it a try. Throughout Istanbul, there are street vendors selling stuffed mussels, which never looked particularly appetizing to me. I was a bit horrified when my sister told me she was craving when we passed them by one night. It just seemed like an odd thing to be sold off the street.

Mussel Stand in Turkey

Her roommate later told me I had to try it when she brought a bag of it home. I figured, they’re being sold all over the place for a reason and I should at least try it. It’s mixed with rice, and you use one side of the shell to scoop it out of the other. They also give you a fresh lemon so you can squeeze the juice over it.

Stuffed mussels

It doesn’t look the most appetizing, but it was seriously so good. The rice is soft and tender and the lemon gives it a nice zest. The only thing is, I was looking up more about these mussels in Turkey and found mixed reports about exactly how good they are for you. Not to scare you, but apparently because of the preparation and serving process, they can be a breeding ground for bacteria. I didn’t experience any side effects after downing about ten of them (yes, I went back the next night to buy some more for myself…ten medium-sized ones cost only $5). I figure if you have a weak stomach to stay away from them. But if you’re looking to dive into the local culture, it’s something to experience.


FOOD - "The Delicious" - Travel Feasts - Turkish

Bodrum Manti & Cafe in Arnavutköy, Istanbul

November 2, 2010

So I’m in Istanbul. And it’s wonderful.

And more than that, the food has been so so good to me. I was going to ease into all my Turkish food-finds, but with limited time to be online here, I’m just jumping the gun to probably my favorite meal so far, and that’s from Bodrum Manti & Cafe.

Bodrum Manti and Cafe

Bodrum is located in a pretty upscale area, Arnavutköy (or “Albanian village”), but this place is deceivingly affordable and open 24 hours. I couldn’t imagine anything being better than the traditional boiled manti (manti are like like little pasta dumplings, usually with a spicy minced lamb filling, and topped with yogurt and red pepper/butter sauce). But Bodrum offers something arguably better: fried manti. Sigh. I was told by a Turkish friend that fried manti has more of a Bosnian influence, which could be true since I haven’t seen it anywhere else in Turkey so far.

Bodrum fried manti

First, they started us off with a spicy sauce and bread. Bread is a normal starter here, but the difference (at least that I’ve experienced so far), it’s almost never dry and fresh from the over — crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. I could have OD’d on the sauce alone.

Starter sauce and bread

We ordered two types of manti — the slightly fried manti and one with spinach and cheese which that was a little bigger in size. They ask you if you want it with garlic…just say YES. They were both exceptionally tasty, like nothing I’ve ever had before. The dumplings are fried, but not overly greasy, crispy and perfect. I think the exact phrase my friend Shazia used after her first couple of bites was, “I really wouldn’t mind moving to Turkey and becoming morbidly obese.”

Spinach and cheese manti

None of the staff knew any English, but that didn’t keep them from being super courteous and kind — not so different from most of our experiences in general here so far. (Note: I can’t believe I didn’t even have a book of basic Turkish phrases…I felt so rude most of the time, but people here have still been so ridiculously nice to us). At the end of our meal, they surprised us by bringing out this ice cream dessert that we didn’t order. All they said was, “Gift! Gift!”

Delicious ice cream dessert

I think it was either frozen yogurt or vanilla ice cream, sandwiched between two wafers and topped with chocolate syrup. It was amazing, and such a perfect way to finish our meal. It’s a pretty romantic place too (yes, I went with my roomie from NY), with dim lighting and tables out on the porch where we ate, and you can even see the Bosphorous river from our table. If you’re ever in Istanbul, you have to come here.

Restaurant Info:
Bodrum Manti & Cafe

Arnavutköy 1.
Cadde No. 111
Istanbul, Turkey