Monday, May 2, 2011
Turkish Food Vans
I have news. I know everyone in the food blogger-sphere seems to think the food van was a recent creation, but I beg to differ - the Turks beat us to it by a few hundred years. Their human-powered street "vans"... okay, maybe more like stands...sure do take some beating. Everywhere you look, there's yet another variety of mobile street food you just "have" to try.
I will let you in on another revelation. I. LOVE. Roasted chestnuts. And it seems Turkey is the land for me. What better way to beat the new spring chill than a small paper bag of piping hot roasted chestnuts warming your hands, complete with aromatic smoke wafting from the coals of the cart? What could possibly be better? I am glad you ask. These roasted chestnut carts seem to be paired with carts hawking steamed corn-on-the-cob. That's right. Start with an entree of chestnuts, then move onto a main of hot, buttered corn. Call me crazy, but it's genius.
But what I love about Istanbul is the fact that "van" food starts with breakfast - simit is the "bagel" of choice for a quick, early morning bite while on the move in Turkey. My favourite variety of simit actually tastes more like brioche than bagel, and goes perfectly with a steaming hot cup of coffee, as you take in the sights of the city.
Finally, I would like to award the most innovative "van" burger of the year to the guys on a boat in Istanbul harbour frying up fillets of local who-knows-what variety of fish on their grill and then passing (or throwing, depending on the swell) it to you, encased in bread, raw onions and lettuce, on the dry earth of the wharf. It actually gets a bit tricky when the waves are choppy, but well worth the effort. These guys take the day's fresh catch from the nearby fish market, grill it up with olive oil and serve it doused in tart lemon juice and salt. What's not to like?