Vegetarian Delight – Istanbul
If you happen to be a vegetarian or fishertarian as we are, then dining in Turkey is not a problem. Many of the Turkish dishes are based on aubergine, zucchini, tomatoes or peppers, usually stuffed with rice and pine nuts or cheese. Some of the vegetables are stuffed with meat, but even if you avoid these, there’s still plenty to choose from. There is also a wide variety of dishes based on pulses, cooked with chopped vegetables. The dishes are attractively displayed with a blend of different colored vegetables.
Traditional Turkish meals often start with a meze plate. This starter dish usually comes with a combination of iman bayuldi, cucumber and yoghurt, stuffed vine leaves, borek (tiny fine pastry filled with cheese), etc. Iman bayuldi or the iman fainted, is one of the popular appetisers. The dish was so named because it has a lot of garlic in it, which as the story goes, caused the iman to faint. The trick is to pace yourself and not eat yourself to a standstill, because there is the main dish to come and then followed by deserts.
The mains are usually quite simple in style, e.g. grilled fish with rice and salad. I often feel that this is quite a let down after the exotic looking starters. To accompany your rich meal, you can have raki, the Turkish national drink which is an aniseed flavoured spirit – Be warned that this is quite an acquired taste. The Turkish may claim that their wine is surprisingly good, however given their hot summer climate and lack of proper storage, I wouldn’t get too excited about the wine. A non-alcoholic option is ayran, a yoghurt drink which is served chilled.
We had a very pleasant lunch at the Lale Pudding Shop near the Sultan Ahmet Mosque. From Tony’s smile, you can assume that he was quite happy with his meal. Bon appetit!