Connect to share and comment

In food of Istanbul, echoes of the past

The bazaars and restaurants of modern Constantinople hold many delights for gourmets and students of history alike.

Winding our way through Kucuk Pazari — a rarely explored warren of market streets and Ottoman-era caravanserais — Altan Sekerleme beckons us next, with all the charm and magic of the Wonka factory. Decorated with candy canes and Turkish Delight built to mimic small, psychedelic log cabins, Atlan has passed from father to son since the Altanoglu family opened shop in 1865.

“Don’t come this way looking for a bag of gummy bears or any Pop Rocks, or grandpa behind the counter might have a heart attack,” write the IstabulEats team. “This is a place for traditional, artisanal Turkish candies.”

After emerging from the sugar-dusted candyland, it was time for something different: boza. I wasn’t quite prepared for just how different it would be.

Following Mullins and Schleifer into Veza Bozacisi, a tavern-like outlet where the Ottoman culinary tradition of boza has been protected with a flourish since 1876, everything looked normal. Worn marble doorstep? Check. Antique wooden bar? Check. Glass case holding a glass from which Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish Republic, enjoyed a glass of this strange brew? Check.

Then I tasted it. Drinking boza, a thick, almost Gerber-like drink made from fermented millet, is one of those rare gastronomical moments when something hits your pallet that you know has never been there before.

I declined the offer of seconds, while the server dramatically regaled us with the story of a local taxi driver who could down over a dozen glasses of boza in a single sitting.

I’m still holding out judgment on the drink, although the team makes a convincing point: “Like other obligatory cultural experiences, say the opera or a visit to a science and industry museum, you are allowed to sigh with relief when your glass of boza has finished.”

After passing through the Kadinlar Pazari — the closest thing Turkey has to a “Little Kurdistan” — we make our way to the last stop of the day: Siirt Seref Buryan Kebap Salonu, the Istanbul Eats team’s favorite of the square’s many joints selling buryan kebap and perde pilav. The dishes are a specialty of Siirt, a city that’s home to both Kurds and Arabs.