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Apr 9, 2007 01:52 PM

What foodie gifts to bring back from Istanbul?

DH is going on a business trip. What must he bring back. He brought back some great chocolate from Russia and Confit de Canard from France. What are must haves from Turkey?

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  1. Double-roasted Turkish delight from Ali Muhaddin Haci Bekir (near Yeni Cami in Eminonu). I hate regular Turkish delight (it's too gelatinous for my tastes) but the double-roasted stuff is excellent. It's not sickeningly sweet, the pistachios are more prominent, and the texture is more like jujubes instead of stale Jell-o. The candy itself is much smaller and darker than the regular Turkish delight... and I'm trying to remember the Turkish word for "double-roasted" but it's not coming to mind at the moment. I'll post it when I remember it...

    1 Reply
    1. re: Juniper

      Double-roasted Turkish delight = "ciftekavrulmus lokum" (pronounced: cheefteh kahvroolmoosh lohkoom)

    2. Depending on your import rules, saffron and sumac can be found cheaply at Mısır Çarşısı (the Spice Bazaar).. You may not be able to bring them back into the country, tho... Tell Hubs that a trip to the Spice Bazaar is well worth it anyway.. just for the aroma and photo ops!!

      2 Replies
      1. re: purple goddess

        You need to be a bit careful with Misir Carsisi and buying saffron "too cheaply" in general. Sometimes, they will substitute safflower threads for saffron threads, or they will blend the two together and when you ask why some threads are more red than the others, they'll say it's naturally that way.

        I've even heard of people taking paper, rolling it into tiny "threads" and dying them a saffron colour and selling it as saffron. This may just be an old-wives tale (who knows), but just remember that saffron, like any other commodity, is sold on the world markets, which ultimately determines their prices.

        1. re: Juniper

          In the Spice Bazaar there are large bins or sacks outside the stalls - some of them contain what they call saffron. This is not the saffron you want to to get. That's the safflower stuff and it's useless. It's very cheap but not worth even that. The better saffron is usually sold in flat round plastic boxes and is labelled in Arabic - I'm pretty sure it's all Iranian saffron. And even that ranges widely in price throughout the market, depending on which stall you go to. Much cheaper than what you'd pay at home and better quality.

          In some of the stalls they keep the best quality of saffron practically under lock and key inside. I bought some of that kind too - just a little. It was expensive, but I knew I'd never find anything like that at home anywhere. It's so good that I haven't had the guts to use it yet - still in its vacuum packaging in the freezer. I guess I'd better find a good reason to use it soon!

      2. Yes - Turkish delight from Ali Muhaddin, beautiful saffron from the Spice Bazaar, Turkish red pepper flakes (pil biber), various spice blends if you like that kind of thing (like kefta spice, chicken spice, etc., etc.), double roasted pistachios (the best pistachios I've ever had), gigantic raisins (I can't remember what they're called but if you look in all the bins you'll see these huge raisins - they're wonderful), dried figs, pomegranate molasses (they have some very delicious, very fresh tasting stuff in unlabelled jars in some of the stalls). I'm sure there's more but I can't remember it all. I came home from Turkey with half a duffel bag filled with food-related goodies.

        5 Replies
        1. re: Nyleve

          I'm assumming that all that you mentioned will get past customs? I especially interested in the saffron, pistachios, raisins, and pomegranite molasses.

          1. re: nissenpa

            I'm not sure what the regs are where you live. I have never had any trouble bringing in dried things or spices from anywhere. (I'm in Canada). On the little card where you have to declare stuff, I might check "yes" for food items (I can't remember how it's worded) and then when the customs agent asks what, exactly, I have in my suitcase I usually go into waaaay too much detail about certain things until they get bored and let me through. For instance: "I have 3 small bottles of the most incredible olive oil from this little town in Umbria where we visited the mill. Oh, and I also have some dried porcini mushrooms - you just can't get mushrooms like that in Canada. They're amazing in risotto..." ad nauseum.

            I wouldn't try to bring in any fresh vegs or fruit - but even that might be ok. I mean, you can bring oranges from Florida, right? Nuts, like pistachios, and the other dried items are fine, I'm sure.

            Oh I forgot another item you should look for: grape molasses (also called pekmez or pelmez - I forget. Absolutely delicious drizzled over yogurt. And really hard to find here). The halvah is also good there.

            1. re: Nyleve

              "Pekmez" is correct. Tahini ve pekmez is a very common thing in Turkey. They just dip bread into the mixture. Tastes like the Turkish version of peanut butter and grape jelly. :)

          2. re: Nyleve

            It's "pul biber"... "pil" means "battery". :)

            Raisins are "kuru uzum" (lit: "dry grapes")

            1. re: Juniper

              Oops - I'd better listen to my "Turkish in Ten Minutes a Day" CD again.

              Definitely don't need peppery batteries, and now I remenber about the raisins.


          3. Marmara olives - small to medium sized shriveled looking things, very salty. Also raki, the Turkish anise drink, similar to ouzo but much harder to find in the US.

            1 Reply
            1. re: kerdragon

              I love Ouzo and sambuca---I will add raki to the list. DH is going to need to bring a second bag for all the stuff I'm having him bring back!

            2. This is sooo late but if I knew someone who was going, I would ask for honey (particularly from Eta Bal in Kadikoy, but I'm sure it's all good), baklava (chocolate baklava, even better), and olive oil soap. There is a wonderful shop in Misir Carsisi called Malatya Pazari, run by a very sweet man named Cemal and his son. He sells all kinds of great snacks, like candy-coated dried chickpeas, chocolate-covered banana chips, dried fruits that are more unusual to get here like guava & kiwi. Incredibly friendly place, makes it fun to shop there. They have pomegranate molasses (pekmez) as well.

              I'm almost positive you wouldn't be able to get dried meat or cheese through customs (although I have before, unofficially), but there is a shop called Namli near the Spice Bazaar with a mouthwatering array.

              4 Replies
              1. re: NancyC

                Not too late. He is going again in 3 weeks. And then again in mid July. I really appreciate the shop recommendations I will send DH and wait for the goodies.

                1. re: nissenpa

                  Oh my, is he ever lucky! I wish I could go to Istanbul that often! Well as long as there are more chances I can give you a couple links. I

                  Malatya Pazari:
                  n Turkish only, but there are pictures! For the branch I liked in Misir Carsisi, click Magazalar, the under the first store listed, click Fotograflari. Yum. Well, actually the link under Magazalar is a slide show of various foods, too.

                  Eta Bal:
                  Truly the best honey I've ever had. In English, but...interesting English. Click on "corporate" (a complete misnomer) to see the owner's glamourshot photo.

                  Personally, I totally agree with Haci Bekir for Turkish Delight, but Koska on Istilklal Caddesi is also a fun store, big place with lots of other sweets besides Turkish Delight.

                  If you are interested, I have a pretty extensive write-up about eating around Istanbul posted here:
                  Hope you get to go with him sometime!

                2. re: NancyC

                  Pekmez is made from grapes, not pomegranates (see above post) - not sure what the pomagranate molasses is. Speaking of sweets, there's a specialty from the Adana region called ceyzerya (sp? - pronounced je-zer-i-a) that's made from shredded carrots that's quite tasty. And I second the double-roasted pistachio Turkish delight mentioned above.

                  1. re: kerdragon

                    Trust me, it's pomegranate. It says "nar" right on the jar :). "Pekmez" only means syrup/molasses, not specifically pomegranate molasses. Nar pekmezi.