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Mar 11, 2010 12:11 PM

Istanbul, what spices to bring

In 2 weeks I'll be happily sightseeing Istanbul, and I would love to bring some nice spices. Basically, most of the common spices are available where I live, so I'm not so much interested of grabbing something as common as cumin or sumac (however definitely I'm gonna get vanilla beans and saffron as I expect those to be much cheaper there).
Do you know any more unusual spices that I should look for (eg. can I find myrtus somewhere?)
Can you recommend me any particular blends of spices - something typical for Turkey (let's say lke Garam Masala, Madras curry are for India etc) not the usual chicken or fish "spice". Thank you very much for your help!

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  1. can't help with your choices,but make sure you visit the spice market at the foot of the galata bridge. Barrels and barrels of every spice know to man. they'll help you with your selection.

    1. I'd get Urfa Biber a specialty of Urfa, in Turkey. It's a pepper that is specially processed and is usually ground up.

      Watch the spice merchants though, some have better quality than others, and price is not a real indicator of quality. And before anyone squawks that I'm being unfair, I'm half Turkish myself and have spent years in Istanbul. The Egyptian, or "Spice" bazaar is something to behold! Gorgeous place!

      1. i think you will be underwhelmed by the spice scene here. visiting the spice bazaar is a fun tourist activity but not much of a place for serious spice buying. they do sell saffron- turkish and iranian- but i'd be very careful. they turkish saffron is useless and the iranian stuff is expensive and sometimes tampered with.
        You might find the local pepper paste interesting. The Urfa biber salcasi is smokey and spicy.
        close to the spice market, in the building where Levi Kosher Restaurant is located you can buy sahlep, or ground orchid root. this is a local delicacy that is used for making ice cream and a hot wintertime drink of the same name.

        1. I am partial to Pul Biber - it's very useful when you want to cook with hot pepper flakes, but can only find crushed red pepper. Pul biber is like a hot paprika with no seeds. It has a lovely flavor.
          You might also consider Kofta Bahar - the spice mixture used in making Turkish Kofta. When you return home, you can mix it with ground lamb or beef, wrap it around a skewer and grill it.

          1. Hi,

            Although you only give as an examle, myrtus , - wild myrtus called "murt" locally- can not find commercial value in Turkey . May be found in a few shops -one in Uskudar , in Kasimpasa -shops which sell Akseki or Cevizli products- i , one in Bakirkoy-only for a short period in winter . White kind -cultivated- ,- not naturally grown- is called "hambelis" locally in Cukurova " and can be found in greengrocers in winter.