Friday, September 08, 2006

Torturing Innocent Transylvanians is Fun!

Our good friend Réka in Kolozsvar (Cluj, Romania) wrote begging me to stop torturing her with images of good Turkish food she won't be able to eat until little Zoárd (the largest baby of that name in history) grows a bit older. Réka and Laci (Imperial Papa of Zoárd - really, the whole family sounds like they chose names from some Byzantine royal dynasty... although they live in Transylvania) used to work as tour guides in Turkey, so they know their way around BBQ lamb and kuru fasulye. I told her the next few posts would be about unappetizing, extreme foods like lamb head sandwiches and tripe soup. But I am sorry, Réka. I am really, truly sorry.

I lied.

Welcome to the Mısır Bazaar, the "Egyptian Market" also known as the Spice market. Traditionally, this was the main grocery market in Istanbul for spices and sweets. Today it serves up-market sweet tooths and tourists, but it is still impressive. One whiff on entering is enough to tell you this isn't any gourmet supermarket in the Jersey suburbs. This is the real thing.
Pistachio kadaif rolls. At only $15 a kilo (that's 2.2 pounds to you metrically challenged Americans) this is cheaper than buying a kilo bag of pistchios anywhere outside of Turkey.

Or you could try the pistachio Turkish delight (loukoum) - this is what keeps Turkish dentists in business.

Maybe olives are on the grocery list today. Lots of olives. Regional varieties, different sizes and cures, really far more olives than than most of you would ever really need.

The real market is outside the Mısır bazaar, on the streets to the west of it. These bright red pastes are salça. Salça is essential to Turkish home cooking - I don't know how I have managed to live without in my life up to this point. It is made from tomatoes sun dried in plastic bags on the rooftops of houses in Anatolia, mixed with pepper pastes in varying degrees of hot spiciness. Salça is to tomato paste what good French red wine is to boxed grape juice. If you have a Turkish grocery within a day or two drive of your home, run out and stock up on some canned salça. Kiss tomato paste goodbye.

Turks bake a lot of kinds of bread - french style baguettes are probably the most common, but for certain Anatolian kebab dishes tradition demands freshly made flat breads like pide and lavaş. These are baked in a wood fired oven - the pile of wood stands outside the bakery and spilled into the street.

Oh, why not just end on yesterday's late afternoon snack: ground pistachio baklava rolls.

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