With one foot in Europe and the other in Asia, Istanbul is the only city in the world that straddles two continents. Separated by a waterway, Istanbul retains both an Asian and a European identity, which is a great bonus for visitors who get to experience two cities in one.

However, that’s not the only advantage of this unique destination. Having a real melting pot culture has resulted in a one-of-a-kind cuisine. Forget about the international food chains while you’re here when in Istanbul the food to eat is what the locals eat! Here are some of our favourite foods and drinks you need to try when in Istanbul to eat like a local.

FOOD

Simit

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Pic by @tiebowtie

One of the most popular street food snacks in Istanbul; simit is similar to a pretzel, in that it is a chewy, round bread, covered in sesame seeds.

Manti

manti-turkish-food
Pic by @lemantii

While the origin of this dish is somewhat disputed, one thing for sure is the tastiness of this dish! Dumplings (usually stuffed with lamb or beef) that comes topped with yoghurt and garlic sauce.

Kumpir

kumpir-turkish-food
Pic by @kumpir.krumpels

Proof that stuffed potatoes are a crowd-pleaser everywhere. Kumpir is a baked potato, stuffed with butter and cheese and then topped with meat, olives, pickles and corn.

Balik Ekmek

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Pic by @taste_and_tell__

An Istanbul classic, the balik ekmek is basically a fish sandwich. Grilled fish, onions and salad are stuffed into a bread roll.

Pide

pide-turkish-food
Pic by @elifin.mutfagi

Kind of like a boat-shaped pizza, pide is made of dough and filled with different ingredients including minced meat, spinach, eggs, Turkish sausage and veal meat.

DRINK

Raki

istanbul-eat-local-raki

Known as Turkey’s alcoholic drink of choice, raki is an anise-flavoured liqueur that is often enjoyed with meze.

Ayran

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Pic by @zugazo

This drink is so popular, you can even find it in McDonald’s and Burger King restaurants! It’s a refreshing drink made of water, yoghurt and salt.

Salep

turkey-drink-salep

Originally, this winter warmer drink was flavoured with tubers of orchids, however, people have stopped using this type of orchid because it’s becoming extinct in some places. Rather, now it is made with hot milk, sugar, flour and sprinkled with cinnamon.

DESSERT

Baklava

turkish-dessert-baklava
Pic by @neha_goud

You’ve probably had baklava before, but it’s definitely not comparable to the baklava you’ll have in Istanbul! A sweet dish made from filo pastry, baklava comes stuffed with nuts and dried fruits and is held together with syrup or honey.

Kunefe

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Pic by @taste.of_.ardabil

Made of wheat and cheese, kunefe is a mild flavoured dessert that is usually served hot.

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