Kebabs are not the only food that is the favorite cuisine of Turkish people. The Turks also love fish. Now I am not talking about your frozen, filleted fish from the local supermarket. We are talking about fresh fish that came out of the sea only a matter of minutes or hours before. More and more Turks are also upping their consumption of fish, thanks to the high prices of red meat in Turkey. So, there are two ways to eat fish like a Turk and it all depends on the occasion and who you are with.
Eating Fish in Turkey as Street Food
If you have been to big cities like Istanbul or Kayseri, you will have seen fish stands everywhere. Rows and rows of them all stood together. They are a great option if you are eating on a budget as the fish sandwiches are so cheap. Simply order your sandwich and a fresh cooked fish will be placed in between some slices of bread and handed to you so you can eat on the go.
Some stalls will have the option of topping up your sandwich with lettuce, tomatoes or onions. If health and hygiene is your thing, then eat and don’t look. It is quite normal for the seller to be smoking a cigarette and then handle your food without washing his hands.
Alternatively you can order a plate of fish and sit down to eat it as a lunch time menu. It will be delivered to your table with salad, bread and a quarter of lemon for you to squeeze over the fish.
To take advantage of lunch times fish meals, order the selection where four or five types of fish are served to your table. The cook knows that you are eating on the go, so he will take the head off and fillet the fish for you, which is unlike the evening meal.
Eating Fish in Turkey at Restaurants
Evening time is when the serious fish eaters come out to play. In all coastal resorts and big towns, there are fish restaurants which serve fish to your table with head and guts included. If they are experts at what they do, they will ask you if you want the head removing and the fish deboning. The choice is yours. My husband refuses this option as he likes to eat the eyeballs because they are a great source of protein! Urgh! I know.
So everyone can choose their own fish dish or the whole table can order one massive fish that has been cooked in sea salt and it will be placed in the center of the table. Now in the western world, the preferred drink when eating fish is white wine however here in Turkey, it is Raki. This is the national drink of Turkey and tastes much like Ouzo or Perno. To be a typical Turk, add water to the Raki and sip it slowly throughout the meal.
Traditional side dishes are salad, bread and some form of potatoes whether they are fried or boiled. Don’t be surprised if you are dining with a Turk and throughout their meal, they put their knife and fork down for five minutes at a time. They are simply savouring the dish and enjoying the moment. Take it as a compliment because it means they also enjoy your company.