Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Red Panda's Favorites From Turkey

Oh, hi there!

So yes, it has been almost 2 weeks since I've come back from Turkey and I've sorta been, well, too quiet. The truth is I've gone into withdrawal. No, no, I'm not on any sort of drugs.. Unless you consider Istanbul one. Let's just say I've experienced two weeks of what was one of the most beautiful countries I've visited yet. My family and I had spent a week in Antalya, taking in the history and culture of the city and another week in Istanbul, taking in the charm of it all. It was so hard to come back. I found myself asking my parents to just leave me in Istanbul, "I'll be an illegal immigrant and sell roses for a living!" I'd say. Yeah. Not healthy.

Out of the two cities that we had the chance to visit, I fell madly in love with Istanbul. I don't know what happened, but I started wishing for the city to turn into a man that I could marry. Crazy stuff. Let me just say it once and for all, you have to visit Istanbul. It's a city that has something for everyone. Love to sight-see? Love music? Love the hustle and bustle? Love people watching? Love to take photos? Love food? Istanbul has it all and more. I felt so alive over there, it was a city that just never slept. I truly cannot wait for the next opportunity to visit that enchanting city again.

Well now that I'm somehow recovered, I decided a post about my top favorite desserts in Turkey should go up. As expected, I spent most of my time eating in Turkey. It's hard not to, really. I'm sure I gained 7 kilos but didn't dare confirm that on the scales. Instead I consoled myself by thinking *Oh, don't worry. You did not gain weight, but happiness* I love telling myself white lies.

Okay, on to the sweets!

1. Chocolate pudding topped with grated pistachios

You'd think that in Turkey, people wouldn't bother with chocolate seeing as they pour sugar syrup on everything. I mean, especially with baklava available at every corner. Think again. Every pastry shop we entered, be it in Antalya or Istanbul, we would see at least 3 Turkish people eating a bowlful of this chocolate pudding. Some would even ask for a dollop of dondurma (Turkish ice cream). If you're a chocolate freak like I am, this is for you. I can't recall what they called it in Turkish but you can't miss it!

2. Dondurma (Turkish ice cream)

Summer's never complete without ice cream and I had lots of it in Turkey. Dondurma is just like Arabic ice cream (Booza) It has a distinctive, fresh taste. I especially enjoyed the fruit flavored ones but my favorite by far was the caramel dondurma. A must try! You'll find a dondurma stand at almost every corner, especially in Istanbul.

3. Kunafa

Kunafa, or knafeh as we call it at home, has always been a childhood favorite. It's hard not to fall in love with this dessert if you're a sweet tooth. Shredded kunafa dough on the bottom layer, a thick sweet layer of ooey gooey cheese, another thicker layer of kunafa dough which is baked to perfection and then topped with grated pistachio. And then, just to take it to the next level, it is swimming in luscious sugar syrup that has been poured on after the baking process is done. Hands down, the kunafa in Turkey is the best I've EVER tried (and I've tasted many a kunafa in my day in Syria and Lebanon) Seriously, the Turks know exactly what they're doing!

4. Baklava

Of course, no trip to Turkey is complete without the world famous Baklava. Walnut and pistachio fillings, mmmmmmm. Crispy philo pastry that's light and fluffy like a pillow, mmmmmmm.
The first time I ordered a few pieces of baklava, I was hoping and praying that this wouldn't be another one of those overrated desserts which would disappoint me. But this really did it for me (and my parents, who were raving about it since their last visit to Istanbul). Best. Baklava. Ever. Like I said, the Turks really know what they're doing. I'm never going to have Baklava anywhere else again. Ever.
Oh and we also came back with a whole box of these and they stayed crispy for 3 days!

5. Bal (Honey)

Who would have thought that I'd fall in love with honey all over again? Turkey, you've done it again. We went down to this little family-owned restaurant near the Blue Mosque in Istanbul and decided to have some breakfast there. That's when I first noticed a giant slab of honeycomb in a pool of sparkly honey and I was just mesmerized by it. My mom noticed me in my frenzy and directly ordered me a plate. They served it with toasted walnuts and a dollop of fresh cream (which was absolutely divine). The perfect breakfast. I can still taste it!
Oh and if you're interested, this restaurant was called Elif Cafe. A must try, they serve a wonderful breakfast plate too.

Hope you're all safe and for whoever is fasting, I wish you a wonderful month. 

Ramadan Kareem & Happy Baking!


  1. Yasmin! The second pic in the Turkish ice-cream section is awesome! Love your pics and dessert round-up. Itching to go there myself now!!!

  2. Oeehhh you make me so hungry :) They're all delicious, especially the chocolate pudding and the kunafa mmmm

    x Leila

  3. Wow so much yummy! The turkish ice cream was my favourite in Istanbul, and those long giant spoons they use to scoop it out are something else

  4. Omg! this all looks so good!!

  5. Ahh Istanbul. Makes me wistful just typing the name out. Can't wait to go back....

  6. Beautiful photographs. You captured them wonderfully. These all look so delicious!

  7. Loved this post, though was a torture reading this while I was fasting! I totally agree on the awesome kunafa and baklava. I had the most awesome cream-filled baklava (if ghee and sugar weren't enough!) in Istanbul...though it'd didn't travel too well. Cream got back and killed everything when we got back to Dubai :(

  8. Yasmin! The second pic in the Turkish ice-cream section is awesome! Love your pics and dessert round-up. Itching to go there myself now!!!

  9. That photo had to be taken 4 times so I could get it focused just right. Thank you! :)
    Istanbul's wonderful, you must go!

  10. Was quite hard posting this while fasting ;) Glad you enjoyed it x

  11. So much yummy indeed, only in Turkey! Oh yes and the way they play tricks on the tourists never gets old.

  12. Oh dear Lord, the cream-filled ones are to die for. Couldn't get a photo of them because I just ate them too fast!

  13. I have to return to this wonderful city.

  14. selling honeycomb on the streets! whoa! Turkey is one of my dream food destinations. Hopefully I'd get there sooner than later.

    I'd love a slab of honeycomb with a stack of pancakes with rashers of salty cured meat. sweet, salty and fatty all in one bite!

  15. I know what you mean about withdrawal! took me a while to get over my trip from Roatan.

    Hoping to make it to Istanbul sometime this year.

  16. Turkey, especially Istanbul, is a dream come true for foodies!