A Food & Travel Blog

Culinary Backstreets Istanbul Food Tour- A Must-Do for Food Lovers!

12/05/2019 | By

I’ve said it before, no-one eats as well as the Turks – I get lucky and check out the dining habits of the locals again with another Culinary Backstreets Istanbul food tour.

Istanbul, Culinary Backstreets Istanbul

Oh dear, I’m feeling quite guilty because it’s been so long since I put up a post – but I do have a fairly good excuse.  I’ve been busy travelling since before Easter, spending a couple of weeks in Turkey (bliss) and I’m now in Southern Italy.

Regular readers might remember my first trip to Turkey almost six years ago, where I went on my first ever Culinary Backstreets food tour.

Culinary Backstreets Istanbul, the breakfast spread

Just a light start to the Culinary Backstreets Istanbul food tour – the breakfast spread.

Rose petal jam, Culinary Backstreets Istanbul

I took quite a shine to the local rose petal jam on the Culinary Backstreets Istanbul food tour, and was very relieved to find that most of the locals buy it rather than make it. I’ll be hunting it down at home.

Culinary Backstreets were one of the earlier food tour organisations and, in my opinion, they are still one of the best.  Established in 2009, they promise to take their guests into the more traditional areas of the cities in which they operate. They focus on long-time, family run businesses and show visitors the day-to-day culinary traditions that bind families, neighbours and communities, offering a glimpse into the authentic life, culture and history of a city.

Baby Okra soup - Culinary Backstreets Istanbul

Interesting, but not quite a favourite – the local specialty of baby okra soup.

Borek usta, Culinary Backstreets Istanbul

LOVED these – cheese-filled borek made by an usta who does nothing else. When he runs out, he shuts up shop.

Borek shop, Culinary Backstreets Istanbul

Beyond my wildest dreams, I found myself back in Istanbul last month with The Bloke, and the lovely guys at Culinary Backstreets Istanbul gave me another opportunity to experience food just like the locals. As I said in my earlier post, Turks really know how to enjoy food. It may be a heresy to say this, especially while I’m in Italy, but I cannot think of another culture that eats so well and so often – they don’t worry about constraints like meal times and will sit down for a feed whenever the urge takes them. Even The Bloke noticed it, commenting as we drove into the city from the new (and ginormous) airport, on how so many people in the streets were eating.

lamb kebab, Culinary Backstreets Istanbul

Now THAT’S a kebab!

Pide Guys, Culinary Backstreets Istanbul

Happy in his work, another store that does only one thing – just the best pide.

Pide, Culinary Backstreets Istanbul

The tour we went on for this visit took us through the back streets of the Grand Bazaar area. This is a totally crazy part of an already generally hectic city. The streets are small, narrow and winding, choked with shoppers, touts, tourists and the ubiquitous tea guys – it’s easy to get lost and, so long as you don’t have anywhere else to be, that’s quite a desirable state of affairs. It’s fabulous.

Meat Kebabs, Culinary Backstreets Istanbul

The Turks are big on meat – more kebabs.

Final tray of Kebabs, Culinary Backstreets Istanbul

Our small group began with a huge, traditional Turkish breakfast, which included kaymak – a dish I swooned over six years ago – after which we single-mindedly followed our guide Senem around, trying not to get lost and trying all manner of local specialities, many produced by local ‘ustas’, specialists who only make one thing. 

Cake and ice cream, Culinary Backstreets Istanbul

Dessert – a traditional cake, similar to a tres leches cake, and the fabulous Turkish ice cream which is made with mastic, giving it an exceptional mouthfeel.

Finishing not far from the Grand Bazaar, after a solid six hours of wandering and eating, most of our group struggled to find space for dessert – but we were a dedicated bunch and coped admirably.

Çay Guy, Culinary Backstreets Istanbul

The çay guy – it’s these blokes who keep Istanbul operating.

Çay delivery, Culinary Backstreets Istanbul

Getting the çay (tea) from point A, to point B – the obvious way.

Culinary Backstreets provide their excellent food tours in more than a dozen cities internationally – offering more than one tour option in some destinations. They also offer guests tips of the best local bars and restaurants, making them a definite first stop when travelling. Check out their website for more details.

Lambs’ Ears was a guest of Culinary Backstreets Istanbul for this food tour.


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  1. Mae

    Turkish cuisine is amazing and not as recognized as I think it should be… this tour looks like a great way to learn about it.

    best… mae at maefood.blogspot.com

  2. Amanda

    I agree – it’s totally my favourite food!