Hus Vedat is a London born chef with Turkish origins who has previously worked as an Executive Chef at the St Ermin’s hotel and AA Caxton Grill and Jamie’s Oliver’s BBQ restaurant Barbecoa where he put his butchery skills into practice. Today, Hus is his own boss in the freshly new opened restaurant Yosma; a Turkish restaurant and bar inspired by streets of Istanbul. Hus’s goal is always to produce new, exciting, and innovative dishes that maintain simplicity with real focus on provenance and fresh produce. The modern twist on a traditional Turkish tavern that Hus poured his heart into promises to become the next authentic gem on the London dining scene.
The intense smell of mussels stuffed with aromatic rice and spices lures passers-by into small street vendors who sell them individually or by the half dozen. Service is quick: you come, eat right there on pavement and move on. Rice is spiced with cinnamon, herbs, pine nuts and currants and then tucked into each mussel and cooked. To eat, you break the mussel apart, squeeze a bit of lemon on top and scoop out the mixture with the empty half of the shell. Sounds neat, but you’ll get your hands dirty. It can be found all over the city, but mostly in Beyoğlu, on Istanbul’s European side. Today it’s one of the busiest areas of Istanbul, with many street musicians and a traditional old tram passing through.
Where Midye Dolma street-food vendors everywhere around the city but most set up camp in Beyoğlu. Try café Taka Balık if you don’t fancy eating outside in the heat.
If you’ve ever been to Istanbul, you know there is nothing more mouth-watering in the morning than the syrupy smell of a freshly baked Simit – a baked Turkish bagel topped with sesame or poppy seeds. It is made with caramel-esque mulberry molasses and cooked in a clay oven. They’re the staple of Istanbul breakfast time and locals eat them for an on-the-go breakfast. Have your simit plain or with with kaymak – buffalo milk clotted cream – and a sprinkle of honeycomb. Simit’s size, crunch and chewiness vary by a region: in Ankara they’re much smaller and crisper than in other cities. These breakfast bagels are served warm on the street and can each be found in street-food vendors but also in restaurants and bakeries in every corner of the city. Accompany it with a freshly hand-squeezed pomegranate juice Tureng.
Where A bakery called Meshur Tarihi Bogazkesen Simit Firini between Karaköy and Taksim Square bakes the best in the city.
A fish sandwich, made with white fish such as mackerel. The fish is grilled and served in a white bread with lettuce and a lot of white onion. Sprinkled with salt and lemon juice, it is best to eat fresh straight from the grill. When on a hunt for a proper street-food, in the UK people go for a wrap or a burger, in Istanbul they go for Balik Ekmek. The best place to have this sub is in the district of Eminönü. Here shipping boats are docking by the harbour and locals cook them fresh on their boats. When passing buy, sellers invite you to step onto their wobbling deck and offer you to try it while making a polite small talk. Some of them even set up a table with chairs in front of their colourful boat where you can sit down and eat. Top tip: Look for the boats with the longest queues in front of them.
Where Eminönü port is the best place to get this delicacy but you can find it also in Karaköy behind the fresh fish market and in Grand Bazaar in the city centre.
In an area called Taksim, you could go from one place to another and they would 100 per cent sell an islak burger, which in Turkish means wet burger. Taksim is the popular night-life centre of Istanbul bursting with bars, clubs and restaurants akin to London’s Leicester Square or Times Square. This dish hides during the day and strikes in early morning hours when crowds gather in front of shops to satisfy their alcohol-infused stomachs with what looks like an ugly slider. It’s made with lamb meat and served in spongy buns dipped in tomato and onion sauce. Then they are put into glass boxes while still hot where they steam. They might not look it but, they taste truly delicious. While Turkish kebab is a popular drunk food in the UK, people in Istanbul prefer a (wet) burger.
Where Kizilkayalar Hamburger is just one of the many places in Taksim Square where you can bite into this soft beast.
A traditional street-food dish that will please every sweet tooth is lokma. They are little squishy doughnut balls made of flour and yeast, deep fried and drenched in syrup or honey. Dusted with cinnamon and sometimes heavily sprinkled with sesame seeds, it is one of the most popular dessert dishes in Turkey. Spotting it might not be an easy task, but if you look closely you can find it tucked away in Istanbul’s busy streets among those selling corn and simit. Sour lokma, which is lokma without any sugary coating is a staple in Turkish and Mongolian cuisines. Apart from being especially loved by children, it also carries a ceremonial meaning in Turkey. Traditionally 40 days after someone passes away, family members cook lokma and serve it to their neighbours. Over the past decade it has secured its place on the ever-growing Istanbul street-food scene. Because who on earth doesn’t like doughnuts?
Where If you’re too lazy to go on a lokma hunt around the city, you’re sure to find some in the Spice Bazaar – the second largest bazaar in the city on Rustem Pasa Mahallesi street.
As told to Dominika Kubinyova