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My Silk Road The Piglet stumbles across the continent

73 - Istanbul Bests - best fast food

TURKEY | Wednesday, 26 December 2012 | Views [372]

Making Kokarec (and not going to college...)

Making Kokarec (and not going to college...)

I'm now starting a few short blurbs on my culinary explorations in Istanbul.  After all, for those of you who know me, food has been as much a focal point of the journey as has more cerebral pursuits.  In fact, one of the highlights of Istanbul has been a culinary walking tour in the backstreets of old Istanbul (Eminou area around the Spice Market), courtesy of www.istanbuleats.com.   During the walking tour, I was introduced to a delightful freshly made sandwich sold from roadside stalls – not quite Subway and much more delicious and intriguing.  Kokarec is a sandwich made from lamb sweetbreads and lamb fat roasted for hours in a horizontal “doner kebab” type manner over a hot woodfired grill.  When the doner kebab is crisp on the outside, tender on the inside and dripping with juices, chunks are sliced off and roughly cut and then mixed with fresh chopped tomatoes and onions which is then lightly sautéed for a few seconds.  The hot mixture, which is by now slightly crispy, slightly soft, and with the mild gamey flavor of the sweetbreads cut by the sharp acidic tomatoes and onions, is then scooped into a “baguette” which has most of the white bread hollowed out.  Voila – the kokarec!  An infinitely more interesting and delicious fastfood than a burger or hot dog – and freshly prepared right in front of you.  Okay, more high cholesterol too… but hey, I’m on holiday!  And the high cholesterol is definitely offset by the removal of the white bread from the baguette so one doesn’t get filled up with empty carbs.

The kokarec stand I visited is in one of the alleys behind the Spice Market.  It is operated by two brothers who apparently gave up college to learn the trade.  The elder brother was cooking for us – a chap in his late twenties perhaps and who looks as if he would be more at home in a nightclub than frying sweetbreads in an alley.  We were told they have made enough from the kokarec business to buy vintage American cars as a hobby!  Kokarec is also available in Istanbul from a chain called “Champion” (or something like it).  I haven’t tried the Champion kokarec but wherever it is, kokarec is a must-try in Istanbul.


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