Friday, 19 September 2008

Black Sea anchovies or hamsi II

The Istanbul fishing season began at the beginning of the month, just in time for Ramadan, and the fresh fish markets are once again choc-a-bloc (sp?) with customers and their shiny finned friends. Karadenizli hamsi (or Black Sea anchovies) are a particular favourite here (despite now appearing on the endangered lists) and it's usually possible to pick up a kilo for about 5ytl (£2.20). If required they will be cleaned up (gutted) by the fishermen ready to take home where you can roll them in cornflour and fry lightly for 10 minutes or so. Add an oniony salad and fresh bread and it's a quick and easy dinner. 

What it is: My favourite fish market, and because it's near to where I live, is the Persembe Pazar (Thursday Market) at Karakoy right on the waterfront. Open until 8pm, depending on the catch and time of year you'll be offered seabreem (├župra), salmon (solmon), bonito (palamut), red mullet (barbunya), sea bass (levrek) and  horse mackerel (istavrit). I often buy towards the end of the day when there is less choice but there is a bargain to had. But be careful if the day has been hot that what you buy is still fresh. Once the stalls close the remnants are thrown to the gulls so keep yourself scarce if you have a phobia as the birds descend in the hundreds as feeding time approaches. 

For lunch I like to eat at the outside fish cafe just beyond Thursday Market where there are small tables and stalls set up right by the Golden Horn. It's a locals place and during the week the workers from the offices fill most of the tables. Straightforward and down to earth, you'll have a choice of a balik ekmek (usually bonito in a bun with a little salad) for something like 3ytl (£1.30) or a choice of fish depending on availability, next to which you can order a salad of carrot, rocket and red cabbage. There is also a similar venue set amongst the market itself under the tarpaulin which I've never tried probably because I don't fancy the idea of reeking of fish after the meal. The waterfront venue has a nice view of the Galata Bridge, and Eminonu and the Suleymaniye Mosque on the other side of the Golden Horn. A meal of fish, salad and a drink, depending on the fish, should cost no more than 12-15ytl (£5-£6.50). If your intention after the meal is to go to the other side of the water rather walking across the bridge you could always take one of the frequent small privately owned boats that leave right by the cafe for 1ytl. It's a really bumpy, though exhilarating, ride as you're at the mercy of the waves made by the larger boats.

Where it is: Very close to the Karakoy tram stop, the Galata Bridge and the Galata Tower. Open seven days a week.

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