You might first think of Istanbul as a city to try all kinds of food unique to different regions of Turkey. After all, many people from across the country immigrate to Istanbul every year, creating a culture thus a local food mosaic in the city. Breakfast places with different concepts or delicious street food might lure tourists towards Istanbul, yet Turkey has so much more to offer at its every corner not only in terms of cultural treasuries but also food unique to them. Also known as the ‘pearl of Aegean’, İzmir is one of those cities that mesmerizes visitors with its historical places, natural beauties, and İzmir food you can rarely find elsewhere. Let’s take a stroll through some of the most popular İzmir food you must try when you visit the city that indeed shines bright as a pearl.
It might not sound as exciting as the other İzmir food described below since it is technically a piece of pastry, but boyoz adorns the typical breakfast tables in İzmir along with boiled eggs and tea, promising a simple yet fulfilling meal. Many sources agree that boyoz originates from Spanish and Portuguese Jews expelled from Spain to the Ottoman lands in the 15th century. The fact that the word boyoz roots in the Spanish ‘bollos’ meaning ‘small loaf’ proves the theory. Street vendors usually sell plain boyoz, but many other types such as boyoz with olives, boyoz with eggplant, or even boyoz with artichoke are not uncommon. İzmir experiences a ‘Boyoz Fest’ held in early October and hosts people from all over the world to enjoy this delicious pastry to the fullest.
A pastry resembling bagels filled with tomatoes, pepper, kasseri cheese, and sausage, kumru is one of the favorite street foods of the İzmir dwellers. Other versions include kumru without any meat but Tulum cheese and fresh vegetables, and plain kumru that allows the buyers to fill however they want. The one thing that separates kumru from similar food is the pastry used that is prepared with a special technique unique to İzmir. If you happen to pass by the city, make sure you try out kumru, an İzmir food you will surely find in other cities but probably won’t find as delicious as it is in the originated city.
Sweets lovers love it, salty enthusiasts don’t agree, but one thing for sure is that this pastry filled with chocolate cream explodes like a bomb inside your mouth once you bite the smooth and soft exterior. The İzmir bomb was always renowned around İzmir but gained popularity countrywide only after recently thanks to social media. Just like any other sweets –or salty foods-, İzmir bomb too goes well with Turkish tea that balances the over-sweet flavor of this İzmir food. You will find İzmir bomb whichever patisserie you go in İzmir, give it a shot and join the never-ending arguments going on social media about whether you fancy it or not.
Söğüş is a cold offal dish made from the head of the animal. After washed, cooked, and cooled, the head is ready to be broken into pieces. The tongue, brains, cheeks, and other parts such as the eyes are separated from the head and cut into small pieces to be spiced later. The way to serve it properly varies: some like it in a wrap or between buns and some fancy söğüş alone, but both versions must contain greenery and onions. It is not necessarily an İzmir food but somehow regarded as one maybe because İzmir chefs are so good at preparing it. Street vendors sell it but you can find it in dining restaurants as well.
After all these street delicacies, artichoke dishes might seem a little mismatching as it is a home-cook meal not sold in street vendors, but it is a huge part of the İzmir cuisine particularly with the ‘Artichoke Fest’ held in Urla every year in springtime. You will see more local types of artichoke dishes such as artichokes in olive oil or boyoz with artichoke, but the options are so vast that you’ll have a chance to try artichoke sushi. If you happen to visit İzmir in April, make sure you travel to Urla and try this heavenly taste unique to the Mediterranean climate.
Since İzmir is a coastal city near the gorgeous Aegean Sea, sea dishes are quite popular in the province. But there is one particular meal that screams ‘İzmir’ with the olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic added: glasswort. It is a salty, sour, and highly delicious salad that adorns rakı tables or dinner nights when fish is on the menu. As you’ll most likely do when you visit İzmir, go to a fish restaurant and order glasswort salad to taste this healthy İzmir food.