It’s red mullet season in Istanbul and these respectable fish in the first photo were so bright and beautiful that I thought I was snorkeling right next to them. I went to the Istanbul fish market (wholesale market in Yenikapi) for the first time this week.
On my explorations in India and Thailand, I followed a simple formula to get the most out of the local food culture.
- Read about the cuisine
- Visit markets; understand the season, the land and the bounty.
- Eat street food wherever you see it
- Eat where the ”people” eat
- Eat at fine dining establishments
- Read about the cuisine
I found that the second step is undisputably the most essential one. I always helped my mother with her shopping growing up but I had not paid a visit to the markets with a trained eye.
I absolutely loved the Balik Hali (the wholesale fish market) in Yenikapi!
I parted from good friends at about midnight after a good (not great) dinner at Karakoy Lokantasi (a respectable establishment) and hookah in Tophane. I walked up to Taksim and walked the Red streets of Istiklal until about 1 AM. There is always something happening there and it’s always interesting to talk to the people on the street.
I got a haircut and a straight razor shave and hopped into the shuttle right after — yes, you can get a haircut in Istanbul at 1 AM. I missed the point where I had to get off and walked back about six miles. Amazing walk by the water, half of it in the rain, listening to NPR’s The Splendid Table.
Well, I got to the Balik Hali at about 2:30 AM. It was buzzing with excitement. Almost literally. Instead of bees they had seagulls flocking all around in an unobtrusive way, waiting their turn at the pick.
Boats were loading off their catch, fishermen were setting up their humble displays of not so humble fish, and procurement specialists were lining up around the displays. Cuddlefish (calamari), sand sharks, monk fish (Tr: Fener), mullets, leer fish (akya), turbot, John Dory (Tr: Dulger), scallops. needlefish (Tr: Zargana)… What a beautiful scene.
The market buzzed for about two hours after 2:30 and then it led to a calmness. Everyone was tired and ready for bed, including myself.
I had great educational conversations — especially the one about Muhammad’s thumbprint on John Dory. Very entertaining. And convincing.
A most successful reconnaissance mission! Also, I think fish are the most beautiful of all proteins. There, I said it!
I am planning a trip to the Bronx fish market. Anyone familiar with the process? I learned so much when I visited the markets in Bangkok and Istanbul. I certainly can’t pass on the Bronx market!