Top 8 Spots in Istanbul for Local Sweets and Delicacies
By: Valerie Holyoak
Dessert is often a very social affair in Istanbul, and rest of Turkey. It’s meant to be shared any time of day with friends and family. Often you will see groups of friends having coffee or tea and sharing a platter of dessert. The most famous dessert of Turkey is Baklava, which, according to anyone who loves it, should be eaten fresh. Traditionally this is made from stacked layers of Phyllo pastry, which are then brushed with sugar and butter. It comes in many shapes and has additions such as nuts (pistachios being the most well-known) and candied fruits.
Turkish Delight is another sweet that is extremely popular and has sometimes been called the ‘King of Sweets’. Turkish Delight is actually quite a new comer as far as sweets go here, only being introduced in the 19th century. However, it proved to be extremely popular and different flavors are now accepted, such as rose water, orange, and molasses. Made in the traditional way, it should melt in your mouth and leave a glorious perfumed taste behind. You will find sweet shops all over the city with these, and many other delicacies on sale.
Divan Patisserie, Taksim
The word ‘lokum’ means Turkish Delight and if this is what you like then you need to visit this place! You will find Patisserie inside the very sophisticated hotel Divan, where you will be able to enjoy a cup of delicious Turkish coffee and a platter of lokum. The coffee will be full bodied as it is typical in Turkey. This is a favorite place for people to meet after work or for casual dinners. The food menu is extensive and delicious but what will draw your attention is the selection of sweets in the Patisserie! Filled with cakes and cookies, superb chocolate and Turkish Delight, this place will be hard to walk away from without a sample of the sweets! This selection along with fine teas and excellent coffee has put this place well and truly on the list of places to visit!
Here you will find the best Baklava in Istanbul! No doubt about it! If you ask anyone where to get the best, this is where they will direct you. This was the very first Baklava shop to open in Istanbul in 1949. The Gullu family who had been producing baklava since 1820 ran it. After all these years it has a sort of nostalgic atmosphere but what will blow your mind is the vast array of baklava! In as many different shapes and sizes as you can imagine, with pistachios, walnuts and crystallized fruit, along with a range of chocolate, there is a huge selection!
A traditional baklava recipe calls for sugar syrup instead of honey as this lets the flavor of the nuts come through perfectly. They will make up a gift box of assorted types if you ask and sell by the kilo or just one or two pieces for you to eat straight away. There is even baklava which is gluten free now, so you can enjoy this delicacy any which way you like! They ship all over Istanbul by courier and will also ship internationally. This is definitely the best place to try this sweet!
This cafe was founded in 1961 and became really famous among the elite society of Istanbul. Besides having a reputation for serving the most delicious chocolate, this place has also become well known for the ice cream and cream dish it serves. If you ask for ‘Kup Griye’ you will be able to enjoy a goblet of the dish which was developed right there. You might know it as ‘Coupe Baylan’ in other European countries. The ingredients in this amazing dish are vanilla, caramel, almonds, honey, ice cream, and cream. No wonder it is so popular!
You will find that many poets frequent the cafe and novelists who tend to hang out here and enjoy this treat. Everything on the premises is homemade and fresh, and the ice cream comes in the most delicious flavors such as peach and cherry! For the more adventurous person, you can even buy the ingredients there to concoct your own cookies and cakes.
The original Turkish ice cream shop first opened up in south central Turkey in 1850 and has now become part of a chain of shops all over Turkey. It now has a shop in Istanbul, which sells the most wonderful ice cream! It is somewhat different to what you might be used to, as it is a little firmer and far more flavored. Ice cream is not the only thing you will find on sale here. They also sell a variety of desserts such as Tiramisu, profiteroles, and cheesecakes.
The ice creams can be bought in cones, on top of waffles or in little cups with toppings such as nuts, fruits, and sauces. The dessert menu is extensive and includes sorbets and other traditional Turkish desserts. It has plenty of seating as it is on three floors and the view overlooks the Bosphorus. That being said, if you are planning on going in a large group you might want to call ahead to reserve as they do get fairly busy.
Turkish Cafe and Restaurant
Here you will find some interesting variations such as pistachio coffee and apple tea! It’s a really cute little cafe with an amazing selection of different things to try! It is located in the historic center and is a great place to rest after shopping, and taste something different. It is a lovely comfortable place to spend some time, the owners are very friendly and the menu tends to be on the exotic side with entertainment to match it. Live Turkish music in the evenings is what they are very proud of and it does attract locals and tourists alike. Combined with a great selection of desserts and wonderful coffees and teas, it should be on your list to see!
The Pudding Shop
This place is well known for its signature pudding, which they name ‘Noah’s Pudding’. Based on the story of Noah and his Arc, surviving the Flood it is said to combine all the ingredients he had at the time. They use orange, figs, apricots, a variety of nuts and raisins along with barley and bulgur. Culinary experts in Turkey will take great pains to assure you that the recipe is the oldest in the world.
Fasting for the first ten days of the Islamic calendar is the custom. Then sharing the pudding with friends and family on the 10th day is a usual practice. As with any recipe that has been passed down through generations, the ingredients vary from family to family. The end result, however, is much the same and at The Pudding Shop, it is a light and fruity affair. It never ceases to satisfy! Even if you are not a huge fan of chickpeas and beans it is worth giving it a try. They are well disguised with the fruity taste. It’s a great spot for casual meals and it’s just right for warm evenings as it is served cold. If you have a nut allergy, you should make it known, as nuts are sometimes one of the ingredients used.
This is not the easiest place to find as it is somewhat out of the way, but you will find that it is well worth the effort. It will remind you of an old fashioned sweet shop and has a nostalgic feel to it. They sell homemade Turkish Delight and one of their specialty flavors is cinnamon. One little quirk here is that you get to try a sample before you buy anything! It is also a whole lot cheaper than market shops so if you plan on taking any Turkish sweets back to friends and family, then you should go here to get them.
You will find this charming little shop in the historic area of Sultanahmet. It has been in business since 1961 and is a favorite place for locals and tourists. It has the reputation for making extremely light pastry and for good service in a comfortable atmosphere. They have a great selection of little pastries stuffed with sweet and savory fillings. These are displayed in the window in a mouth-watering array. The strawberry tart is possibly one of the best you will find anywhere and well worth a visit!
Turkish food is typically rich and diverse and the sweet menus are no exception. Flavored with things such as rose water, jasmine, and cherry, they are often served drenched with syrups and creams. Because Muslims are not allowed to drink alcohol, juices and syrups were created for special occasions. These syrups were then introduced into desserts menus. Every special occasion has a treat or sweet that goes along with it.
Funerals are associated with tapioca or syrups. These are rubbed over the baby’s lips to assure a sweet future, will accompany semolina while the birth of a baby. You will still find that on weddings and Ramadan Sherbet will be served in crystal bowls on lace doilies. Popular flavors here will be the rose, cardamom and pomegranate and occasionally poppy and tamarind. Tradition forms a huge part of daily life in Istanbul and you will see it included in their food choices. Whatever time of year you arrive, and whatever event is being celebrated at that time, you will find the sweet and delicacy selection at the hundreds of cafes and restaurants to be wonderful.