Sipping from a clear tulip-shaped glass – although we may all think tulips are originally from Holland, they are actually from Turkey – it became clear why it’s the most popular beverage in the country.

I soon discovered it tastes even better with simtici, a ringlet of dough covered in sesame seeds and baked in an oven.

You find simtici at every hour of the day in bakeries or being sold by street vendors. I had become so addicted after a week it was hard to leave room for my main meals.


Dish of the day


But leave room you must, because good meals are everywhere to be found, from mouthwatering kebabs to dishes that mix succulent meat with vegetables and are cooked in a way I’ve never tasted before.

Take sultan’s delight, which is made with eggplant and lamb. The eggplant is cooked by holding the stem and turning it over an open fire. After it has cooked and cooled down, the skin is removed and the flesh mashed.

Butter, flour and milk are heated in a saucepan before the eggplant purée is added and some grated cheese is sprinkled on top.

The lamb, which is cooked with onions and tomatoes, is then dropped in the middle of the serving platter and is surrounded by the eggplant. Absolutely delicious.

If you love seafood, don’t leave Istanbul without trying some large black mussels stuffed with currants and pine nuts.


Just desserts


A meal good enough for a sultan should be finished with the perfect sweet.

The king of Turkish sweets, you might be surprised to find, is not Turkish delight. Locals much prefer baklava – thin layers of filo pastry filled with walnuts, pistachios and hazelnuts and drowned in syrup.

It’s part of almost every meal, bought daily to take home, and is so popular even global conglomerates like McDonald’s and Starbucks have it on their combo menus.

The perfect Turkish meal should always be enjoyed while watching oriental dancing, so I made sure I spent my last night in Turkey at the Sultana’s 1001 Nights Show with its “famous belly dancers”.

But while I was extremely impressed with the danseuse and her seductive moves, it was the woman’s thigh kofte – delicious meat patties placed in egg yolk and fried in oil – I will remember forever.


Caffeine hit


While tea is more popular among locals, the Turks have been brewing coffee since the 10th century and were the first to come up with the idea of roasting coffee beans.

Turkish coffee is slowly brewed in a pot known as a cezve on a low open flame.

The Turks usually drink coffee after a good meal. It’s always served in a very small cup because if you have too much of it, you’ll have trouble sleeping.