- İzmir, usually referred to as “the Pearl of the Aegean” by the Turkish people, is a prominent tourism destination, but this beautiful city is also a haven for gastro-tourists. Enthralling diners with regional herbs and vegetables, delicious appetizers with olive oil, a great variety of cheese and wine and fresh Aegean seafood dishes are typical İzmir delicacies. But, on top of these İzmir also offers visitors a unique culinary journey with gourmet street food. Eaten on the go, the many street delicacies of İzmir are worth sampling.
Kumru: İzmir’s classic sandwich
The İzmir version of the widely known sesame bread sandwich is called ‘kumru’ (dove), as its shape resembles a bird. This bread, made with chickpea yeast, is filled with İzmir ‘tulum’ cheese, green pepper and tomato. Served cold, the sandwich has been a breakfast staple for about 150 years in İzmir, along with boyoz and gevrek. In the 1950s, a hot version of the sandwich emerged with the addition of sausage and salami. More filling and satisfying, the hot version is called Çeşme Kumrusu and is quite different from the original kumru.
Try ‘boyoz’ – you’ll love it
Another wonderful classic İzmir bite is ‘boyoz’. Taking its name from the Spanish word “bollos” (small loaves or bundles), this pastry entered the İzmir culinary repertoire in 1492, brought to the area by Sephardic Jews immigrating from Spain. ‘Boyoz’, with a history of more than 500 years, is made with a dough of wheat flour, oil, water and salt. Similar to puff pastry, the dough is rolled into a hollow, round shape and served plain or filled with cheese or spinach. The delectable pastry, identified with İzmir, can be found throughout the city. It is considered a classic breakfast-to-go in İzmir and is usually eaten with a boiled egg.
In İzmir, the simit is gevrek
In terms of Türkiye’s street snacks, the famous ‘simit (bagel)’ is the first that comes to mind. Sprinkled with sesame seeds, this doughnut-shaped bread is ubiquitous in Türkiye. The simit dough is rolled into a circle, dipped in molasses or water, and then baked. A typical light breakfast is a glass of tea along with a crispy simit fresh out of the oven and layered with cheese. At other times of the day, the ‘simit’ is usually accompanied by an ‘ayran’, a refreshing yoghurt drink. In İzmir, this budget and vegan-friendly street flavour is also served as ‘gevrek’ (crispy).
Although similar in appearance, ‘gevrek’ and simit are prepared differently. In simit making, the molasses process is applied without pre-cooking – while the dough is cold. Gevrek dough is pre-cooked in cauldrons filled with boiling molasses, then covered with sesame seeds and placed in the oven. The hot molasses process gives the İzmir gevrek an especially crispy structure.
Stuffed mussels: An İzmir essential
Stuffed mussels are a flavourful and popular snack found in every Turkish seaside city and throughout İzmir, especially at the stalls along the İzmir promenade. Mussel shells are stuffed with a filling composed of mussels, rice, currants, salt and spices, and served with a squeeze of lemon on top.
An “offal” craving: Kokoreç
Kokoreç, a favourite street delicacy in Türkiye, consists of sheep or lamb intestines stuffed with sweetbreads. Spiced, skewered and grilled, the tasty dish is finely chopped and then served between half or a quarter of a loaf of bread. İzmir-style kokoreç is slightly different – it tends to leave out tomatoes and spices to allow the full flavour of the kokoreç to emerge. In addition, the skewered meat is cut into rings and then chopped into large pieces.