The Goztepe Bazaar: Come for the Shopping, Stay for the Food



(Testo italiano) This week I am once again writing from the Anatolian side of Istanbul. I have been staying in Fenerbahçe, which is not the most exciting culinary neighborhood in the city. But I do have the Göztepe Pazartesi Pazarı (Monday bazaar) to look forward to. Once a week, a long strip of land between Selamiçeşme Parkı and the railroad, comes alive with stalls selling produce, dried beans, granny panties, slippers, fish, preserves, bread, olives, and prepared foods.


This week I met my friend Tuba Şatana, author of Istanbul Food and my frequent partner in artery-clogging crime, of for a visit to the bazaar. In an unthinkable turn of events, neither of us had eaten breakfast, so by noon we were lightheaded and weak, less than ideal conditions for browsing a crowded food market. So we high-tailed it for a stand where several women from the Black Sea region make gözleme (savory hand-rolled crepes) to order and sell other prepared foods.

Tuba, a longtime customer of the stall, was greeted with kisses and hugs from the proprietors and once we sat down at our low-to-the-ground table beneath a tarp, the food started to arrive and didn’t stop coming until we said when.


The first arrival was baklava. I never turn down a dessert at the beginning of a meal, so we nibbled a bit on this rich and gooey walnut treat while we sipped tea. Next came the katmer, a very general term for a flakey breakfast pastry that varies slightly in its ingredients, depending on where in Turkey it is produced. This one was buttery and savory with a hint of poppy seeds. Next came a plastic container with a dozen dolma—grape and cabbage leaves stuffed with spiced rice.


As the glucose began to enter our veins, we regained our senses and watched attentively as our gözleme were prepared. First, a lump of dough was lifted off a tray and slapped onto a floured wooden board. It was hand-rolled into a thin sheet for several minutes before it moved on to the next step of the assembly line for filling. The thin disk of dough had its lower half covered in shredded pazı (chard) and grated beyaz peynir (white cheese). The disk was closed up, turning it into a semicircle. This was then tossed on the steaming grill where it was rubbed with a large wad of butter as it cooked.


As we ate our piping hot gözleme, a woman beside us poured milk into a bubbling cauldron. She stirred laboriously until it was incorporated into a sugar, butter, and flour mixture. The concoction was , a common funeral dish, that, evidently, can also be eaten by non-mourners on Monday afternoons. We were served two small lumps of it hot off the burner.


Sufficiently energized, we stocked up on a few more of the stall’s offerings to take home—some cranberry preserves and spicy tomato paste—and wandered through the bazaar on the lookout for the next great bite.