thought a lot about where to start talking about Izmir. Because if the subject is Izmir, it is necessary to think a little about where to start describing this city with a deep-rooted history. In my opinion, when introducing a city, the culinary culture should be explained in addition to presenting its streets, towns, villages, historical places and natural beauty. There are also flavors that maintain the pulse of the street. These street delicacies I think make up the identity of that city.
Then, let’s explore Izmir’s identity and its delicious street flavors together.
Boyoz is a Turkish pastry of Sephardic Jewish origin, associated with Izmir, Turkey, which is practically the only city where it is prepared for commercial purposes and follows the original recipe. As such, in the eyes of Smyrniots, boyoz became a symbol of their hometown or of their longing for it when away.
I don’t know if there is anyone who comes to Izmir and doesn’t start the day with a boyoz. Boyoz, one of the symbols of Izmir, has an appearance reminiscent of puff pastry. Boyoz, which is generally preferred for breakfast, is delicious enough to be eaten at any time of the day. It comes in several options, namely plain, with cheese, spinach and many more, and is usually eaten with a boiled egg.
Boyoz gets its name from the Spanish word “bollos,” meaning small salmon. The reason for this is that boyoz entered Izmir cuisine with the Sephardic Jews who immigrated to the city from Spain years ago.
It is possible to come across boyoz all over Izmir, however, when boyoz is mentioned there is no one in Izmir who has not heard the name of Alsancak Dostlar Bakery. Of course, I also recommend you try the boyoz there. In addition to the usual boyoz varieties, there are also different options such as chocolate, eggplant, honey, lentils and artichokes. Although it seems like they have diverted from its essence, the diversity actually adds different perspectives and fun options.
As I said at the beginning of the article, street flavors are the identity of a city and its history. Boyoz is a flavor that sheds light on Izmir’s identity and history, as well as its cuisine.
Even though we say that gevrek looks like a simit, the people of Izmir will never agree. Simit is baked after molasses is spread on the dough, sprinkled with sesame seeds and baked. Gevrek, on the other hand, is boiled in pools of hot molasses and sesame, and then baked.
Gevrek is a food inherited 450 years ago when Tatar Turks from Crimea settled in Izmir. Just like boyoz, gevrek is actually a food that has a place throughout the history of Izmir.
There are several rumors about the original kumru in Izmir. Some say that the original kumru is made by adding tomatoes, peppers and Izmir tulum cheese to the kumru bread sold in granola shops. This delicious bread, which is a kind of cold sandwich, gets its name because its shape resembles the body of a kumru, that is a dove. I think what makes this food delicious is this bread, which resembles a gevrek dough, baked after being dipped in sesame seeds.
Contrary to the original, there are many establishments that turn kumru into a hot sandwich. Currently, almost all the kumru joints in Izmir prepare it in this way. By adding grilled sausage, salami, tomatoes, cheddar cheese, ketchup and mayonnaise to sesame-like bread, they turn kumru into a different, more satisfying and magnificent treat.
You may have heard the reputation of kokoreç – or kokoretsi, a dish consisting of lamb or goat intestines wrapped and roasted on a spit – in many places, but there is none like the Izmir kokorec. In Izmir, kokoreç is sliced into large pieces and placed in bread, and tomatoes and spices are not added to it.
This street food, which comes to the rescue of those who get hungry, especially at night, can be eaten at any time of the day. You should try this delicacy in Izmir together with ayran or turnip juice on the side.
One of the delicacies that come to mind when talking about Izmir, and which is ever on the mind of Izmirites when they are away, is söğüş, or cold cuts. This dish, which is made by finely chopping the offal and adding cumin, chili pepper, parsley, tomato, onion and plenty of greens, and placing it between lavash, is eaten cold. It is possible to find this delicacy where offal is cooked and served chilled all across Izmir.
It may not be a flavor that appeals to every palate, but it is worth trying.
In a city that has a shoreline on the Aegean, of course, seafood is famous. As such midye, or mussels, are the crown jewels of cuisine in Izmir. You can find mussels in other cities with seashores, but mussels in Izmir also consist of different notes.
In Izmir, there are no various spices, cinnamon, currants or pine nuts added to the mussels, which are generally preferred small. Mussels made with undercooked rice flavored only with black pepper are indispensable for the people of Izmir. No matter where you are, on the beach, on the grass, on the cordon, a tray of mussels accompanies the people of Izmir in their chat with friends.
This dessert, which has been very popular in recent years, is really a bomb. This dessert, which satisfies people’s desire for chocolate, is made with either caramel or fruit, but you should definitely try the chocolate one.
Although it looks like a cookie from the outside, it is much more than a cookie. Those who go to Izmir usually eat this dessert, which contains dense, hot and fluid chocolate in a thin dough, at the Çelebi Unlu Mamüller.
Even though it is not as historical as a lokma or şambali, I think that the “bomb” will be listed in Izmir’s street flavors in golden letters in the coming years.
Lokma is not a dessert that is usually sold in the streets of Izmir, not for money at least. If you ask why, people in Izmir make lokma and distribute them free of charge on their special days, like celebrations or during mourning. If you see a long line for lokma in Izmir, you should definitely join in and try this dessert. In fact, do not be ashamed to stand in line because it would be a shame not to stand in line for these lokma distributed for charity in Izmir.
This crispy dessert made by frying fermented dough and pouring syrup on it is a legacy of Ottoman cuisine.
Another wonderful dessert that you can often find in street vendors is şambali. This dessert, similar to revani, is made with semolina but has less syrup than revani. It does not contain flour, eggs and oil. Şambali, which is also served with cream in between two layers, is usually baked in a wood-burning oven and served on copper trays.
Izmir, where many nations such as Greeks, Bosnians, Albanians, Sephardi and Western Thrace Turks have lived throughout history, has had a very rich cuisine with the reflection of this cultural transition.
A modern city with a deep-rooted history on the shores of the Aegean Sea, it offers its visitors incredibly delicious tastes at affordable prices at numerous points of the city.
I hope that one day you will be on your way to Izmir to try these flavors, breathe its air and explore it.