A year or two ago I read an article aimed at backpacker types about cheap eats in Istanbul that made me almost snort my discount ayran out my nose.
I mean, they were recommending RESTAURANTS. Any backpacker worth his dreadlocks does NOT consider 12 lira for a meal cheap. Or if they do they must be the trust fundey kind. Hell, I do not consider 12 lira for a meal cheap.
There are certain things I take into consideration when eating cheap, such as, am I getting any protein? It’s very easy to eat cheap in Istanbul. It’s rather more difficult when you take the whole radically nutritional standpoint of “Man cannot live on bread alone, no matter how much you Turks keep trying.”
So I give you my ever-evolving list of foods to eat when really broke that provide some form of balance in terms of veg/whole grain/protein, (although admittedly not all at one time, but hey, you eat all this in a week I’m sure you’ll be fine) which are also filling. And all are under five lira.
(Feel free to add yours in the comments.)
1. Tavuk döner ekmek and an Ayran. 3.50. Okay it’s not the healthiest option, but it has masses of bread, a decent amount of chicken, some pickles and some lettuce. It keeps you full for a minute.
2. Nahutlu Pilav. 2.50. Add shreds of dried out chicken breast for an extra lira. There’s a reason the pilav guys come out with their little carts around the time the laborers get off work. Shit is FILLING. Okay, the two dozen chickpeas aren’t exactly meeting your daily protein requirement, but you won’t go to bed hungry. Most pilav places are great stop offs if you’re poor, although the restaurants tend to be a buck or more more expensive than the dudes with carts. Still, in a pilav joint you can get a stomach’s worth of greasy rice with some eggplant goo if you want a semblance of a veggie, or some saucey beans for 4.50. Word to the wise for vegetarians, though- apparently the traditional recipe calls for sheep’s tail fat. Pretty sure most places are using inexpensive veggie oil, but knowledge is power.
3. Ciğ Köfte Dürüm and an ayran- 3-3.50. Traditionally made with raw meat, the ciğ köfte you buy on the streets now is made with bulgar- a whole grain!- some tomato paste and spices and such. It’s one of the legitimately spicier things you can find in Turkish cuisine, as well. Pretty tasty. Comes in a durum wrap with some greens, and if you add the ayran, well, whole grains and milk products make almost a complete protein together, so there you go.
4. Pide- 2. Not the good stuff from Pide Sun that we’ve written about before, but the limp greasy slab things you see hanging out under heat lamps. Those’ll set you back 2 lira, son. One cheese pide’s good for lunch, one cheese and one meat, 4.50, super filling for dinner.
5. A wrap from Rulo. We’ve written about that before- but you can get a delish wrap from Rulo just chock full of veggies and legumes for 4 lira. By far your healthiest option, but probably won’t meet your grease quota. At least, it doesn’t meet mine.
6. A can of beans. 3.50, generic brand, from the grocery store. I’m not joking- I think these saved my life when I was recovering from pneumonia and could barely walk to the kitchen, let alone go out into the world and find myself grub. I had a friend come by with apples and those tins of prepared beans, (there are several kinds) and tins of dolma, cabbage and traditional grapeleaf, and I’d eat them in bed with a plastic fork (to avoid washing up, which I was incapable of) whenever I actually felt hungry. If you’ve just been in the hospital for a week, a quarter of a can will do you. If you are actually healthy, a whole can is plenty filling, and there are, like, carrots and onions in there, so that’s your veg, right?
6. A packet of soup mix from the tekel and half a loaf of bread. 1.45. For the truly desperate. Go analyze your life choices.