Saturday, October 10, 2009

Kanlıca Yogurt, Kanlıca, Turkey

One of our more memorable days in Turkey was spent taking a ferry from the Eminönü docks in Istanbul along the Bosphorus to Anadolu Kavağı, on the mouth of the Black Sea. With the warm sun on our faces, any real life stresses rapidly sublimated in the strong sea breeze.

While the ferry made stops at several suburbs and towns along its route, a lone food vendor made his rounds, first selling simit, a dense sesame-encrusted, bagel-shaped bread, and then ubiquitous glasses of steaming black Turkish tea. As Tam and I were headed for the end of the line, we stayed in our seats, munching and sipping our purchases.

When the ferry pulled into the Kanlıca dock, we could tell from our perch on the rear deck that the town was special. Two boys were swimming in the water outside a cafe advertising yoğurdu. Even though I barely speak Turkish, yoğurdu sounded like it had to be delicious.

As the ferry pulled back out into the strait, the vendor started selling small tubs of yoğurdu (which unsurprisingly turned out to be yogurt) from a crate which had been freshly delivered on board. For two turkish liras (about $1.40 USD), the vendor popped off the lid and heaped two giant teaspoons of powdered sugar onto the surface of the yogurt.

The yogurt was thick, almost solid. Legend has it, it used to be sold in blocks which were cut by knife. The fermented whole milk (a blend of cow and sheep milk) was tangy and creamy, topped with a thick skin of milk solids. We blended the yogurt and sugar together, and savored every spoonful, each bite balancing the intense sourness from the lactic acid with the added sweetness. It was a fantastically refreshing summer snack.

Our ferry voyage ended at Anadolu Kavağı, where we explored some ruins on a cliff overlooking the Black Sea before hopping on a meandering bus back toward Istanbul. The bus route followed the Asian shore, through small coastal towns and past markets. Hungry, we decided to get off the bus when it passed through Kanlıca, and quenched our hunger with pide (perhaps the original "football pizza"?) and another yogurt from a small shop behind the town square. We took it to the waterfront and ate it on a park bench, savoring every perfect spoonful.

It's easy to make a weak, although still delicious approximation of this treat using widely available Greek-style yogurt, like Fage. Unfortunately, in North America, I've never tasted a yogurt as good as what they sell in Kanlıca.

Kanlıca-style yogurt
1 cup chilled thick, greek yogurt
2 heaping teaspoons of powdered sugar

Blend. Eat it in the sunshine, preferably somewhere where you can feel a sea breeze.

The town of Kanlıca is located 20 km north of Istanbul, on the Bosphorus' Asian shore. There are a handful of yogurt vendors around the small town selling tubs of creamy yogurt which you can order with sugar or without. For a heartier meal, the Kanlıca kebab ve Yemek salonu on Halide Edip Adivar Caddesi serves delicious pide from a brick oven and provided complimentary salad and friendly conversation with our meal.

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