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Apr 23
Features, Reviews (Eats)
Istanbul’s Top 5 Beaneries – #1: Hanımeli

1028th street in the already far-flung district of Gaziosmanpaşa might sound like a long distance to travel for a plate of beans. There are plenty of perfectly good beans to be eaten in less remote locations. But we’ve tried all of the big-name beans in this city, from Çamlıca to Gayrettepe – all quite good and, frankly, all quite the same. This time we were on a quest to find a bean that differentiates itself, a hands-down very best bean.

We’d been told by many reliable sources that the best bean is at Hüsrev and others said to look no further than Fasuli. Watching the taxi meter hop up another decimal place on our trip to Gaziosmanpaşa, we, too, thought this might be a foolish mission.

But one name in our research caught our attention and stayed with us: Selma Usta. We’d heard some chatter recently about Selma Usta, who stakes her claim as the only female kuru fasulye master in Istanbul, so we decided to go check out the hive of the bean queen for ourselves.

If Hüsrev and Fasuli represent the major league of beans, Selma Usta, as talented as she may be, is still in the farm leagues. She had no poofy hat and starched white jacket nor – the pride of most bean ustas – a giant copper pot to be photographed in front of.

But don’t be fooled by the looks of this humble little beanery in a drab suburb. It has a fanatical following. Look around the place and you’ll find the testimonies of other diners written right there on the wall. One boy rhymes of sneaking off to Selma for beans and being beaten by his mother when he returns home. A married man named Ahmet writes that only after eating Selma’s beans did he realize his own wife’s culinary shortcomings. Persuasive words! These could be home-wrecking beans, good enough to break up a family.

And the beans were all that. The plump and pale Erzincan şeker variety were prepared in a tiny batch in the kitchen of Selma Usta with materials she sources personally from the city of Tokat, in the heart of Anatolia. She claimed to be holding some secrets and we believe her. But, for us, the defining feature of this dish was butter.

All beans prepared in the Black Sea style are swimming in butter spiked with salça. But Selma’s butter is like nothing we’ve encountered in Turkey. It is as if we’d seen butter on TV for years and now, finally, we’re in the farmhouse eating it straight from the churn. It gave the dish a strong flavor that we now know to be farm-fresh Tokat butter and filled the dining room with its intoxicating musk.

This superior ingredient, like a rocket booster, shot this dish beyond the realm of worldly beans where it now floats, in our minds at least, in bean heaven. On the way out, we told Selma that this lunch was well worth the 25 TL we paid a taxi to get there. She blushed and her son smirked and suggested we take the metro next time. The Taş Köprü stop is just across the street.

Address: 1028. Sokak #4, Taşköprü/500 Evler, Gaziosmanpaşa
Telephone: 212-477-1706

(photo by Ansel Mullins)


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