Hamsi, Every Which Way
As a chill sets in and heavy clouds roll over Istanbul, turning the Bosphorus battleship gray, we say goodbye to the luscious strawberries and blood-red tomatoes in the market. Fall marks the start of hamsi season, a time when small anchovies fill the nets of fishing boats on the Black Sea coast, squirming their way – with all of the country’s anticipation – onto grills and into pans and ovens throughout Turkey. The colder and rainier it gets, the fatter and cheaper the hamsi become.
Hamsi are a much-loved winter fish in most countries with Black Sea shoreline, but nowhere from Novorossiysk to Yalta to Constanta are they fished with such gusto, prepared in such a variety of ways and eaten in such quantity as in Turkey. In Turkey’s northeast Black Sea region, from Sinop all the way east to Rize, the hamsi is something of a totem, not only the staple of the diet but a big source of the local fishing industry. For those fisherman, fishmongers, restaurants and home cooks, we hope for a good healthy catch this year.
Last week we asked our readers to share in our excitement for hamsi season by sending in photographs of their encounters with this fish. See the slideshow at Culinary Backstreets.