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Feb 11
Tuesday
Reviews (Drinks)
Vefa Boza: Strange Brew

Vefa Boza, photo by Ayman Oghanna

Editor’s note: In a recent New York Times article, Joshua Hammer wrote about a tour that Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk gave him through the author’s native city and his personal history there. We were delighted to read that one of Pamuk’s favorite places is Vefa Bozacısı, which is one of ours too (and also a stop on the Old City culinary walk).

After our first taste, we were not quite ready to sing the praises of boza, a thick, almost pudding-like drink made from fermented millet. But the experience stuck with us. What is that flavor? Something like cross between Russian kvass (a fermented drink made from rye bread) and applesauce may be the best way to describe it. As it did to us, the drink may haunt you, much like the call of the itinerant boza vendors who wander the streets of Istanbul during the winter months calling out a long, mournful “booooo-zahhh.”

It’s a taste all its own, bearing the sour mark of fermented millet grain and the sweetness of the sugar added during the fermentation process. The consistency is that of a milkshake that can’t decide if it wants to be thick or thin, while the texture is all Gerber’s. It is served in a glass with a spoon, a layer of sprinkled cinnamon and roasted chickpeas floating at the top. The first few spoons are beguiling, the palate fooled by the cinnamon dusting and utterly sidetracked by the crunchy chickpeas. The contrast of the cinnamon makes the boza seem sour at first, while soon after a subtle sweetness emerges in the chilled unadulterated boza below.

Read the rest of the review at Culinary Backstreets.

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