TuesdayFiled under Reviews (Eats)
“No hamsi, no money.” Mert Kanal hoses down empty Styrofoam containers and surveys the leftover catch in his market in Sinop, on Turkey’s Black Sea coast. The gulls squawk, fighting over scraps on the dock while fishermen tidy their nets for another night of fishing. The hamsi, or anchovies, are gone for the season, moving up the coast in dwindling numbers as hulking factory ships chase them.
While mackerel, turbot and whiting are all fair game for fishmongers, hamsi holds a special place in Turkish cuisine. Unlike the slimy, salty canned form of the fish reserved for eccentric pizza toppings in North America, anchovies are eaten fresh in Turkey. Lightly battered, quickly fried and served with a slice of lemon, hamsi are gobbled down by the kilo, bones and all.
Fishing still thrives in Sinop, as in ancient times – for countless generations, fisherman here have pointed their personal boats out to sea in search of hamsi. But sadly, that may not be true for much longer. The crumbling old city walls no longer guard an important trade hub along the Black Sea but seemingly serve to contain apartments and vacation rentals from falling into the sea. Most of the traders at the market now only come on Mondays and Thursdays, hauling both produce and clothing. In Sinop’s harbor, dozens of small wooden boats are moored next to giant industrial behemoths painted the colors of their fleet.
“We never used to eat hamsi before the snow, but now it’s different,” said Kanal, a third-generation fishmonger and the owner of the Okyanus Balık Evi (“Ocean Fish House”) restaurant on Sinop’s waterfront.
Read the rest of this feature at Culinary Backstreets.
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no responses - Posted 05.29.14
The departure of Aret, our favorite garson in the city, had us reconsidering our love of this little cubbyhole meyhane where we've spent so many nights over the years. With our loyalty to Aret and his to us, would it not be cheating to return to Çukur when Aret now runs his own place just a ...continue
2 responses - Posted 11.18.13
Around the time that hamsi, our favorite little fish, appear in the markets of Istanbul in late fall we become restless for the Black Sea-style cooking we’ve been missing since the previous season. Hamsi (fresh anchovies) are not the only thing to eat in a Black Sea restaurant, but eating ...continue
no responses - Posted 03.18.13
It wasn’t quite as dramatic as Meg Ryan’s big moment at Katz’s Deli in When Harry Met Sally, but a low-register, guttural moan of pleasure was detected from our table when we tasted the shredded celery root in yogurt, a house specialty meze at Çukur Meyhane. And we weren’t faking ...continue
1 response - Posted 01.14.13
We are unabashedly fanatical in our love of hamsi, or anchovies, a late fall/wintertime specialty whose arrival we eagerly await each year in Istanbul, where the tiny fish are most commonly served pan-fried, grilled or in pilaf. But as any hamsi aficionado knows, for the best anchovy-eating in Turkey one ...continue
no responses - Posted 12.28.12
After four years of publishing weekly dispatches from Istanbul’s culinary backstreets, we are still regularly surprised by new discoveries, impressed by the staying power of old standards and shocked by how quickly so much can change. For better or for worse, it is that dynamism that Istanbulites line up for, ...continue
no responses - Posted 11.26.12
We can’t prove it, but we suspect a network of tunnels lies underground in Beyoğlu that connects most of the meyhanes of Asmalımescit and Nevizade Sokak to the same mediocre kitchen, resulting in unexceptional mezes at scores of venues in this dining district. Following a number of tips, our search ...continue
no responses - Posted 11.12.12
The arrival of fall in Istanbul usually means one thing for us: hamsi season is about to begin. Hamsi, of course, are the minuscule fish (Black Sea anchovies) that Istanbulites are mad about, and the coming of fall and the cooling of the waters of the Black Sea mark the beginning ...continue
1 response - Posted 10.22.12
Like Clark Kent hiding his Superman tights beneath a brown suit and glasses, Klemuri maintains the appearance of a predictable Beyoğlu café – wooden tables, shelves loaded with knickknacks, Buena Vista Social Club on the stereo, spinach crepes and a crispy chicken salad on the menu. But down in the ...continue
no responses - Posted 04.18.12
Turns out New Yorkers are only now discovering what Turks have known for eons: that the humble anchovy is absolutely delicious (particularly when lightly coated in flour or cornmeal and fried). As an article in today's New York Times explains, anchovies -- known as "hamsi" in Turkish -- are being ...continue
4 responses - Posted 10.31.11
The arrival of fall in Istanbul for us usually means just one thing: hamsi season is about to begin. Hamsi, of course, are the minuscule fish (Black Sea anchovies) that Istanbulites are mad for, and the coming of fall and the further cooling of the Black Sea’s waters mark the ...continue