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Posts Tagged ‘ Istanbul Eats ’

Mar 07

The Boyoz Are Back in Town: A Sephardic Treat Returns to the Izmir Street

Filed under Out of Istanbul, Reviews (Eats)

(Editor’s Note: Intrepid traveler and eater Sherri Cohen recently gave us the goods on the Tekirdağ köfte scene. Today, once again on the road, she brings us news of the historic rebirth of an almost extinct street snack in Izmir.)

The denizens of Izmir like to think of themselves as the Istanbulites’ laid-back counterparts. Life is slower, relationships more intimate on the Aegean. Street food in Izmir is different, too. There, the simit shrinks and calls itself gevrek; kumru, rolls stuffed with beyaz penir and tomatoes, multiply and bloom spicy green pepper stems. And the poğaca’s got a new relative: an oily, plain circular bun called boyoz.

Boyoz doesn’t look or sound like a Turkish word and it originally wasn’t. The buns arrived from Spain with Izmir’s Sephardic Jewish population in the early 1500s, and the city’s Sephardim still use Ladino, their fascinating medieval Spanish-based language of exile, to describe the wide world of boyoz (or boyos, depending on which Jewish cooking source you consult). Similar to börek in ingredients and preparation, a Sephardic boyoz was made with only one thin dough layer wrapped in different patterns around varied fillings: a boyoz de handrajo (literally, handrag, actually a cooked eggplant/zucchini mixture) was square-shaped, while a boyoz de espinaka (spinach) was pinwheel-shaped or circular and a boyoz de patata (potato) was triangular. The filled pastries were oven-baked until golden. No one is quite sure when boyoz passed from Sephardic to general consumption, but somehow during the centuries-long interchange of Sephardic and Turkish İzmirli cultures, delicate fillings were traded for more dough and significantly more grease. My first sample of streetcart boyoz was disappointing: doughy, bland and so oil-soaked I could wave to my friend through the wax wrapping paper.

What happened to the Sephardic boyoz of lore? Continue…

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