ThursdayFiled under Reviews (Eats)
“I’m not a missionary, but I am not doing this just to make a profit. People must see that there is mantı outside of Kayseri, there’s Crimean Tatar mantı, as well,” explained Gülben Resuloğlu, in front of her restaurant in the leafy Feneryolu district of Istanbul’s Asian Side. If Martha Stewart were in the mantı (also known as “Turkish ravioli”) business, her place would look just like Gülbi’s – meticulously decorated in pastels, white and floral prints. Everything matched, even the two neatly dressed women who welcomed us: Gülben (the Gülbi in question) and her sister, Leyla. But kept just behind tidy appearances, we discovered, is the pain of being Tatar. We’re convinced that this identity, which was forged in the fire of dispersal and diaspora, made the food taste better.
Gülbi’s family was forced into exile in the mid-19th century at the time of the Crimean War, when Russia was engaged in a struggle with the Ottoman Empire. Tatars were thought to be Ottoman sympathizers, so being one in the Crimea was dangerous indeed. Fearing for their lives, they settled in Dubroja, then part of the Ottoman Empire and now part of Romania, where a Tatar diaspora was already set up. There, the Tatar language, a cousin of modern Turkish, and culture incubated in the tight folds of a community positioned on major 20th-century fault lines. They survived the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the creation of Romania, famine, Communism, Fascist purges and the Second World War. Meanwhile, back in the Crimea, the remaining Tatars were exiled by Stalin to Uzbekistan, with devastating consequences. But Gülben and her family remained in Dubroja until 1970, when, exhausted by Ceausescu’s police state, they made their final move to Istanbul, a city, according to Gülben, that her great-grandfather had been aiming for when he was waylaid in Romania. A pastoral nomadic life might be the idealized side of the Tatar identity, but to be a refugee is a reality all Tatars know well, Gülben explained.
Then she offered us a menu. We ordered one of everything.
Read the rest of the review at Culinary Backstreets.
All entries filed under this archive
1 response - Posted 09.12.13
It is puzzling that Istanbul, a city of some 15 million people with an increasingly lavish lifestyle, a world-famous cuisine and a booming tourism industry, has so little sparkle when it comes to fine dining. We’re surprised that the Prime Minister himself has not jumped into the culinary scrum by ...continue
no responses - Posted 07.11.13
In the former Soviet Central Asian republics, the boilerplate restaurant menu consists of plov, lagman, shashlik and samsa. Tired-looking Uzbek, Kyrgyz, Kazakh and Tajik establishments all serve up the same limp noodles and oily rice with a shrug – it’s their job. In the markets of Samarkand, Osh and Almaty, ...continue
4 responses - Posted 07.02.12
(Editor’s Note: This guest post was written by Jeff Gibbs, a denizen of Istanbul’s Asian side and author of the very engaging blog “Istanbul and Beyond.”) It seems like every İstanbullu I meet has a secret ethnicity lurking in their past. One cousin’s father is a refugee from Bulgaria, a Kurdish ...continue
5 responses - Posted 07.11.11
(Editor’s Note: In almost a decade of intrepid eating in Istanbul, we still miss the immigrant community restaurants we know from the American big cities where language barriers and foreign customs make a lunch into a real adventure. Istanbul has foreign communities and it has foreign restaurants but the two ...continue
1 response - Posted 09.20.10
After a while, some Turkish food, like mantı, can become repetitive – serving after serving of the same tiny, boiled dumplings with yogurt. Deeply conservative when it comes to food, Turkish cooks and diners alike generally don’t like any fussing around with traditional recipes. So, distinguishing between a good mantı ...continue
no responses - Posted 03.14.10
The English-language daily Today's Zaman has an article up that takes a look at some of the restaurants in Istanbul serving food from other regions in Turkey. The article (addresses included, for a change), offers some good tips on where to find food from the Black Sea and southeast regions ...continue
1 response - Posted 11.17.09
There are those restaurants worth going to because of their out-of-the-way location – a fish shack at the end of a lonely beach, a fondue hut at the top of an Alpine ridge. Then there are those worth seeking out despite their location – that culinary gem stuck inside a ...continue
1 response - Posted 09.04.09
The mini dumpling mantı, a dish that traces its roots to the mobile kitchens of nomadic Turkic tribes in Central Asia, is often referred to as “Turkish ravioli.” But could the Turks have beaten the Italians to the punch? Is it ravioli that should actually be called “Italian mantı?” We’ll never ...continue
19 responses - Posted 08.03.09
Editor's note: The Ottoman-era building that houses this restaurant is currently undergoing restoration, which means that the restaurant is closed for now. According to one of its owners, the restoration work will be completed next summer and the restaurant will reopen with a new and improved kitchen. With the particularly un-catchy ...continue
3 responses - Posted 06.05.09
We usually steer clear of the touristy Old City district of Kumkapı, where you are more likely to be accosted by an aggressive maitre d’ trying to corral you into his overpriced fish restaurant than to find something simple, tasty and reasonably priced to eat. Sadly, in order to beat ...continue