June 9, 2011

Üsküdar, Istanbul. June, 2007

After a morning at Topkapi Palace, a wonderful lunch of fried Black Sea sardines at our favorite outdoor waterside fish fry along the Golden Horn, Nick wanted a nap. I wanted adventure, so I hotfooted it to the Eminonu docks and boarded a ferry across the Bosphorus to the less-touristed Asian-side neighborhood of Üsküdar. It was a lovely revelation. A student who was learning English engaged me in conversation. I found some mosques that were so far off the vacationer’s path that they seemed more solemn, more serious. And I found this market street with many vendors whose shop windows opened to the sidewalk. What drew me to this one was more than just a chance to speak with this charming young man whose English was on a par with my Turkish. It was that he was offering two of my favorite local desserts. Ekmek kadayif (left) and tulumba (right), both sticky with syrup, both magnificently simple, both sold by the pound. Or the kilo, actually. Ekmek kadayif is bread (or rusks), syrup-soaked and softened. Tulumba are extruded lozenges of dough (see the ridges on the three-inch "fingers"), fried, then also soaked through and through with a sugar-water-lemon juice syrup. Both treats are often served topped with kaymak (the clotted cream of Turkey) and dusted with crushed pistachios. I can’t remember exactly how much I bought of each delight, but I know that it was, well, significant. A memorably sweet close to a fine Asian afternoon.

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