July 24, 2011

Spice Bazaar, Istanbul. June, 2007

Yes, it’s filled with tourists just offloaded from nearby buses. But since early Ottoman times, it’s been Istanbul’s central market for spices and other goods, many originally from Egypt, explaining its alternate name, the Eqyptian Bazaar. Flavors of tea, of chili, of traditional candies and sweets (including the prominently labeled and clearly tourist-aimed Viagra.) The charming young Turk barely seen at the right of the photo told me that because he deals with foreign travelers all the time, he’s learned seven languages. In his perfect English, he explained to me (with tastings) the differences among several types of chili peppers (mild, hot, ground to a fine powder, etc.), and I bought four kinds to bring home. My favorite: Urfa chili, a smoked, black, coarsely ground pepper that I sprinkle on yogurt or warm hummus as a meze offering stateside. I’ve never found this exact chili (dried in the Turkish sun for a week, wrapped and sweated each night to give develop its distinctive high oil content and smoky flavor) here in the USA, and as my generous supply is running low, I guess I’ll just have to pay this chap and this wonderful market another visit again very soon.

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