Fried Anchovies and Sea Bass vs. Fried Mussels


You, and all my friends, are going to be sick of hearing this, but did I mention that I recently spent a couple of weeks in Turkey? This trip is going to make up my main conversational fodder for the rest of the summer, with much of it focusing on what I ate — some of which was good and some of which was not the best decision. Of the former, the seafood stands out as highlights of the trip. I’ll say this, Turkish people know their fish, which isn’t a surprise considering that waterways like the Bosphorus Strait define their country. Here are a couple of dishes I encountered.


Fried Anchovies and Sea Bass
One of my favorite afternoon diversions in Istanbul was to find a comfortable chair at one of the cafes under the Galata Bridge, order a beer, and watch the fishermen perched above me reel up sabiki rigs filled with anchovies. It didn’t take long to figure out which angler had the hot hole or when the bite was on. These little fish are a Turk favorite, and many restaurants fry them and serve them whole. Unfortunately for me, this order, along with the seabass fillets were meant for another table. I bet they were delicious.


Fried Mussels
However, these fried mussels were for me. I originally ordered just a bowl of fish soup and coban salata, or a Shepherd’s Salad of diced cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, onions, and parsley. (I ate a bowl of coban salata at nearly every meal — even those I cooked myself.) When the waiter suggested mussels, I couldn’t resist. And I’m glad I didn’t. Like the anchovies, mussels are a staple on Turkish tables. These were plucked fresh from the Sea of Marmara and deep-fried. You can also find stuffed mussels sold by street vendors all along the Golden Horn. They’re worth trying, though eating warm shellfish from a kid on a corner takes no small measure of courage.