Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Travel Bite: Turkish Chestnut Vendors

In Istanbul, you'll see chestnuts roasting on an open fire even when Santa's not on his way. Apparently Turks love their chestnuts almost as much as their cell phones. I saw vendors like this all over the city, especially at large public attractions like the Blue Mosque.

This magnificent mosque, built between 1609 and 1616 during the rule of Ahmed I, is one of the most striking sites in Istanbul. It has six minarets (not all visible here), while most mosques only have four. Inside, the high ceiling is lined with 20,000 blue tiles, hence the name: Blue Mosque.

Turkey is a major producer and exporter of chestnuts, and they are traditionally served candied or glazed as a dessert. Candied chestnuts are made by boiling peeled chestnuts in heavy syrup that’s flavored with vanilla. They also process the nuts into flour or meal to use in pastries and other sweets.

This vendor was parked outside of the sprawling Spice Bazaar. You can see how a metal shelf sits on top of the cart with a round metal receptacle built into it for roasting. It has holes like a sieve, and below is the fire. Do you think this is what Mel Tormé had in mind when penning his famous song?

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  1. I never knew Turks had a thing for roasted chestnuts. They sound really good right about now. In NYC they were everywhere as the weather got chilly. Hope your Thanksgiving was fun!

  2. The last time I had roasted chesnuts was in Florence. It was a magical setting - cobblestone steets, holiday lights, the steam rising from the roasting cart.

    Hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving.

  3. Lebanese street vendors were selling chestnuts early this year in October; I kind of like to wait till it gets cold! this one seems very neat and tidy.
    Hope you had a good time at Thanksgiving and it was a joy meeting you in Dallas. Hope we can meet up in the Middle-East next time!

  4. Marla & Andrea: Thanks for the T-day wishes!

    Joumana: it was so great meeting you! Would love to go to Beirut!

  5. tasted chestNuts in Thailand for the first time, they were delicious! I wonder if they taste somewhat different or are all chestNuts the same?

  6. Of course chestnuts are wonderful. But it's the fantasy of eating them in Turkey that really whets my appetite! GREG