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Am I going to starve?

Malaga, Spain
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750 posts
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Am I going to starve?

I am really looking forward to our visit to Istanbul in February but one thing is beginning to concern me a bit. Am I going to starve? I am vegetarian and I have the feeling that Istambul is just jam packed with wonderful things for me to eat. BUT I haven't got the vocabulary. In addition to English I speak German, French and Spanish - all pretty fluently. But Turkish is another ball game altogether, isn't it?

I love falafel, hummus, couscous, Italian food and Indian food (but my vocabulary in Indian is very limited) but I have been reading Ashwin's excellent 4 day trip report. When I read words like gozleme, kumpir etc. I just don't know what he's talking about.

I could be happy being restricted to 5 main course dishes and 5 light snack lunch dishes during my visit. Could any of you fellow tripadvisors suggest a few common dishes that I will be able to find in the cafes, restaurants and in the street?

Breakfast will not be a problem and I am sure I will be OK with desserts, cheese and fruit. It's the main courses that are concerning me.

Probably I am worrying unduly butI will really be very appreciative of any help.

PS I don't eat fish.

Edited: 11 July 2013, 22:27
Surrey, UK
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1. Re: Am I going to starve?

Most of the restaurants you will visit in the tourist areas will have menus in English, most of the waiters will speak English and you will most certainly not starve!!

There are plenty of vegetarian dishes - imam bayaldi is fabulous (aubergine stuffed with tomato and onion etc), pide is like pizza, kumpir is baked potatoes and then there is a whole host of vegetarian meze both hot and cold (which I often have as a main meal!). And much much more.....

Don't panic!

Edited: 11 July 2013, 22:35
The New Forest, UK
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2. Re: Am I going to starve?


Mmmm - kuru fasulye!

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3. Re: Am I going to starve?


Although I eat fish, I usually eat straight vegetarian. I just got back from Turkey (mostly Istanbul). The good news is that the word for vegetarian in Turkish is Vegetaryan (or something close to it). So just say vegetarian and they will find something.

Also, many restaurants have English menus some even with Vegetarian sections.

Some of my favorite dishes included Imam Biyalduh (meaning the Imam feinted), a stuffed eggplant with onions and sometimes cheese.; mushroom casserole (sometimes misnamed stuffed mushroom); cheese pida (which is like a big grilled cheese); and all those lovely mezes (appetizers).

Also, if you have time, I recommend the Istanbul Eats tour. They have one tour especially geared toward vegetarians, but I want on the regular tour and still had to be wheeled home in a wheelbarrow I was so full.

Finally, please leave room for dessert every night. We had baklava almost every night (and many afternoons). Really terrific. I'm sure I will start an argument, but I wholeheartedly recommend Hafiz Mustafah, which has about 5 locations, including very nice ones in Sirkaci and in Sultanahmet. We ended up bringing home two boxes (and while we thought we would give one away, we kept it for ourselves).

Kumpir for me was a letdown. Especially after I saw them making it with WAYY too much salt.

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4. Re: Am I going to starve?

You'll be aye okay eating in Istanbul. There are so many dishes you can have which don't include meat - flavorful, delicious, and nutritious. Honestly, you'll be surprised by the quantity, as well as, the quality of Turkish dishes which don't include meat. You'll be happily surprised when you get there. Menus are in English, so you'll be fine. I hope you have a great time!

Amsterdam, The...
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5. Re: Am I going to starve?

Try su borek - kind of vegetarian turkish pastry. As a vegetarian, that is my favorite snack. Well, I can enjoy it at anytime.

Most of the restaurants & cafes I visited in Istanbul have vegetarian menu, no need to worry about the food.

Malaga, Spain
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6. Re: Am I going to starve?

Thank you so much for your replies. Perhaps I gave the wrong impression. I must have already eaten lots of good Turkish vegetarian food, which I have picked up here and there - not in Turkey, this will be my first visit. I just didn't know it was Turkish.

My concern is more that I might go to Istanbul and miss out on the good stuff because I don't have the vocabulary or the knowledge of where to get it. Imagine going to Italy and never trying parmesan cheese because you didn't know that they call it parmigiano (or something like that) and never ordering tiramisu because it might just as well mean "Put your dirty dishes here" as far as you know!

I'm not looking just for haute cuisine, good street food can be worth its weight in gold when you're out on the tourist trail!

The correct Turkish words for your favourites/favorites with a brief description in English would be great.

Destination Expert
for Gumbet, Bitez
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7. Re: Am I going to starve?

Don't worry, lots of people speak English there and if you go to the traditonal Turkish restaurants they often have the food on display so you can see what you are ordering.

Have a look at this site: http://www.turkishcookbook.com/ and you will find all kinds of Turkish dishes, it will give you idea of what too look out for

My favourite vegetarian dishes are gozleme, borek, pide plus all the yummy meze and salad.

You wont starve, that's for sure ;)

8. Re: Am I going to starve?

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