Fish here is considered a feast - all you have to do is go to a Turkish fish market and you'll understand why! In Istanbul, a trip to the Balık Pazarı either in Karaköy on the European side, or Kadıköy on the Asian side of the Bosphorus is not to be missed.
Karaköy Balık Pazarı
Grilling mackerel for balık ekmek - fish in fresh bread
In all seaside towns with a harbour or port, there will always be a fish market where the freshest catch can be found. These fish markets may be temporary or they may be permanent but you can bet they will be there!
Here in Turkey, we love fish, the idea is that fish is festive.
Below you will see the recipe index for all the fish posts: I hope the pictures above have whetted your appetite!
Sea Bass is probably the all time favourite amongst Turks and huge fish farms now line the Aegean coast.
When you visit the fish market you can see there are two different classifications and prices for Sea Bass. The more expensive ones are 'free range' and the cheaper are farmed. Many will say that you can definitely taste the difference.
The fishing industry is now huge in Turkey and she supplies the largest amount of Sea Bass in Europe. The larger the fish, the more delicious.
I would definitely recommend that if more than one person is ordering a Sea Bass, choose a large one and share it as it will be so much tastier and definitely it is easier to find the bones.
You need a 1kg fish for 2 of you, 1300 grams for 3 people and 1.5 kg for 4 people. Each step upwards in weight, you are getting a larger ratio of meat in comparison with the bones.
The Black Sea region on Turkey's Northern coast is famous for its anchovies.
Anchovies are a staple in this region and they are used in many different kinds of dishes, in dozens of ways. In fact, you can even find a dessert using them!
It is forbidden to fish the Hamsi outside of the season, which is autumn through to spring. September 15tht to April 15th.
All the huge fishing vessels line the harbours, all sparkling, freshly painted and ready to take off for when the season begins. On the night of September 15th, hundreds of boats lining the shores of the Black Sea depart for their big hauls.
The tough fishing vessels are in position and ready to start throwing the nets out at the stroke of midnight as it turns September 15th.
These boats have large crews and do not come back in for weeks and weeks in a row.
Instead, even larger monster fishing boats with huge storage facilities, and walk-in fridges and freezers take off and go collect the massively enormous hauls from the non-stop working fishing vessels out at sea.
They bring in over 300,00 tons of anchovies in a season. If you are able to go online and pull up a video showing the fishing of these, you would be amazed to see how these boats are filmed in the middle of swarms of these little fish.
It literally look like low clouds, jumping over and over themselves, swimming for their lives, avoiding larger fish, seagulls and if they are lucky, the nets.
The preferred way to cook them is by deboning them with your fingers. Then dusting them in cornmeal (not cornflour). Finally laying them out, butterflied in the pan to cook in shallow corn or sunflower oil.
They will be placed around the frying pan in a symmetrical formation. Very pleasing-to-the-eye in fact and when cooked on one side, a special Hamsi lid is used.
This is a totally flat lid that overhangs the pan but is not curved in any way. It has a handle on one side.
When ready to serve, all the oil will have been soaked up and the pan is tipped over holding the lid tightly to the pan and then the lid is placed directly on the table ready to eat from.
The Bosphorus is also a good fishing destination for Bonito, or in Turkish, ‘Palamut.’ Similar to the Bluefish, Bonito is best during autumn and winter.
Bonito has a rich, dark color and firm texture and is often considered a 'poor man's Tuna'. When in season it is one of the cheaper fish.
It has a dark red blood and is a fish that needs to have its tail and gills cut off. Then strung up and bled properly before it is cooked to give it a good flavour. You can follow any Tuna recipe to cook this baby.
As it thrives in colder, deeper waters, the best red mullet are caught in the Aegean and Mediterranean seas. They are a lovely reddish color similar to red snapper, and have an earthy, ever-so-slightly bitter taste.
Many Turks do not like to touch their food but one exception can be with Red Mullets. You can hold this fried fish in two hands as you would a cob of corn. Then pull the meat off the bones with your teeth, leaving the bones behind.
It is a new experience for sure and definitely worth trying once in your life.
Bluefish or Lüfer
This fish is quite a fatty fish so it's best grilled or barbecued with a light brush of oil and some salt and pepper. The season for Bluefish starts in August and is over by the end of the year.
It's most commonly found around the Istanbul area as it is fished in the Bosphorus which connects the Black Sea with the Marmara Sea.
Turbot or Kalkan
Turbot is far more easily found in the colder months in Turkey. It comes from the Black Sea area so it's more readily available in Istanbul than the southern coastal towns. Turbot is served either grilled or fried in flour.
Sardines or Sardalya
Sardines are very popular in the Turkish local cuisine, especially during the early autumn when they’re in high season.
Some of the best Turkish sardines are harvested near Gallipoli, where the Aegean and Marmara Seas meet.
Mackerel or Uskumru
It's said that this tasty species was once abundant in the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara, but due to overfishing and pollution, populations are dwindling.
Fishing for Uskumru is limited to areas near Gallipoli and Saros, South of Istanbul.
In Istanbul, along the Bosphorus where all the ferries pick up their passengers and hundreds of fisherman hang over the Galata Bridge, there is quite a different sight below.
A bustling quay filled with hundreds of Istanbullians as well as Turkish visitors and international tourists are vying to eat a 'Balik Ekmek' which is a fish sandwich.
These Mackeral Burgers are churned out, at a huge rate, maybe 200 an hour, grilled on floating boat galleys which become more and more decorative as the seasons pass.
Fish sandwiches are served in grilled half loaves of bread along with some tomato and lettuce. The fillets are not well boned and it certainly slows the eating process down, fossicking around your teeth for the fine slithers but it's definitely worth a go.
FRESH WATER FISH
Alabalik or as we know it, Trout, are a very popular restaurant meal. Many restaurants are set up beside fast flowing rivers with little catchment areas sealed off. This so that the waiter can quickly go and net a live fish for you, ready to be cooked.
Most often it will be grilled but often it will be placed in a terracotta oval dish along with a cut tomato, some green peppers and a chunk of onion. Thrown into the Tandir oven which is burning slowly all day long.
In 20 minutes you will have a delectably fresh fish served alongside, most often, home made bread or pide. This flat bread is used to dip into all the juices.
There are also huge Trout farms built up in the mountains. Those farms are catching the ever-fast flowing water down. Fresh water is continuously supplied to all the farmed fish as if they were in their own river.
These farms help the enormous demand of the restaurants not lucky enough to be right on the water but offering Ala Balik (Trout) or the boat tour operators offering trout on their menu. As Trout are far cheaper than salt water fish, trout are the natural choice for the menu and very popular all over Turkey.