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Fish Sandwich (Balık-ekmek)

Mouth-watering fish sandwiches are traditionally made of mackerel, grilled, and served right on the boat

Fish Sandwich (Balık-ekmek) in Istanbul - Best Time
Photo by

David Berkowitz

Fish means a lot to the Turks, as it is an integral part of Turkish culture and one of the staple foods in the ​local cuisine. The iconic fish sandwich, or as locals call it, Balık-ekmek, reflects a long-lived tradition of cooking freshly caught fish right on the boat without having to leave the water. Whereas the iconic floating boat cafes near Galata Bridge have survived, instead of fresh mackerel, fishermen now use frozen fish.

Fish sandwich sellers near the Galata Bridge, Istanbul
Fish sandwich sellers near the Galata Bridge, Istanbul

Hundreds of years of overfishing, climate change, and shipping have led to the mackerel's extinction in the Marmara Sea, and most of the mackerel used in balık-ekmek is actually imported from Norway or Morocco. Mackerel season lasts from November to January; however, owing to the lack of mackerel, vendors often use chub mackerel, which is in season between July and September. During this time you may try the most authentic Turkish fish sandwich.

Fish Sandwich (Balık-ekmek) in Istanbul - Best Season
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