Foreign Grocery Friday: The Simit Bread of Turkey
When we travel, one of our favorite things to do is to pop into a local grocery store and check out the food products and candies we'd never find anywhere else. So we're trying out this new feature, Foreign Grocery Friday, where each week we'll feature some of our (and your) favorite overseas treats. Got a recommendation? Let us know!
Forget bagels. Let's talk about the Simit. These baked rounds of dough are covered in molasses and sesame seeds and, though they look more than a little bit like pretzels, have a flavor all their own. First-time visitors will be dazzled by the Simit vendor balancing act of navigating crowded streets with a tower of Simits atop their head, while seasoned Istanbul travelers are like, "whatever."
The utility of the Simit in Turkey is similar to that of Chile's Hallulla bread. It's the cheapest of the cheap, you-can-count-on-it carbohydrate beloved by all walks of life, for meals at all times of the day. We've had it cut into bite-size pieces for breakfast nibbles, slathered with Nutella as an after dinner street snack, and wholly plain during a fit of hungry stomach grumbles.
The Simit may not be a exclusive to Turkey, but the use of molasses sets Turkish Simits apart from those of the Balkans and Middle East.
The taste: It's chewy and yeasty, perfect for a hearty snack. The sesame seeds influence the flavor a bit too much, but that's just how it is; who are we to complain about a centuries-old favorite? Still, a Simit goes very, very well with a Turkish tea sweetened with a lump or two of sugar.
The price: We paid 1.50 Turkish Lira ($0.85) for a Simit with cheese outside both the Hagia Sophia and the Grand Bazaar, so consider that the high end of prices.
Where to find it: Are you in Istanbul? Are you outside, walking on the street or in a cafe? Chances are near 100% that you're in range of a quick Simit break as they're ubiquitous. Look for the vendors who balance a stack of them atop their heads.
Cut and filled with spreadable cheese
If you'd like to share some of your foreign grocery finds, we'd love love love to see them. Send 'em on over via email here and snack on, my friends.
[Photos: Cynthia Drescher/Jaunted]