Eating Fish by the Karaköy waters and a Fish Market
Fresh grilled fish is very much a quintessential part of life in Istanbul. Located right by the sea, how could the Istanbullus not incorporate so much of them in their diet when fresh fish is available to feast on everyday. There is also an obsession of fishing primarily observed among men. On the Galata Bridge over the Golden Horn straits that connects the Old City and the New City, people line the bridge everyday to cast their fishing lines out into the water. Day or night, hot or cold, wet or dry, you will find them on the Galata Bridge any day. Regardless of whether they had a productive day of fishing, they keep coming back with their rods, lines, and buckets to store the day's catch.
T and I my obsession are not of the fishing kind but of pure consumption. We could eat fish everyday, yes. Say the name Karaköy [kah-rah-koy] and Istanbullus think about eating fresh grilled fish at this docks neighborhood northwest of the Galata Bridge. In fact, the neighborhood of Karaköy has come to be associated with buying and eating fish. If you ask a local about things to do in Istanbul, they will surely throw this in: you must eat fish or seafood by the Karaköy waters. We agree, anyone visiting Istanbul must do this. Get the ızgara balık [uhz-gah-rah bah-luhk], grilled fish and/or balık ekmek [bah-luhk ehk-mehk], grilled fish sandwich.
Beginning west of the Galata Bridge is the vibrant fish market. We walked past all the fish vendors and made our way towards the end of the market where the fish restaurants were. Thanks to the recommendation by EatingAsia, we chose the restaurant right at the end where the tables and chairs were right by the water. The restaurant was far from fancy-- white plastic tables and chairs, but the meal was delicious and very inexpensive. The fried mackerel was addictive and with a little of bit freshly squeezed lemon juice over the fish and the side of arugula, the simple meal was satisfying to say the least. We polished the entire plate of mackerel including the crispy heads and tails. Another popular choice on the menu, though seasonal and only available during the colder months, is hamsi. Other fish items include sea bass, sea bream, etc.
If that wasn't perfect enough, the skyline of Istanbul was right in front of us. We were eating, the sky was foggy, and we could only see the silhouette of the mosques across from us by the waters while watching the boats go by when suddenly it was the call to prayer blaring from mosques all over town and from different directions. The ezan blared from across the waters as well as from our side. All these combined was a picture-and-sound perfect image of Istanbul. I thought, “What took us this long to visit Istanbul....”
Just past the fish restaurants are street stalls selling grilled fish sandwich.
Fish markets are a huge part of life in Istanbul. The Istanbullus love their fish and visiting Istanbul without at least witnessing the action of a fish market takes out part of the fun. Walk along the Karaköy Fish Market on the way to or from a fish lunch by the waters.