We all know vegetables are the king when it comes to nutritious food. But the ones we like may not always be in season or easy to find. During such periods, legumes take the lead for those who want to eat nutritious, healthful food.
In Turkey, the most popular and widely-used legumes are fava beans, kidney beans, black-eyes peas, chickpeas, and lentils. Legumes play a significant role in the Turkish diet, and are found in a variety of shapes, sizes, and forms in most Istanbul eateries. They are cooked with meat or without meat, prepared as salads, served as zeytinyağlı (olive oil) dishes, turned into soups, made into drinks and even desserts, and found in meze platters.
For legume-lovers in Istanbul, here is a list of best legume dishes around town:
Black-eyed pea salad at Zerafet: A mix of black-eyed peas, fresh onions, cucumber, and capsicum, börülce salatası is only one of the delicious salads at ZerafEt. While you’re there, definitely order a serving of pastırmalı humus (hummus with Turkish spicy sausage). Even though this dish is notorious for being overwhelmingly oily and heavy, it somehow feels deceptively light at ZerafEt. (Click here to read a full review of ZerafEt.)
Piyaz at Köfteci Ali Baba: This salad is made with white kidney beans, onions, tomatoes. You can sprinkle it with olive oil, vinegar, and lemon juice and top it with oregano and chili flakes for the ultimate experience. Of course, it is best enjoyed with a serving of Ali Baba’s famous meatballs.
Yuvalama Çorbası at Develi: Yuvalama çorbası is made with rice, meat, chickpeas, yogurt, onion, and mint, and is a great start to a kebab dinner at Develi.
Kuru fasulye at Fasuli: Fasuli is a tradesman’s restaurant in Karaköy specializing in dishes from the Eastern Black Sea region. Their signature dish is kuru fasulye & pilav (white kidney beans and rice).
Warm potato salad with sprouted lentils at Journey: This warm potato salad with sprouted lentils (referred to as çimlendirilmiş mercimekli ılık patates salatası on the menu) at Journey is very tasty but more importantly energizing. Plus you get to be surrounded by Cihangir’s hipsters while you eat it. (Click here for a full review of Journey.)
Fava at Hünkar: Fava is a specialty of Hünkar and is definitely a must-try for those who love fava beans. It must be noted that their mercimek köftesi (lentil balls) also top the list of must-try legume dishes. Their aşure (a pudding made primarily with chickpeas, kidney beans, rice, and sugar, then topped with walnuts, pistachios, pomegranate, almonds, and cinnamon) is a legume-based dessert that is also top notch.
Kuru fasulye at Bizce Kuru: You'll find classic kuru fasulye (kidney beans) cooked to perfection at Bizce Kuru. Enjoy it with a serving of buttery rice, very good thick yogurt, and peasant bread.
Spicy sausage (with pistachios) and hummus at müzedechanga: Müzedechanga's fıstıklı Changa sucuk ve humus is a modern take on a traditional dish. The sausage is juicy on the inside and crispy on the outside, and the hummus is just perfection. (Click here for a full review of müzedechanga.)
Bomba fasulye at Kıyı: Unlike the typical pilaki you find at most fish restaurants, bomba fasulye at Kıyı is made with large kidney beans, and cooked with tomato paste and onions in a casserole. Yum!
Black-eyed pea salad at 9 Ece Aksoy: 9 Ece Aksoy’s hands-on owner and chef Ece uses only local and seasonal ingredients, and puts out a delicious börülce salatası (black-eyed pea salad) served on a bed of inviting greens.
Mung bean salad at Nar Lokanta: Maş piyazı at Nar Lokanta is a light and simple dish of mung beans with fresh onions and herbs, dressed with a pomegranate sauce that gives it a wonderful tangy flavor.
Chana Masala at Musafir: Chana Masala is a simply delicious chickpea curry best enjoyed at Musafir.
Kuru fasulye at Çanak: Cooked over a barbeque for over 5 hours, the kuru fasulye at Çanak comes all the way from the Eastern city of Erzurum. It is served plain, with beef, or with pastırma (Turkish cured beef). Make sure to order a serving of rice and pickles., too.
Boza at Vefa Bozacısı: Traditionally sold on chilly winter evenings in on the streets, boza is a creamy and slightly sweet yet acidic drink made from fermented wheat. It is best enjoyed with a dusting of cinnamon on top at Vefa Bozacısı.
For recipes of delicious legume dishes, order your copy of Istanbul Contemporary Cuisine by Hande Bozdoğan and Lale Apa.