Many large cities contain ethnic enclaves with stores carrying otherwise hard-to-find specialty foods. New York City, in particular, is famous for its ethnic neighborhoods like Chinatown and Little Italy. Americans in Istanbul, on the other hand, are not concentrated in any one neighborhood, and American products can be found in stores all over the city. In Istanbul, it would seem, Little America is everywhere.
Or is it?
You don’t have to have lived here for long to realize that it’s hard to find certain foods in Turkey. A list of hard-to-obtain items will of course vary from person to person; my own would include Edensoy soymilk, Sabra brand hummus, De Cecco pasta, and Twinings tea. (Twinings can also be found in Istanbul, but chances are your local supermarket or bakkal doesn’t carry it.)
For the benefit of homesick Americans, here is our list of stores that sell food and other imports from the States. Welcome to Little America.
Boff Drugstore in Nişantaşı carries a wide array of cosmetics and other pharmacy products that are hard to find in Turkey, including US brands of shampoo, deodorant, vitamin supplements, and other health products including Tom’s of Maine toothpaste. Weightlifters or martial arts enthusiasts will be glad to know that the store carries Tiger Balm, the ointment that eases aching joints, as well as various lines of protein powders and other workout supplements. Boff also carries foods like Aunt Jemima pancake mix, Country Kitchen and Mrs. Butterworth’s maple syrup, American brands of peanut butter (Jif, Skippy, Peter Pan), Newman’s salad dressing, sugary breakfast cereals (Fruit Loops, Apple Jacks, Frosted Flakes, Cocoa Krispies), and many others.
Santral Şarküteri in Bebek doesn’t just sell American products; the store offers a large selection of French cheeses, wines, olive oils, and other charcuterie staples, plus British brands like Crosse & Blackwell, and German Vollkornbrot. Nonetheless, homesick Americans can find plenty of comfort-food items here, such as cranberry juice, French mustard, Jack Daniels Tennessee Barbecue Sauce, Vermont maple syrup, Oreo cookies, and US brands of popcorn like Popz and Pop Weaver.
Merkez Şarküteri in Levent also carries plenty of American packaged foods, such as Philadelphia cream cheese, Big Red, Juicy Fruit, and Doublemint Gum, Oatabix and Weetabix cereals, various kinds of cereal bars, plus the seemingly innumerable varieties of hard-and soft-baked Pepperidge Farm cookies.
Doğa Şarküteri in nearby Etiler (open 24/7) is very well-stocked with American breakfast cereals, and also sells Duncan Hines cake mix and—for when you grow tired of pilav—Uncle Ben’s long-grain rice (don’t panic if you see it labeled in German; it’s still the same product.) They also sell Ocean Spray cranberry juice in beautiful long-necked glass bottles, Nature valley muesli bars, protein bars, Listerine mouthwash, and many other things. Doğa’s wine cellar is filled with Turkish wines in addition to Napa and other California vintages – don’t let anyone tell you that Americans don’t know anything about wine!
How about pork?
While we are on the subject of charcuterie products, you should know that it is quite possible to buy pork in Istanbul. Good pork bacon, for example, can be obtained from the various branches of Macrocenter throughout the city. However, it would be a pity to pass up the chance to buy bacon from the one surviving pork butcher in the city, Lazari Kozmaoğlu. Kozmaoğlu has been selling pork products from his butcher’s shop in Dolapdere since 1977. His store also offers Italian specialty pork products like mortadella sausage.
Ah, the hamburger...the international emblem of American food, for better or for worse. As lamb, not beef, has traditionally been the most common red meat in Turkey, it’s understandable that top-quality hamburgers are not easy to come by. You’ve most likely encountered a rudimentary form of hamburger at your local büfe (snack bar), hastily cooked on a grill and scarcely thicker than a cookie. (I usually need to buy two of them for a filling meal-on-the-run.) For really well done hamburgers (pun intended), I refer you to The Guide’s article on the subject, available here.
What about bagels and donuts?
New Yorkers (or indeed Americans in general) who miss bagels can find them at Tribeca, with branches in many locations including Zincirlikuyu, Akatlar, Yeniköy, Nişantaşı, and Mecidiyeköy. Among its other food selections, the cafe offers 14 different varieties of bagel, with toppings ranging from basic cream cheese, to chicken and guacamole, to philly cheese steak.
If you are one of those whose breakfast consists of donuts and coffee, fear not. Krispy Kreme’s globalization efforts have been quite successful: according to its website the famous donut chain has branches in more than a dozen countries in ten different time zones. In Istanbul, Krispy Kreme donuts can be found in Şaşkınbakkal, Cevahir, Capitol, Palladium, Acıbadem, and Ortaköy, among other locations.
Cupcakes, another sweet treat from the States, have started to become popular in Turkey, and can be found at a variety of locations throughout Istanbul. Although making a good cupcake is by no means as easy as it seems: arriving at the perfect recipe, with the right ingredients, cooking times, and techniques, is something best left to the experts. But don’t worry, we’ve tried it all and chosen the best cupcakes for you.
It would be difficult to lead a normal life in Turkey, among Turks, while only consuming food products from the US. And indeed, with such good food here, why would you want to? Nonetheless, for the inevitable occasions when you miss the tastes you were used to back home, the above list should go a long way toward filling those gaps. Afiyet olsun.