Istanbul’s culinary culture maintained a distinguished position in the Ottoman Empire. The cuisine of Istanbul, which flourished as it evolved around the culinary culture of the Ottoman court from the 15th century until the beginning of the 20th century, is the basis of contemporary Turkish cuisine. In addition to the court’s influence, Istanbul’s cuisine was influenced by various cultures that existed in the Ottoman state during its long history, the economic privileges of the capital and the court, and the multicultural population of the city. It carried traces of Central Asian Turkish, Anatolian Seljuk, medieval Arab-Persian, and Byzantine culture. In the 19th century, the cuisine of Istanbul had many aspects in common with Ottoman cuisine of the classical period, but also displayed differences. By the end of the century, new ingredients and cooking techniques were in use, and table manners and etiquette were changing. Communities from different religions shared a culinary heritage, while at the same time various patterns of flavors emerged as a result of the restrictions and requirements of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. In the 19th century, as Istanbul was the capital of the Ottoman state and the home of the court, its cuisine blended local food products with those of distant states and provinces.

Foods and Beverages

Istanbul’s position as the capital of the Ottoman state and a significant trade center provided it with a wide range and constant flow of food ingredients from different regions for use in the kitchens of the Ottoman courts and wealthy households. In the final years of the Ottoman state, as commercial relations with Europe expanded, this culinary variety was further enriched with new ingredients and recipes from that region. Records of court kitchen expenses of the period, lists of food prices in Istanbul markets, and cookbooks published in Istanbul give a great deal of information about food and beverages consumed in Istanbul during the last period of the Ottoman Empire.

Mutton and lamb, clarified butter, wheat flour, rice, and sugar were the key ingredients in Istanbul cuisine. Offal including sheep-head, trotters, liver, and intestines were consumed both at the court and throughout the city; beef was used particularly to make pastırma (spiced and air-dried meat) and a spiced sausage called sucuk. Special types of pastırma from Kayseri, Edirne, Silistre, and Kili were also available in Istanbul markets. Starting in the 1850s, European-style fillet, beef tenderloin, leg of lamb, and lamb chops were offered to foreign guests at the court. In addition to mutton and lamb, goat meat, beef, and pork were available in Istanbul for the Christian community. Poultry, primarily chicken but also some turkey, was consumed at the palace; game meats such as duck, goose, and quail were considered specialty foods and served at banquets.

Court kitchen accounts indicate that the consumption at court of fish, caviar, and fish roe increased in the 19th century. In particular, lakerda (pickled tunny), caviar, fish roe, and mackerel were frequently consumed at court for the feasts to break the fast (iftariyelik). Fish including pilchard, sturgeon, bonito, sea bream, turbot, bluefish, grey mullet, goby fish, sea bass, plaice, red mullet, whiting, mackerel, and growler were caught for the sultan’s kitchen. A wide variety of fish from the Bosphorus were available to rich and poor, Muslim and non-Muslim. Fish were prepared in a number of ways, including fried; in kebab, pilaf, and pastries (börek); as cold dishes; pickled; and in salads. Fish and seafood products, which were popular in the Christian community, were also eaten by the Muslim elite during Ramadan.

1- A cutlery pack from the period of Sultan Mahmud II (Archives of National Palaces)

In the 19th century wheat, was the most widely used grain in Istanbul. Wheat flour was used in particular to make bread, semolina, starch, vermicelli, and kadayif (shredded pastry or a kind of cake eaten for dessert with syrup), and to make pastries such as börek, poğaça (pastry), simit (Turkish bagels), and baklava. Bread types (nân-ı has, nân-ı aziz, nân-ı francala, and somun) varied depending on the flour used. Bulgur wheat was consumed on a small scale at court. The second most frequently eaten grain was rice, often used to cook pilaf and zerde (a dessert made with saffron). Güllaç, made with wheat starch, was particularly popular during Ramadan, as it is today. Pasta was a novelty in Istanbul in the 19th century. Lentils, peas, broad beans, black-eyed peas, and white beans were among the legumes consumed. White beans of American origin were introduced in Istanbul in the 19th century.

Other staple food products included milk, yogurt, kaymak (clotted cream), and several types of cheese. Feta cheese, kaşar and kaşkaval (hard yellow cheeses), and tulum cheese were named after the districts they came from, such as kaşkaval cheese from the Balkans, Mudurnu cheese, and the kaşar cheese of Edirne. The most common cooking fat, as it had been in previous centuries, was clarified butter, made by skimming buttermilk. Meat dishes, vegetables, pastries, pilaf, desserts, and even fried food were cooked with clarified butter, sometimes with suet or tail fat added. Olive oil was used, to a much lesser degree, in salads and some fried foods. Christians consumed it in particular on days of fasting.

Sweets were always an important part of Ottoman cuisine. In Istanbul, sugar and honey were used not only in desserts but also in soft drinks like sherbet and hoşaf (sweet fruit stew). The use of sugar imported from Europe increased in 19th-century Istanbul, but it was still a luxury and more expensive than honey. Pekmez (grape molasses) and dried fruit were also used as sweeteners.

Spices used in the court kitchen and mentioned in cookbooks included salt imported from Walachia, salt, rock salt, black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, mastic, cumin, saffron, chili pepper, allspice, sumac, nutmeg, and thyme. Chili pepper, vanilla, and allspice, which were of American origin, began to be used in Istanbul in the 19th century. During that period, the most preferred spices in Istanbul were cinnamon and black pepper. Rose water, orange blossom water, lemon juice, verjuice, vinegar, gelatin, poke, and kermes were among the natural condiments used.

2- A porcelain dinnerware set sent from Russia to Sultan Mahmud II as a gift (Topkapı Palace Museum)

Almonds, pistachios, pine nuts, walnuts, chestnuts, and raisins (üzüm-i mürg or üzüm-i kuş), made from and, respectively as well as dried apricots, plums, figs, pears, sour cherries, and other fruits were used abundantly in Istanbul cuisine in the 19th century. Both fresh and dried fruits were used in compotes and sherbets, and dried fruits and nuts were used to add zest to dishes. Many types of fruit consumed in the court (lemons, sweet lemons, oranges, bitter oranges, mandarin oranges, citrons, apples, sweet and sour pomegranates, pears, quinces, plums, sour cherries, wild apricots, peaches, cherries, melons, grapes, watermelons, cranberries, strawberries, and figs) were also sold in the markets. Many fruits were named after the districts from which they came or according to their type: Albanian, Amasya, and muscatel apples; Akça, Mustafa Bey, Bozdoğan, and İnebolu pears; ekmekayvası (a large quince); Rumelian walnuts; Serfice and Damson plums; greengages; razakı, Muskat, and seedless grapes; red currants; Manisa melons; and Persian apricots.

Vegetables including zucchini, gourds, okra, spinach, eggplants, turnips, green and red tomatoes, cauliflowers, cucumbers, carrots, green peppers, onions, garlic, leeks, cabbage, Swiss chard, beans, lettuce, and artichokes were widely used on a seasonal basis. Wild herbs including chicory, mallow, and sorrel; salad ingredients such as lettuce, parsley, mint, and dill; and the grape, quince, and hazelnut leaves used to make dolma (stuffed vegetables) were also important ingredients. In the 19th century, new vegetables imported from America became popular, including tomatoes, potatoes, green peppers, beans, Jerusalem artichokes, zucchini, pumpkins, and maize.

3- A teapot and teaspoons with Sultan Abdülhamid II’s sultanate signature (Topkapı Palace Museum)

4- Cups with Sultan Abdülhamid II’s emblem (Yıldız Palace)

Alcohol consumption was limited; most traditional meals were served with water or fruit juice. Varieties of spring water from different parts of Istanbul were known and distinguished; snow and ice were used to cool water and fruit juices. Fruit juices—as well as flowers like roses, violets, and jasmine—were used to prepare compotes (hoşaf), sherbets, and syrups. In 19th-century Istanbul as in earlier periods, although it was forbidden by religion, the consumption of rakı (arrack) and wine prevailed in some circles. In the taverns (meyhane) of Istanbul, wine and, later in the century, rakı accompanied appetizers like salads, tarator (a sauce made of nuts, garlic, bread, and olive oil), and seafood dishes. Coffee continued to be the most frequently consumed hot drink in Istanbul, served at all hours of the day and night. In the 20th century, tea became popular, nearly taking the place of coffee. Other beverages consumed in Istanbul in the 19th century were salep and boza.

Kitchens and Chefs

Ottoman palace kitchens, in terms of both their spatial organization and personnel structure, differed greatly from the kitchens of the rich and of ordinary people. The kitchens of the Beşiktaş Coastal Palace and Yıldız Palace, which were home to Ottoman royalty in the 19th century, had many similarities to the Topkapı Palace kitchen. The kitchen of Beşiktaş Palace consisted of several parts. The food for the sultan was prepared in a kitchen known as the kuşhane-yi hümayun or matbah-ı has. Additionally, there were bakeries, a pastry and dessert kitchen (helvahane), and pantries in the palaces. Kitchens consisted of smaller units, known as ocak, each serving a different part of the palace; these included the kitchen of the şehzade ocağı, the hazinedar ağa ocağı, the kethuda kadın ocağı, the ustalar ocağı, and the seferli kethüdası ocağı. Kitchens in Dolmabahçe Palace also had several parts: the matbah-amire served the harem and court attendants and were located in the palace building that was closest to Beşiktaş. The Aş Gate connected these to the harem section. On the Bayıldım Garden side, which contained the birun (outer) parts of the palace, the buildings belonging to the kitchens and kuşhane-yi hümâyun, the sehzades kitchens, bakeries, cellars, a mill, and a tatlıhane (dessert kitchen) were located.

5- Tea cups (Archives of National Palaces)

Two separate kitchens, known as the has mutfak, provided food for the sultan and his wives, independently of the main kitchens; these were located in the harem compound (the portion of the house reserved for the women) and the selamlık (the portion of the house reserved for men). Kitchens in the Yıldız Palace were located behind the mabeyn-i hümâyun buildings and the harem, between the warehouse and the arsenal. A poultry house, pigeon house, vineyards, an orchard, an orangery and a yoğurthane (yogurt house) were located among the palace buildings. In addition to the kitchens of the sultan and the harem, the more public kitchens were divided into the shehzades kitchen, the silahşoran ocağı, the dağıstan kitchen, the kitchen of the muzıka-yı hümâyun (imperial military band and school), and the boatmen’s kitchen. There were also kitchens designated as the main kitchen, tertib-i cedid (new order) ocağı, pastry kitchen, dessert kitchen, and dietary kitchen, all with particular areas of specialization.

Many people worked in these kitchens. For example, according to a salary accounts book, there were 907 employees in the Yıldız Palace kitchens, including people in charge of procuring and distributing food, cooks, and servants (tablakar). Cooks had different areas of specialization; they included kebab, pilaf, and pastry makers; those who prepared diet food; compote makers (hoşafçı), dessert makers, and bakers. Bakers were divided into dough makers, cooks, bread makers, and cleaners. Cooks working in the kitchen of the sultan included an aşçıbaşı (head chef), ikinci aşçıbaşı (sous-chef), kebapçıbaşı (head kebab maker), tatlıcıbaşı (head dessert maker), börekçibaşı (head pastry maker), balıkçıbaşı (head fish chef), perhizcibaşı (head chef in charge of diet food), refik, and nefer (assistants).

During the reign of Sultan Mahmud II, a fish chef was added to the palace staff. The placement of palace chefs in separate kitchens according to their area of expertise was another 19th century innovation. During that century, translators were also added to palace kitchen staffs to act as interpreters for foreign chefs who prepared French meals for visiting foreign officials.

6- The cellar of Dolmabahçe Palace

Dishes cooked in the palace kitchens were carried to the chambers by servants known as tablakâr. Each chamber had its own tray bearers. Food continued to be delivered on trays to palace staff until 1908, but after the announcement of the Second Meşrutiyet, court attendants and clerks began to eat in the refectory.

The kitchens of mansions where notable people, dignitaries and prominent members of the government lived were small-scale models of the palace kitchens. The kitchens were located in a separate building. A dough maker, pilaf chef, kebab chef, vegetable preparer, dishwasher, and oven attendant (ocakçı) worked in the kitchen under the supervision of the head chef, the chief cellarer, and the steward. Tray bearers or servants were responsible for serving food. Another small kitchen was located inside the harem chamber. French cooks were also employed in grand mansions in the later 19th century; European cuisine was slowly becoming popular among the elite of Istanbul, as it was in the Ottoman palace. In ordinary Istanbul residences, the kitchen was on the ground floor and the person responsible for preparing the meals there was either the lady of the house or the daughter-in-law.

As was the case in earlier centuries, in the 19th century there were many food-related tradesmen in Istanbul, such as dairymen, grocers, greengrocers, butchers, water bearers, bakers, and people who made or grew and sold milk sweets, pastry, güllaç (rose pudding), vegetables, halvah, pickles, coffee, tripe soup, nuts and dried fruit, candy, kebabs, poultry, eggs, trotters, lokma, simit, boza, and salep. In addition to the kebab shops and pastry restaurants, there were traditional Ottoman restaurants known as lokanta, as well as imaret, soup kitchens associated with alms houses.

Cookbooks and 19th-Century Dishes

During the 19th century, Turkish cookbooks published in the Ottoman script presented the colorful nature of Istanbul cuisine, with traditional flavors dating back centuries as well as new flavors and the cuisines of different communities. More than 40 cookbooks were published in Ottoman Turkish between 1844 and 1927. Melceü’t-tabbâhîn (Refuge of Cooks), written by Mehmed Kâmil, who taught at the Mekteb-i Tıbbiye medical school, was the first of these. In the preface, the author explained that he wrote the cookbook to revive old recipes that were disappearing or had been misunderstood by cooks working in Istanbul. Aşçıların Sığınağı, a rich source of information on Ottoman food culture, contained 273 recipes, and it became a reference for other cookbooks published in the 19th century. Cookbooks such as Yeni Yemek Kitabı (New Cookbook), published in 1880/1881, Ev Kadını (Housewife), published in 1882/1883, and Aşçı Başı (Chief Cook), published in 1900, had much in common with Aşçıların Sığınağı. The book was also translated into English as A Manual of Turkish Cookery by Türabi Efendi in 1864 in London. The two books’ contents are similar. Aşçıların Sığınağı has 13 parts: recipes for soups, desserts, kebabs, stews, savory pastries, warm sweet pastries, cold desserts, vegetable stews, stuffed vegetables with olive oil or clarified butter, pilafs, compotes, desserts eaten before coffee, beverages, salads, and tarator and turşu (pickled items).

European recipes included in Yeni Yemek Kitabı, which the anonymous author said he wrote to document changes in Istanbul cuisine, illustrate the rising interest in European cultural practices among the Istanbul elite and document the changes that Istanbul cuisine underwent between the 1850s and the 1880s.

7- A set of drinking cups (Archives of National Palaces)

Ev Kadını also documents the westernization of Ottoman cuisine in the late 19th century. In the introduction, the author, Ayşe Fahriye, said that she wrote the book to introduce techniques for cooking, kitchen organization, and food serving to Ottoman women. The book includes 802 recipes and discusses the basic principles of cooking, kitchen and cellar organization, necessary utensils and table services, serving methods, and table manners. In addition to traditional dishes and techniques, sauces, meat and fish jellies, boiled and cold meats, garnishes, pâtés, types of ice cream, and canned food, the book describes new European cooking techniques. Recipes include Circassian chicken, piruhi, and peynirli mantı (ravioli with cheese), brought to Istanbul by Caucasian and Rumelian migrants in the late 19th century.

Mahmud Nedim, the author of Aşçı Başı, indicated that he came to understand the importance of cooking while serving in the army and wrote the book for this reason. The book contains recipes from Anatolian cuisine as well as many dishes common to Istanbul.

In addition to cookbooks written in Ottoman Turkish, Turkish cookbooks written in Armenian were also published in Istanbul in the late 19th century, including Yeni Yemek Kitabı ve Hamur İşleri (New Cookbook and Pastries) in 1871, Miftâhü’t-tabbâhîn in 1876, and İlaveli Yeni Yemek Kitabı (Supplementary New Cookbook)1 by Ohan Aşçıyan in 1889. The content of these books is similar to that of cookbooks published in Turkish. This similarity is not surprising, as the Muslim, Christian, and Jewish communities of Istanbul had been in constant contact throughout the centuries and by the 19th century shared a common cuisine. The most important differences within this cuisine were the result of religious prohibitions or rituals. Oil- and meat-free meals originally created for Christian fasts—including yalancı dolma (stuffed vegetables with olive oil), topik (a dish made of chickpeas, sesame paste, and onion), pilaki (vegetables, pulses, or seafood cooked in olive oil), papaz yahnisi (fish stew), and paskalya çöreği (Easter pastry)—eventually became part of the broader Istanbul cuisine. In contrast, some recipes created in the Jewish community—including patlıcanlı börek (pastry with eggplant puree), meatballs with leeks, and rockling fish cooked with sour plums (erikli gelincik balığı)—stayed within that community. Turkish cookbooks written in Armenian included European-style dishes like beef bourguignon, brioche, white mayonnaise, and sauerkraut with bratwurst, as well as new dishes reflecting a synthesis of Ottoman and European cuisines such as Aziziye’s pudding, Hünkâri sauce (hünkari salça), istakoz kıyması fırını (baked lobster mincemeat), and chocolate compote (hoşaf).

8- A plate used in the palace (Archives of National Palaces)

Ottoman (Alaturka) and European (Alafranga) Table Manners

Meals in Istanbul were traditionally served on a low table on a sini (round metal tray), which rested on the ground. Use of the European-style fork and knife was adopted in the Ottoman palace in the second half of the 19th century. That novelty, along with the growing popularity of European porcelain and tableware, arewere examples of the influence of the West on the Ottoman modernization process. Beginning in the Tanzimat era, European table settings began to be used in Dolmabahçe and Yıldız Palaces, which were also built in a synthesis of European and Ottoman architectural styles. Dining in alafranga (European) style—sitting at a table, each person with his own plate, fork, knife, and spoon—became more common, especially when foreign guests were being entertained, during the reign of Sultan Mahmud II (1808–1839), initially only among the elite. Instead of Chinese, Japanese, or local porcelains, which had been preferred during the classical period, Sévres and Meissen porcelains imported from Europe began to be used. The need for European porcelains led Sultan Abdulhamid to establish a porcelain factory in Yıldız Palace at the end of the century. Beginning during the Tanzimat era, in addition to new table settings, menus containing French recipes began to appear when high-ranking foreign guests were received at the palace. For example, dishes representing both Ottoman and French cuisine were served during a banquet for Ottoman pashas, foreign military officers, and ambassadors in commemoration of victory in the Crimean War and the completion of the construction of Dolmabahçe Palace in 1856. Menus of other banquets prepared in the European style in honor of foreign guests in the late 19th century have also been preserved, many written in Turkish and French. This trend was a result of the Ottoman modernization movement in the post-Tanzimat era.

Since the second half of the 19th century, the districts of Pera and Galata have particularly reflected a European lifestyle in their architecture, shops, and restaurants. Growing trade connections with Europe increased the flow of European consumer goods into the capital. In addition, European-style cafes, restaurants, and patisseries were opened by foreign and non-Muslim businessmen in Pera and Galata. These new social venues introduced European-style table manners and flavors to the people of Istanbul. European-The incorporation of new flavors and recipes in Ottoman elite cuisine created a synthesis of alaturka (Ottoman) and alafranga (European) cultures; changes in cuisine developed in the 1900s and continued and became more distinct in elite circles during the Republican Period.


"Modern" Cuisine

The adoption of European-style table settings and manners, along with related new cooking techniques and ingredients and household management techniques, accelerated in Istanbul during the Republican era, disseminated via magazines, newspapers, and books targeting modern Ottoman women. This approach was crowned in the Republican era with cookbooks, and schools for girls (kız enstitüleri) opened in 1928/1929.

The presence of both Ottoman and European style cuisines in Istanbul, which first became visible in cookbooks published in the 1880s, can also be observed in publications from the beginning of the Republican era to the present time. Two publications can be qualified as best-sellers among the Turkish cookbooks published in the Latin alphabet since 1928: Alaturka ve Alafranga Mükemmel Yemek Kitabı (The Perfect Ottoman and European Cook Book) by Fahriye Nedim, published in 1933, and Alaturka ve Alafranga Yemek Kitabı (Ottoman and European Cook Book) by Ekrem Muhittin Yeğen, published in 1944. New editions of these books continue to be published today. Both authors also published cookbooks on Ottoman and European pastry. The cookbook by Fahriye Nedim addressed the modern woman of the Republic, suggesting that housekeeping is among a family woman’s duties. The schools for girls that opened in 1928/1929 in the Republican period aimed to teach modern scientific cooking as well as other household tasks. Although these institutions were based on the Kız Sanayi Mektepleri (Art Schools for Girls), which opened in 1865, they dissociated themselves from the Ottoman identity with their emphasis on modernity and national identity.2 Their aim was to educate Turkish girls with national values and make them more productive in their household chores. Courses on cooking, domestic economy, and needlecraft were among their offerings. Girls’ institutes were also opened in Anatolian cities, including Bursa, Manisa, Adana, Trabzon, and Elazığ, as well as in major cities like Istanbul, Ankara, and Izmir. They taught cooking, kitchen management, table settings, and etiquette, and instructed girls in how to use their time in a modern, hygienic, scientific, and economical way. Cookbooks written by Hadiye Fahriye, Ekrem Muhittin Yeğen, and others3 later served as textbooks. The recipes in these books were very different from those in earlier cookbooks, incorporating standard measuring systems and calorie calculators. Advanced scientific cooking methods and alafranga dishes were taught, contributing to the spread of European recipes.

9- Bowls (Archives of National Palaces)

Cookbooks published in Istanbul in the Republican Period and afterward introduced modern cuisine while also reflecting the difference between Ottoman and European cuisines. Reflecting the transformation of Istanbul culinary culture from the 1900s to the 1950s, they included both traditional Turkish and modern European techniques and recipes. Traditionally based recipes included those for kebab, yahni (stew), tirit, and vegetable dishes, as well as egg dishes, moussaka, oturtma and bastı (vegetable stews), dolma (stuffed vegetables), dishes made with olive oil, pilaf, savory pastries, milk puddings, syrup desserts, sherbet, and pickles. New recipes, mostly of French origin, included those for bouillon, consommé, fish and seafood soups, sauces, ragout, garnitures, purees, breaded cutlet, galantines, European desserts and candies, and creams. Cookbooks published in Istanbul between 1960 and 1980 continued to offer both traditional and European recipes, but relatively of the latter, which had been adapted to the Istanbul palate.4

Etiquette books that described new table settings and manners in the European style began to be published in the late 19th century and continued during the Republican period. Most of these books were published between 1894 and 1927 and were translated from other languages; they introduced Western cultural norms under topics such as table manners in European culture and for banquets and family dining. The political elite of the Republican period legitimized modern manners, including table manners and table organization. As a part of the Republican revolution, modern table manners became widespread, promoted by educational institutions, government officials, the military, and the newly ascendant Turkish bourgeoisie,5 and introduced and enforced as new norms through public spaces such as Republican balls, hotels, restaurants, and railroad dining cars.

10- A restaurant in Istanbul (Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, Kültür A.Ş.)

11- A restaurant in an open space in Istanbul (Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, Kültür A.Ş.)

While two meals a day were eaten during the Ottoman period, three meals a day became common during the Republican period. This change, too, can be understood as related to modernization. The standardization of the 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. work day, the shift to the Gregorian calendar, and the goal of being compatible with the Western world were among the reasons for the changes in culinary culture.

Dining Out and the Growth of the Restaurant Industry

During the Ottoman period, people only ate outside of their homes when absolutely necessary, and thus places to eat out were limited and functional. These often specialized in one type of food, for example, kebapçı (kebab shops), pudding shops, ciğerci (liver shops), başçı (sheep’s-head shops), soup restaurants, pastry shops, street food sellers, soup kitchens, alms houses, and taverns in the marketplace. European-style restaurants were uncommon in Istanbul until the 1850s; after that, hotels and restaurants, particularly in the neighborhood of Pera, introduced the custom of dining out to the elite class of Istanbul. These restaurants were a far cry from traditional Ottoman establishments; they had tables, chairs, clean tablecloths, forks and knives, and rich menus full of Ottoman and European dishes, and offered alcoholic beverages. Tokatlıyan and Sümer Palas, Hôtel de France, and Hôtel d’Angleterre, which all opened in Pera between 1890 and 1920, became well known in Istanbul for their French cuisine. Luxurious traditional Ottoman restaurants with attentive service and extensive menus were initially opened in the district of Sirkeci-Eminönü in the late 19th century. Konyalı Restaurant opened in 1879, and shortly thereafter the Ali Efendi, Nefaset, and Süslü restaurants followed; in the early 20th century, the Pandelli Restaurant opened. The first modern restaurant, which concentrated on traditional Turkish cuisine in Beyoğlu, was opened by the chef Abdullah in 1888. It was initially named Victoria, but later its name was changed to Abdullah Efendi.6

The thousands of Russian immigrants taking refuge in Istanbul after the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 had a great influence on the growth of restaurant culture in Istanbul, introducing Russian dishes and drinking culture through the restaurants some of them opened in Beyoğlu. Modern restaurants serving traditional cuisine continued to be opened during the Republican period, for example Borsa Restaurant, which opened in Sirkeci in 1927. Hotels like the Hilton, Park, and Divan Hotel and club restaurants like Büyük Kulüp, which served European dishes, also popularized the practice of eating out.

The culture of food and drink in Istanbul was also affected by the flow of rural immigrants into the city from Anatolia after 1940. After the 1950s, when the non-Muslim population rapidly decreased in Istanbul, the native foods of Anatolia became popular—for example, içli köfte (fist-sized bulgur balls filled with minced meat), lahmacun (a thin pizza-like crust covered with seasoned minced meat and onions), and spicy kebabs from southeastern Anatolia. In addition to steakhouses and ocakbaşı (a grilled-meat restaurant with an open fire pit in the middle), several kebab houses were opened. In the following years, many large and small restaurants were opened in Istanbul featuring the local flavors of Anatolia.

Beginning in the 1980s, as a result of the globalization that accompanied Turkey’s foreign expansion policy, fast-food chains like McDonald’s and Pizza Hut opened branches in Istanbul. Fast foods of foreign origin like hamburgers, pizza, french fries, and hot dogs became popular; some traditional Turkish dishes like the köfte (meatball) sandwich, fish sandwich, lahmacun, and pide were also adapted to be served as fast foods. Restaurants offering international cuisines, for example from Italy, China, and Japan, have also been opened in the last 30 years. The value of local cuisine increased after the turn of the 21st century as a reaction to globalization. Reconstructing Ottoman cuisine and marketing in the catering sector as well as the discovery of local Anatolian cuisines are among the changes that have been taking place in Istanbul cuisine in the last 20 years.


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Vağinad, Pürad, Mükemmel Yemek Kitabı 1926, tr. Takuhi Tovmasyan, Istanbul: Aras Yayınları, 2010.

Yeğen, Ekrem, Alaturka ve Alafranga Yemek Kitabı, Istanbul: 1944.

Yeni Yemek Kitabı, Istanbul: 1298.

Yerasimos, Marianna, “Osmanlı Döneminde Rum Mutfakları”, Türk Mutfağı, ed. Arif Bilgin and Özge Samancı, Ankara: Kültür ve Turizm Bakanlığı, 2008, pp. 219-229.


1 Turgut Kut, Açıklamalı Yemek Kitapları Bibliyografyası (Eski Harfli Yazma ve Basma Eserler), Ankara: Kültür ve Turizm Bakanlığı, 1985, p. 84.

2 Elif Ekin Akşit, Kızların Sessizliği: Kız Enstitülerinin Uzun Tarihi, Istanbul: İletişim Yayınları, 2005, p. 17; Yael Navaro-Yaşın, “Evde Taylorizm: Türkiye Cumhuriyeti’nin İlk Yıllarında Evişinin Rasyonelleşmesi (1928-1940, Toplum ve Bilim, 2000, vol. 84, pp. 51-74.

3 See: Leman Cılızoğlu, Yemek Pişirme Temel Metod ve Uygulamaları. Beslenme, Yemek Görgü Kuralları, Ankara: Mars Matbaası, 1971.

4 See: Necdet Dengizer, Ev Kadının Yemek Kitabı, Istanbul İnkilap ve Aka Kitapevi, 1965; İlyas İmer, Tatlıdan Tuzluya Türk Sofrası Alaturka-Alafranga Yemekler ve Tatlılar, Istanbul Geçit Kitabevi, 1976; Türkan Kasapoğlu, Aile Yemekleri ve Sohbetleri, Istanbul: İnkılap ve Aka Kitapevi, 1977.

5 Nevin Meriç, Osmanlı’da Gündelik Hayatın Değişimi Adab-ı Muaşeret, Istanbul: Kapı Yayınları, 2000, pp. 33, 59.

6 Artun Ünsal, “Geçmişten Günümüze İstanbul’un Lokantaları”, Şehir ve Kültür: İstanbul, Istanbul: İstanbul Kültür ve Turizm İl Müdürlüğü, 2010.

This article was translated from Turkish version of History of Istanbul with some editions to be published in a digitalized form in 2019.

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