Siirt in Istanbul
by Meral Üstün
Siirt is a city in the southeast of Turkey, situated at the intersection of Mesopotamian and Anatolian civilizations. In addition, it is a city represented in İstanbul with all of its products and customs.
When you pass Unkapanı bridge towards Aksaray, you will see the church of Pantocrator Monastery, now Molla Zeyrek Mosque, on the right. Pantocrator is among the most important still-standing historic landmarks of the Byzantine period . The church consists of three joint churches built successively in the early 12th century and was converted into a mosque during the reign of Sultan Mehmet The Conqueror. Restoration of the complex still continues therefore it is closed to visitors.
A wide square will meet you if you walk from Molla Zeyrek Mosque towards Bozdoğan Aqueduct. This area is called “Kadınlar Pazarı” (Women’s Bazaar) or “Siirt Bazaar”. The shops lining both sides will transport you to another world – southeast Anatolia. The weekly-set neighborhood market was, at one time, turned into a fixed market place in the middle of the road. Then it was demolished and a long, wide green area was created.
The shops lining both sides of the street are each more interesting than the last: the butcher’s with meat hanging on hooks, as in old times; sakatatçı - selling all kinds of entrails including tripe; dried fruits and berries we are not used to seeing often; stands with Bitlis tobaccos and tobacco wrapping materials and Bittim soaps; famous Zivgik pomegranate of Siirt piled on the back of trucks; special cheese from the Siirt region; Pervari honey vendors and watermelon seed sellers.
There are at least 10 Büryan Kebapçı along the street. “Büryan” is a kind of kebab made of lamb meat. The skinned whole lamb is hung down in a special underground well, which has a slow-burning fire inside, and the opening of the well is covered over with clay and the lamb is left in the well for several hours to be cooked. The meat is then coarsely minced and served on a bed of pide. We headed to Ismet Bahçevan Sofrası which we had heard of before. When we saw the mouth-watering kebabs, with gluttony on our minds we ordered many dishes. Although we are aware gluttony is one of the “Seven Deadly Sins” we simply could not resist the enticing aroma of the food surrounding us.
We ordered Perde Pilav, literally Veiled Pilaf, which is baked in a yufka (very thin sheet of dough) with currants and almonds. While waiting for our Büryan Kebab to be served, we also tasted “acılı ezme” (hot spicy paste), tomato salad and Kitel – a kind of boiled içli köfte (stuffed meatball) and çiğ köfte (raw meatball – steak tartare). The Büryan was beyond delicious!
Unfortunately there was no place reserved for dessert in our stomachs so we promised to taste the Künefe and home-made Baklava the next time. The prices of the restaurant were reasonable. The common feature of all the restaurants is they do not serve alcoholic beverages. So we ended our visit with the lamb in our stomach but not with any digestion problems!
I strongly recommend that you spend a day in this different environment full of curiosities.
İsmet Bahçevan Sofrası
İtfaiye Cad No 33/2 Kadınlar Pazarı Fatih
Tel: (212) 521 86 71
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