Seasonal Food in Turkey – Hamsi Season Again

Last winter, I wrote about hamsi (anchovies) being for sale on Fethiye fish market. We love hamsi season and it’s once more upon us – which means we’ve come full circle on the seasonal food front, meaning Turkey’s For Life is nearly 1 year old. Wow! How did that happen so soon?

Anyway, hamsi is very much available on Fethiye fish market and we’ll definitely be buying some soon – a great ‘Saturday-night-in’ nibbly tea. This year, however, we consider ourselves to have been fortunate to have been in Istanbul in October. Hamsi is a Black Sea seasonal fish and October is the beginning of the hamsi fishing season. Karaköy fish market, on the shore of the Golden Horn, was already packed full of the beautiful, silky, silvery, tasty morsels and we were both dying to try some.

Hamsi on Karaköy Fish Market In Istanbul

Fresh hamsi being unloaded onto Karaköy fish market

Was it going to taste any different to the hamsi we’ve eaten at Fethiye fish market? Surely it must. So fresh! As soon as people were buying it there were small fishing boats pulling up to the shore and dumping crate loads of them onto the cobbles; minimal travel time, straight onto the stalls and almost immediately sold to the crowds of shoppers.

It was early in the morning when we walked around the market but once we saw the fish and the cooking areas, we decided we had to go back there for lunch – hamsi ekmeği (deep fried anchovies served in a half bread with rocket and onion). 3 lira! When we went back at lunchtime, we actually ended up having üskümrü ekmeği (fresh mackerel in a half bread) but that’s another post. Why didn’t we plump for the hamsi? Well, we just decided to save that for tea time. Fresh fish was on our menu for that day!

Deep-Fried Anchovies Near Galata Bridge In Istanbul

Stall holders prepare deep-fried hamsi

We returned to the market around tea time (yes, we went three times in one day!) and as the sun began to set over the Golden Horn, hundreds of commuters were clambering off the ferry, shoppers were fresh fish bargain hunting, stall holders were calling out prices and countless hamsi were being cleaned, tossed in flour and plunged into hot oil. We were excited about this one. We ordered our hamsi ekmeği; crispy, hot, fresh, juicy fish – and lots of it – served in between fresh Turkish bread with a squeeze of fresh lemon, salt, rocket leaves and onion. The ultimate street food as far as I’m concerned. Just divine.

The advantage of Karaköy fish market is its location. We paid our 3 lira, took our sandwiches…

Süleymaniye Mosque silhouetted across the Golden Horn, Istanbul

Süleymaniye Mosque silhouetted across the Golden Horn, Istanbul

…and stood on the shore of the Golden Horn to watch the sunset. Sometimes, you get those moments where everything just adds up to make the perfect tea.

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  1. i m not so fan of sea food but recently the fish i bought and cooked was so fresh and delicious.. 😉 and i m learning new way of cooking anchovy which make me encourage to eat it more:)

  2. We love hamsi, Yeşim. We’re waiting for your new hamsi posts so we can learn the new ways of cooking it, too. 🙂

  3. I love anchovy! 😀

  4. Sounds wonderful! I love anchovies and fresh from the fryer they must be heaven.

  5. Ahh, I see you cook like me! By the looks of the comments above Yesim may know what to do with hamsi, so I’ll check with her. We don’t have hamsi in South Korea but there are lots of little fish in the markets that I never know what to do with. Now if I could just find some of that delicious Turkish bread!

  6. First i should learn too :)) in black sea region i know even they cook baklava with hamsi :)) u knew about it??
    unfortunately i didnt have chance to visit west part of it, when i go i will learn more and cook:)

  7. Don’t you just love fresh fish? Especially those little ones you can fry whole and nibble on them with some wine! Fresh anchovies are the best, really.

  8. Frank, they’re amazing.
    Andrea, we love cooking and we do get the hamsi in Fethiye – but it’s been transported from the Black Sea – and it’s much better when cooked by someone else. The difference in the flavour between the super fresh hamsi and the quite fresh hamsi is very noticable.
    Yeşim, we’re all waiting…:)))
    Magda, very true. 🙂

  9. I love it that you can eat the fish so fresh and they cook it for you. I love visiting fish markets during my travels!

  10. They’re just the best aren’t they, Corinne? Having the fish cooked for you as well is great.

  11. OK, I’ve never been an fan of anchovies, but this article is actually making me want to try these Hamsi and other seafood dishes, especially if I was in Turkey.

  12. They’re so lovely when they’re fresh from the sea, Cathy. No strong taste. Mmmm, I could eat some right now actually.

  13. The Koreans love anchovies. In my cooking class we learned to make fried anchovies with chilies. I do like them, but in small amounts. Maybe that’s my post for Wanderfood Wednesday this week! Thanks for the inspiration.

  14. Fried with chillies sounds just about perfect! I think the Koreans must share the same taste in food as us. Will have a look at your Wanderfood Wednesday. 🙂

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