Exploration of a new city on foot is our preferred mode of transport – if the city lends itself to it, that is. Izmir is perfect for wandering around as most of the areas we want to see are relatively close together, centred around the coast and, therefore, it’s flat. So, we’ve walked with purpose and we’ve wandered aimlessly; as we said in our ‘We’re Off To Izmir‘ post, we’re armed with lots of tips of what to see, what to do…and what to eat. We’ve got more than enough to keep us occupied, but it’s always exciting when we stumble across something new, something we’ve never previously seen or heard of in Turkey.
As we’ve explored the area, we’ve been coming across an unfamiliar word ‘söğüşçü.’ He who’s a maker of söğüş.
“What’s söğüş? Nobody’s mentioned that to us.” We went over to the window of one shop to see what we could glean. Definitely product of an animal as we could see lots of meaty bits. But which bits of the animal, and which animal?
Yesterday, we saw the word a couple of times again, further fuelling our curiosity. It was time we found out about this mysterious söğüş, so, while we were quenching our thirst after the day’s mini expedition, we asked the guy serving us what it was. “Oh, I like it very much,” he said. “It’s very famous in Izmir. Tongue, cheek and brain.”
We’ve enjoyed many a kokoreç over the years so this didn’t sound too unpalatable. Well that was evening meal sorted, then. We decided we needed to give it a go. No point coming all the way to Izmir and not trying their famous (even if we had never heard of it and no one had told us about it) street food. We’d seen a couple of places specialising in it around Alsancak, where we’re staying, so we headed straight for Söğüşçü ACO.
There it was, on display in the window. The tongue and the cheek surrounded by fresh, peeled tomatoes, red onion, chopped parsley and turşu.
And there was the brain. Again, surrounded by far more attractive – and more appetising – salad stuffs. We sat at a table and the guy came out to serve us. All we knew was that we were here for söğüş. No idea how it’s served. Warm or cold? On a plate? Well there was no menu so we just went for it and asked for two söğüş in our best, attempting-to-sound- knowledgeable Turkish. Do you want everything on it, we were asked. Errrrm, go on then. We’re here now. Might as well. (Barry was much more excited about this new Turkish street food discovery than I was.)
The söğüşçü set to work with a super-sharp knife, thinly slicing the tongue and the cheek. I was okay with this bit; I’ve eaten many a tongue sandwich with my nana when I was little. It was just the brain I was a bit concerned about.
Flat-bread was sprinkled liberally with chopped red onion, parsley and mint, and tomato was layered on top. The cold meat was then layered on top of that – a lot of cold meat. And then the brain came. That was cut into slices and placed carefully on top of the meat. It looked soft. Now for the cumin – lots of it – and hot chilli flakes – lots of them. Both of the edges of the bread were pulled towards the centre and another flat bread placed on top to fill the gap.
Somehow, the söğüşçü managed to roll paper around the bottom half of this creation, without everything collapsing and falling out, before securing it with an elastic band. He’s obviously done this a few times before. Dinner was served. Dinner was eaten, and yes, dinner was enjoyed.
Izmir Söğüş – Further Information
- If you can put the fact that you’re eating brain out of your head, we highly recommend this addition. The texture is very soft and acts as a moistening agent for the sandwich. Think bread sauce.
- We spoke to the waiter as best we could and he told us, proudly, that söğüş is famous in Izmir and all the meat is from sheep, not cows.
- ACO is a chain throughout Izmir with some eateries in other areas of Turkey. The one we went to is on Kıbrıs Şehitler Caddesi in Alsancak (view on our map). (If you use Foursquare, you’ll see lots of tips and recommendations on there for ACO and other söğüş eateries around Izmir.)
- We chose to have a bit of everything and each kebab cost 8 TL. We didn’t need to eat for the rest of the evening.