“Don’t come back from Izmir without trying Çeşme Kumrusu!”
This was just one of the many pieces of advice given to us by Turkish friends before we set off for our trip to Izmir in September. But it was also the piece of advice; the common thread that linked all the other suggestions offered. Woe betide us if we returned to Fethiye without trying Çeşme Kumrusu, the famous sandwich of the Izmir region and its namesake town of Çeşme.
The Famous Çeşme Kumrusu
Well, there was never any chance we weren’t going to try Çeşme Kumrusu, was there? No point in travelling, for us, if you’re not going to munch your way through all foods famous to the area. And when the day came that we decided to hunt one down, we didn’t have to look far, either. Most of the food stands around the city centre had Çeşme Kumrusu on offer. We chose a stand that offered Kömürde Çeşme Kumrusu (cooked over coals), ordered, took our seats and watched.
Stage 1: Lightly Toast The Bread For The Çeşme Kumrusu
There were a few people ordering Çeşme kumrusu, so various cobs were sliced through the middle and placed onto the barbecue to heat through and obtain a slight crispness. This is the kumru; a dense, yet light, cob topped with sesame seeds and used to make a sandwich. Notice how smiley our kumrucu (maker of kumru) is. This is one of our abiding memories of Izmir – the folks of this city were generally a happy-looking bunch.
Stage 2: Prepare For The Çeşme Kumrusu Dining Experience
We could clearly see the kumru was underway, so we started to prepare ourselves and our table. Always happy to see a tub or jar of turşu on any table – we removed the lid from the jar of turşu (pickled chillies, in this case) so we could add them to our sandwich. Any sort of Turkish street food without turşu is lacking something and we were ready to embellish our Çeşme Kumrusu with a bit of salty, pickled spiciness.
Stage 3: Building The Çeşme Kumrusu
Long slithers and circular slices of salami were tossed around the griddle atop the hot coals before being scattered over the open, waiting cobs of heated, crispy bread. Then it was the turn of the spicy sucuk to sizzle on the griddle, followed by a wedge of kaşar cheese (a Turkish yellow cheese that sears and retains its shape for a short time when given a blast of heat). It’s a hefty amount of filling as you can see in the photo above!
Stage 4: Time To Serve The Çeşme Kumrusu
Somehow, the kumrucu has to wrestle all of this filling (along with slices of tomato) between the two halves of bread, close it, wrap it, and serve it to the waiting customer all in one piece. He’s obviously done this before – but we watched with interest…and started to wonder how, once it was served, we were actually going to eat this construction. Visions of ketchup, mayo, cheese oozing everywhere, salami and sucuk dropping to the table below…
Stage 5: Time To (Try To) Eat Our Çeşme Kumrusu
Our Çeşme Kumrusu is delivered to us and it’s the moment of truth. Possible to eat? Is it edible? Well, yes to both of those. It’s also remarkably easy to keep the sandwich in one piece as you sink your teeth into it – one pickled chilli for every couple of bites. The bread is similar to the bread used for simit and so by the time we’ve eaten it, we’re super full! And, of course, our trip to Izmir just wouldn’t have been complete without this experience.
Our Çeşme Kumrusu Verdict:
- We were in Izmir on a tight budget but the Çeşme Kumrusu didn’t make too much of a dent in it. We managed to fill ourselves at lunchtime for just 4 TL each.
- We were complete kumru novices and so we have no idea if this is a good example of a classic Çeşme Kumrusu. We can certainly recommend the sandwich we ate, though.
- The Çeşme Kumrusu is very similar to the Yengen kebab we wrote about a while back. The difference between the two is the Yengen kebab has fried egg and pickled gherkins in addition to all the fillings you can see above.
- Oh yes, and the Çeşme Kumrusu is a much more sensible size for one person!
- We’ve got to say, while we did enjoy our Çeşme Kumrusu, our söğüş was more tasty…and more memorable – well you’re always gonna remember brains as part of a sandwich filling, aren’t you.
- This article in Saveur magazine pushes this Turkish regional street food to the dizzy heights of best sandwich in the world Wow, that’s praise for you, isn’t it! We’re all for pushing the delights of Turkish cuisine and it’s bread-based wonders but as for which is the best one…hmm, well that’s a matter of personal choice and, well, we’ve just got too many to choose from…
- Izmir was packed with street food treats. As well as Çeşme Kumrusu, we also loved our nohutlu pilav with a view after visiting Kadifekale and our huge plate of midye dolma, too.