So, what are the other street foods that Izmir is famous for? We were in the city for six short days and were on a mission to eat, eat, eat. The famous Çeşme kumrusu had been recommended to us and was indeed, very tasty (and filling). Söğüş, rather surprisingly, had not been recommended to us but we saw it everywhere so we just had to sample it. And we're so glad we did! Don't miss it if you go to Izmir.
And then there's the midye dolması, otherwise known as stuffed mussels. All over coastal Turkey, you'll see street sellers wandering up and down with huge baskets filled with the shiny, black shells, wedges of lemon and paper serviettes. But we'd been told, and had read, that Izmir is in league of its own when it comes to midye dolması. We've eaten many a mussel in Fethiye so, of course, we couldn't return from Izmir without having put their mussels to the taste bud test.
Izmir's Midye Dolması
Street traders in Izmir selling midye dolmasıWhen it comes to Turkish street food, midye dolması is almost a national treasure, and that's despite the fact it faces constant negative press. We all know about the risks of allergic reactions and food poisoning caused by mussels and, in the end, it comes to down to personal choice as to whether you eat them or not - we choose to eat them.
All along the kordon and around the historic Izmir clock tower, stuffed mussels were for sale in carts, as in the photos above, and trade was brisk. Always a good sign. It appears the Izmirli love to eat the street food their city is famous for and if it's good enough for them, it was certainly going to be good enough for us. But rather than stand at the cart, eating one after the other, we decided to make a meal of it.
Our midye dolması being prepared
Just as we found a haven in Antalya, and in Istanbul, it didn't take us long to settle into a favourite bar in Alsancak, just off Kıbrıs Şehitler Caddesi. Each evening, after a day's exploration, we sat outside 6A Bar watching the same street trader walking up and down, up and down, selling his midye dolması. Each evening, the bar staff and customers would come out to greet him and buy platefuls of mussels to eat while they were drinking.
The same staff were always there the day after, so they had lived to tell the tale. This was going to be the mussel vendor for us. One evening, we stopped him as he was walking by and ordered a plateful of midye dolması. A choice of medium-sized or large mussels, we opted for large and 10 TL bought us a plate of 20 of them along with plenty of lemon.
Our meal is served
When you eat midye dolması, no utensils are necessary. The trader removes the top shell and pushes the wide end underneath the rice-stuffed mussel, between the flesh and the bottom shell. All that's left for you to do is to continue the process until the mussel detaches and lands perfectly into the top shell, just like using a spoon. A squeeze of lemon, tilt your head back and drop the mussel into your mouth - food heaven quickly ensues!
Our meal is finishedA plateful of midye dolması washed down with an Efes Pilsen or two and we were in Izmir bliss. It didn't take long before before our plate contained only a pile of empty shells...and two months later, we're writing this post...so we also lived to tell the tale.