There’s something special about stumbling across street food in Turkey when you’re wandering the streets and exploring somewhere new. If you’re someone who loves trying different foods, the great thing about Turkish street food is you can be pretty confident you’re going to really enjoy it. And, more often than not, you’re only going to have to part with a minimal amount of lira for the reward of that foodie experience. This is a tale about our nohutlu pilav experience…
Turkish Street Food: Nohutlu Pilav
Nohutlu pilav (chickpeas with rice) is a classic Turkish street food. It is also perfect for people like us who travel on a strict budget. When we were in Izmir, we made a determined effort to climb the ridiculously steep streets to the castle on the hill, Kadifekale.
Breath caught, mission accomplished and photos taken, we started to make our way back down to sea level. On the way we spotted a street food trader selling nohutlu pilav by the side of the road. Lunch time announced itself and nohutlu pilav was to be the food to satisfy rumbling tummies! Our trader was an amiable chap (Izmir is very much like that) and waffled away to us while we did our best to keep up with the gist of what he was saying.
We ordered two portions of nohutlu pilav and the rice and chickpeas were scooped and packed into plastic tubs. How much rice can you squeeze into one tub? Next, one of the roasted chicken crowns was taken and bits were shredded off with a fork and placed over the top of the nohutlu pilav. “Turşu ister misiniz?” (Do you want pickles?)
Well, you can guess our answer to that question. Of course we wanted pickles – especially of the chilli variety! We’d had our eye on the pickled chillies all the time we were queueing. “Lütfen.” (Please).
A look of friendly concern fell over the man’s face as he stressed, “Acı, acı.” This is the motion we have to go through almost every time we try to purchase street food in Turkey. The trader feels the need to warn the unsuspecting foreigner that chillies are hot. Are you really sure you want them?
Polite smiles and a resolute yes. The pickled chillies were reluctantly placed atop the chicken and nohutlu pilav.
Where this fear of serving chillies to foreigners has come from, we have no idea. It happens almost everywhere we go in Turkey. Sometimes it gets to a point where we have to be really insistent that we’re fully aware of the heat factor in chillies and please just give them to us.
It all makes for keeping life in Turkey interesting when you can predict the conversation you’re going to need to have when ordering street food. And imagine the surprise when the trader just ladles the chillies on without your pleadings. That has happened on the odd occasion, and we walk away with a feeling of wonders-will-never-cease. Anyway, on this occasion we succeeded in our mission to get turşu on top of our nohutlu pilav.
Budget Street Food
So, all you people who travel Turkey on a budget, how much is your filling (and healthy) tub of tavuklu nohutlu pilav (rice, chickpeas, shredded chicken and pickled chillies) going to set you back?
We paid a fantastic 2 TL per portion. How’s that for a bargain? We wandered further along the road to a breezy clearing at the top of the hill and found a vandalised bench amongst swirling bits of litter. We were immediately joined by a scraggy street cat. Our bench overlooked much of Izmir and the bay and the sun was shining. Armed with plastic forks, we tucked into our nohutlu pilav, treating the cat to occasional tiny bits of chicken. It wasn’t a high end restaurant, it wasn’t gourmet cuisine…but we had a fantastic view and a tub of comfort (nohutlu pilav) to eat as reward for our efforts of climbing to Kadifekale. Memorable bliss!
In cities, nohutlu pilav – often with chicken (tavuklu nohutlu pilav) – is often to be seen being sold from carts. If you ever come across it whilst you’re on your explorations, give it a go. We love it…
…So much did we love nohutlu pilav that we now make this dish at home all the time. Fancy recreating this Turkish street food at home? Try our recipe for Nohutlu Pilav…