Deep Fried Anchovy Sandwich Recipe – Recreating Istanbul Hamsi Street Food At Home

Yes, that time of year is once more upon us where millions of little fish swim along the Black Sea coast and we all get the delight of hamsi (anchovy) season. Oh, how we love hamsi season – we particularly relish eating an anchovy sandwich in Istanbul, and, fortunately, the early days of hamsi season always coincide with the Istanbul Eurasia Marathon which we like to be a part of. For the run, we usually book a hotel in Sultanahmet for ease of pick up before the race but, on arrival, we always head off straight to Karaköy to eat a huge hamsi sandwich.

We both head off to the Karaköy balık pazarı (the fish market) and order deep fried hamsi served in bread. It’s tradition! Food always features heavily in our travels around Istanbul (and anywhere else for that matter) and hamsi is a staple at this time of year. We like to hunt out tantuni places and eat comforting kuru fasulye or fantastic kebabs, too, but hamsi season is special…

NB: This is an updated anchovies recipe. Karaköy fish market was demolished in June 2015 but there are now new stalls and a couple of lokantas also survive where you can still buy hamsi sandwiches and other seafood dishes.

Hamsi is transported all over Turkey for people like us to enjoy and, of course, Fethiye fish market doesn’t miss out on this. A few of the restaurants and snack bars around Fethiye will offer hamsi dishes, too, and, for us, we also love to eat hamsi at home either on a plate with a simple salad – or, we also love to recreate the anchovy sandwich we so look forward to on our visits to Istanbul.

Turkish Anchovy Sandwich Recipe; Karaköy-Style

So, for this dish, we’re going to be making a very simple fried anchovies recipe to build a sandwich, similar to those of Karaköy fish market fame. There’s nothing difficult about this. We’re not going for aesthetics. We’re going for deep fried hamsi sandwich heaven.

Salad For Anchovies

The essentials for our hamsi sandwich

And you just need quality, fresh ingredients, that’s all. This is a fresh anchovies recipe using lightly-flavoured onions, crispy rocket leaves and wedges of fresh lemon. Lemon is also fast heading towards its prime as citrus season approaches us, so it compliments our seasonal fresh anchovies perfectly.

Fresh Anchovies

Coat your anchovies (hamsi) in corn flour

So, what are we waiting for? Let’s recreate some classic street food memories and make our Turkish anchovy sandwich recipe.

Hamsi (Anchovy) Sandwich - Recreating A Favourite Istanbul Street Food At Home In Fethiye
Recipe type: Seafood
Cuisine: Turkish
Serves: 2
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
A recreation of a classic, seasonal Turkish street food, this fried anchovies recipe is a must for hamsi lovers.
  • 2 large, fresh crusty bread rolls
  • ½ kilo fresh anchovies, cleaned
  • 1 bunch whole fresh rocket leaves, cleaned and roots trimmed away
  • ½ medium onion, peeled and sliced into half moons
  • 1 small lemon
  • Plain flour for coating
  • Pinch of tandoori powder or chilli powder (optional)
  • Sunflower oil for deep frying
  1. Sprinkle a light covering of plain flour over a large serving plate.
  2. If you are using them, now sprinkle your tandoori or chilli powder over the top and mix them together roughly.
  3. Add your sunflower oil to a pan suitable for deep frying - we use a wok - and start to heat it on a medium to high heat.
  4. Place your anchovies onto the plate with the flour mix and carefully mix around until your anchovies are coated with the mixture.
  5. Test the heat of your oil by placing one anchovy into the oil - it should rise to the the top rather than sitting on the bottom of the pan.
  6. When you are happy with the heat of your oil, add the hamsi one batch at a time - depending on the size of your pan.
  7. Fry for around 1½ minutes before removing from the oil and placing the anchovies on kitchen paper to remove excess oil.
  8. Keep frying your hamsi in batches until you have used it all.
  9. Slice your rolls in half through the middle, add a generous amount of hamsi, rocket leaves and onion.
  10. Now squeeze the juice of the lemon over both hamsi sandwich fillings and sprinkle with salt.
  11. Close the lid of your anchovy sandwich and eat.
  12. Afiyet olsun!
Prep time assumes your hamsi (anchovies) have already been gutted and cleaned.
Depending on the size of your bread roll, you could have some hamsi leftovers. Turkish half breads tend to be large and can hold much of your hamsi.
If you can't get hold of fresh anchovies, other types of whitebait will make a good substitute.

When we go to Fethiye fish market, we always go to the same fishmonger and he very kindly cleans the hamsi for us when we buy it. In previous years, we (well, Barry, actually) used to clean our own and it can be quite fiddly and messy. Pre-cleaned is quick and easy!

Some deep fried anchovy recipes will use a very light batter – and we do love a light batter on our hamsi – but for this recipe, we’re making a quick sandwich and, again, corn flour is quick and easy and still gives you a light, crispy coating when you plunge the hamsi into your hot oil.

Deep Fried Hamsi

The hamsi is deep fried

If you’re not familiar with deep-frying small fish, it can be tempting to leave them in the oil for too long. We’re looking for deep fried anchovies in a light, crispy coating and, depending on the size of your hamsi, this only takes around 90 seconds to a couple of minutes. You’ll benefit from juicy, fresh-tasting fish rather than crunchy sticks!

Building Your Hamsi Sandwich

For the best anchovy sandwich recipe, try to use freshly baked crusty rolls. Turkey is rightly famous for its bread and fresh loaves and other types of bread are easy to get your hands on at local bakeries. The fresher the bread, the better.

Deep Fried Anchovy Sandwich

Be generous in piling on the hamsi

Slice through your bread and load the hamsi into the middle. Be very generous with it; remember, we’re not going for aesthetics. Turkish street food is loaded and filling – it’s designed to satisfy. We use almost half a kilo of hamsi between two large sandwiches…even if that means we sometimes have to eat the anchovy sandwich over a couple of sessions!

Hamsi In Bread

Deep fried hamsi in bread – aka the anchovy sandwich

Your rocket leaves and onions also need to piled generously on top, however precariously balanced, and then a good dousing of salt and lemon juice over the top of that. We use ‘bol sulu’ (extra juicy) lemons because, as with everything else on this sandwich, you’re being very generous with it. Street food isn’t careful and it’s often not pretty – but we love it all the more for that.

And that’s it. No sauce. All perfectly simple…and a perfectly perfect anchovy sandwich recipe. Squash your lid down to trap in all the ingredients and enjoy! We recreated our favourite anchovy sandwich in our own house…it might not be quite the same as sitting on the shores of the Golden Horn in Istanbul but it’s wonderfully tasty, all the same!

(If we can’t fit all of the hamsi into our anchovy sandwich, none goes to waste. If the street cats are around, they get a little hamsi season treat. If they’re not around, then we get another fantastic meal out of them courtesy of our fish cakes recipe.)

Take a look at some more of our Turkish recipes to inspire you

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  1. delicious; how I love those hamsi!!:) enjoy for us too please and all the best for the Istanbul trip, very exciting!

  2. @ Ozlem’s Turkish Table: We’ll be eating enough hamsi to enjoy for a few people, we reckon. 😉 Looking forward to Istanbul, thanks.

  3. hamsi ekmeği is an entirely different food. this is simply called “hamsi ekmek” “ekmek arası hamsi”. If you ever go to eastern blacksea region and order hamsi ekmeği you will have something like this (

  4. @ Atilla: Wow, thanks for that photo. We’ve never even seen that before – would love to try it. Will also correct the title and text – we’re never too sure on grammar and even when we check online, it differs. 🙂

  5. Bilge Thompson says

    I also live in Fethiye. Do you know any good place to have hamsi ekmek here?

    • The hamsi ekmek in Fethiye is not quite as good because the hamsi has travelled so far, down from the Black Sea areas. It *should* be fresh at this time of year but may have been frozen. Some of the little cafes alongthe harbour are advertising it at the moment and there’s also a cafe along the beach in Çalış advertising it. It’s nice to go to the fish market and just order a plate of hamsi. You can make your own sandwiches, then. 😉

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