Travel’s a personal thing and we all get our own highlights and memories from trips we go on. If you read this blog a lot, you’ll know our travel highlights usually centre around some sort of food we’ve eaten and delighted in: Istanbul and the kokoreç in Galata, Izmir with its enormous midye dolma and offally söğüş, Eskişehir and its famous çiğ börek, eating a weird and wonderful Doğubeyazıt Köfte right after visiting Ishak Paşa Palace in the east of Turkey… Ahh, too much to mention! And in Bodrum? Duru Balık stole the show. And here’s why…
Duru Balık, Bodrum Centre
We were staying at Ağan Pension on Atatürk Caddesi in the centre of Bodrum and on the first day, had found ourselves a great little kokoreç place, just opposite, for lunch. Day 2’s lunch was what we were looking for when we stumbled across these handwritten signs on the corner of a side street just off Atatürk Caddesi.
There are loads of reasonably priced places to eat along this street but we were too early for some – and others looked like franchises. Nothing against a franchise, but, when we’re on a little jaunt, we want to feel like we’re somewhere different. We were looking for something to make us feel like we were in Bodrum and these little signs advertising ‘balık’ (fish) looked more than promising. So we did as instructed and followed the arrows…
20 metres or so down the alleyway and we were face to face with a tiny whitewashed shop front framed in vibrant blue and a pretty mosaic sign telling passersby that this is Duru Balık. Apart from the fact that we love seafood snacks, we were excited because we could see straight away this was a little business made with love. It was serving just three dishes: balık ekmek (fish sandwich), balık çorbası (fish soup) and, most intriguingly, balık mücver.
Mücver is a famous Turkish dish traditionally made from courgettes – we love to make mücver at home. But balık mücver – fish fritters – mmmm, yes, that was what we wanted. Never heard of them before and we were itching to try them. And they had to be good, right? Little finds like this are always good aren’t they?
“Come in, come in,” said a guy of about our age, in perfect English. “Sorry, no English signs yet because we’ve only just opened. I’m just off out to deliver some food but I’ll be back in a minute. Make yourselves at home.”
So we did. A little nosey around, a few photos later and our host, Akın Duru, was back. Going out for a lunch snack soon became a lovely long chat about Turkey, Bodrum and this new family business, Duru Balık.
Here we were, sat in a room that can only be around 5 metres by 4 metres, maximum. Two tables and shelves and wall decorations galore. Mosaics created by Akın’s very talented mum (she also made the outside sign, too), shells collected from the seabed when Akın is diving, paintings by a nearby local artist friend, model ships and jigsaws collected by Akın. So much to captivate in such a tiny space.
In Fethiye, we’re more familiar with the type of balık ekmek served at Popeye’s boat – battered whiting – but Akın enthusiastically described his dishes to us and his balık ekmek is made with Izmir sardalya (fresh Izmir sardines). The balık mücver is made from a mix of Izmir sardalya and hamsi. Ohh, yummy! Step-dad is a chef and the mücver is his recipe. Yep, definitely a true family business. So, bring on the balık mücver…
As with all good Turkish seafood dishes, Duru Balık’s balık mücver was served with a simple side salad and a wedge of lemon. We reached for the olive oil.
“That’s our olive oil, too. This year’s harvest,” said Akın. “Oh and do you want turşu? They’re homemade, too.”
Well, we love our pickled vegetables. Of course we wanted turşu. Sometime later; mücver, salad, bread and pickled vegetables suitably devoured and world put to rights, we left Duru Balık with the promise to return another day for the fish soup. Aaaarrrgh, only four days in Bodrum, much exploring and eating to be done…but we just had to fit it in.
“If I’m not here when you come, either give me a ring on that number or wait a few minutes and I’ll be back. I’ll just be delivering food to one of my customers, nearby.”
Return To Duru Balık
We’d had a great, long weekend in Bodrum – the Bodrum Global Run, chilling out and a good dose of exploration, too – and then, all of a sudden, it was our last few hours in town. Time to go back to Fethiye. But we’d promised Akın we would return to Duru Balık for fish soup and we’d promised ourselves we would return for fish soup. We’d left our bags in the pension and we ambled back down the road for our farewell-to-Bodrum meal.
We entered the tiny space to be greeted by Akın and another older, friendly-looking chap. Not much room left, then, as you can imagine. Older chap turned out to be Akın’s uncle – one of those uncles who has been dad’s friend since primary school so you just call him uncle – visiting from Istanbul. And guess what; he’s an Istanbul fisherman, fishing the Black Sea.
He also happened to speak decent English so embarked on fishing tales and the best fish for making stock for the tastiest fish soups. Before we got our soup, we were given a sample of a new addition to the menu. A fourth dish, balık köftesi, is uncle’s recipe.
“Ahh, we make and eat it all the time on the fishing boats in Istanbul. People in southern Turkey don’t really know balık köfte. They eat meatballs, we eat fishballs,” and he chuckled. Hmm, one of those where the translation doesn’t quite work. Anyway, they were certainly very tasty and a lovely little appetiser in the build up to our fish soup. They’re now a new permanent addition to the Duru Balık menu – we’ve seen the menu on Facebook since returning home to Fethiye.
But anyway, let’s get to fish soup time…
We’ve eaten a good few variations of balık çorbası during our Turkey lifetime and, when you’re a seafood lover, there’s always that little hint of deflation when you slurp that first spoonful…and all isn’t just what you’d like it to be.
Some places will do a ‘creamy’ fish soup (in inverted commas because the ‘creaminess’ is sometimes flour or potato) and the flavour isn’t quite so pungent and all is a tad too smooth. No, we like to be able to see a bit of actual fish in our fish soup, like the üskümrü çorbası (makerel soup) we make at home. Floating chunks – that’s what we like!
As we slurp our soup – it’s sooo good, let us tell you – ‘uncle’ tells us how they fish for tub-gernard (kırlangıç balığı) and black scorpion fish (iskorpit balığı) in the Black Sea. These are the fish that make the best fish soup stock, apparently. Well, we’re not arguing with a Black Sea fisherman. Duru Balık’s fish soup is sea bass and mullet with fresh vegetables. Divine!
So, we finish our balık köftesi and balık çorbası, take photos of each other, bid farewell and then we’re on our way. We saw and did a lot on our long weekend on the Bodrum Peninsula but, for us, Duru Balık in the centre of town was a definite highlight: great food and conversation in a tiny, tiny space filled with the personality of the Duru family. That’s what travel memories are all about…
Duru Balık, Bodrum Centre – Useful Info
- Duru Balık is on Sanat Okulu Sokak; a passageway just off Atatürk Caddesi.
- 4 dishes are served: balık çorbası, balık ekmek, balık köftesi & balık mücver.
- All prices are very reasonable – between 7 TL and 8 TL in summer 2016 – ideal if you’re in Turkey on a budget.
- It’s possible to get a takeaway if you’re off out for the day and want to take food with you.
- At the time of writing, Duru Balık is closed on Sundays.
- Duru Balık is a new business, and, since writing this post, a new mosaic sign has been placed on the corner of the street to make it more noticeable. Artwork has also been out on the outside walls, too. Bodrum is good at doing pretty!
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