For our last blog post, we were in Erciş on the northern shores of Lake Van watching the amazing site that is the inci kefal (pearl mullet) attempting to swim upstream for spawning season. For today’s post, we’re staying in Erciş and it’s the same day.
We’d taken photos of the fish – lots of photos – we’d sat and watched and pondered nature, we’d climbed down to the rapids to get a closer look and we’d walked further downstream to watch the seagulls diving for the pick of the bunch.
The seagulls were having their fill and now it was time for us to go and eat (we did a lot of eating while we were in the east).
This is Yeşil Erciş Alabalık (Green Erciş Trout). It’s not the most attractive looking place in the world, but when eating out in Turkey, looks mean nothing. It’s tucked away up a quiet track off the main road but it’s well known in the area.
We’re in the east and a long, long way from the sea. Lake Van’s waters are not suitable for any species of fish apart from inci kefal and fishing for them is forbidden.
Enter Yeşil Erciş Alabalık – if ever there was a perfect business idea this has got to be it. Fish is hard to come by, people still want to eat fish…let’s set up a trout farm and cook the trout for people. Simple is best!
Like we said, it’s not pretty. If you know Yaka Park near the Lycian and Roman ruins in Tlos, this place is a similar set up – just not in such a dramatic setting. “But they cook the trout better here,” says our friend.
We wouldn’t know because we always eat köfte and piyaz at Yaka Park but we take her word for it. “We can either sit in the little huts and get eaten by mosquitoes or we can sit at a table.” Not much decision making required there, then. Table it is!
We lean over to watch the trout, all separated by size, swimming around. They’ll be on someone’s plate soon. And we did say simple is best. The menu here is alabalık güveç (trout baked in a clay pot), ızgara alabalık (grilled trout) or kızarmış alabalık (fried trout).
A simple rocket salad for the table and that’s your lot. “Oh, and they do a special starter,” says our friend. “I’ve ordered you one so you can try it.”
“Aren’t you having any?”
“No, it’s too filling but you two need to try it. It’ll be good for your blog, too.”
We live our blog and our Turkish friends live our blog, also. We had the ‘special starter,’ the only starter on the menu. Interesting. We’ll tell you about that one next week, though. Let’s get back to the trout.
There are two buildings separated by a narrow pathway. On one side a barbecue is going, aromatic smoke filling the air (aromatic if you like the smell of cooking fish, that is), sizzling, flour-covered fish lined up along the griddle…and butter.
All the trout here is cooked in butter. It seems common to cook in butter in this part of Turkey (remember the Doğubeyazıt Köftesi?) so be prepared to loosen the belt if you eat around here.
Barry and another friend go for the grilled option. One and half plump, crispy, butter-covered trout arrive at the table.
There are five of us so we can order all of the three options and sample. Another of our party has never tried the fried option (they come here a lot – they’re all from Fethiye and they miss their fish). The skillets for frying the fish are on the barbecue. The trout is butterflied, coated in flour and then fried on each side in, you guessed it, butter.
On the opposite side of this narrow pathway, facing the barbecue, is a small building with an equally small square hatch. We can’t see the person inside. Waiters hang around there and occasionally, a sizzling clay pot slides from the hatch into view.
The cooks here must argue every day about who’s not on güveç duty. It must be roasting inside here. The alabalık güveç has been strongly recommended by our friend so I opt for that.
I opted for it out of politeness, really. I love my fish to be moist in the middle and I really couldn’t see how this trout wasn’t going to be overcooked and dry on the inside. Well it goes without saying that as well as the cheese, this trout was also baked in butter.
Don’t worry, crunching your way through the crispy rocket helps you to feel slightly healthy again.
Any misgivings we might have had about overcooked trout went completely by the wayside once we tucked in to our meals. Perfection. These guys know their way around a trout…but then it is all they cook, isn’t it?
And stop reading right now if you’re healthy eating addict. For the rest of you, should you ever find yourselves in Yeşil Erciş Alabalık, order the alabalık güveç, eat your trout and then use lots of fresh, crusty bread to mop up the remaining melted cheese and butter. Naughty food bliss – you can worry about the diet later!