Can anyone of us say “No” to a crispy Turkish bagel? Is it possible to taste a Turkish bagel full inside and covered with molasses and sesame outside with a glass of tea, and not to admire it?
Everybody who lives in or has happened to pass Istanbul has somehow enjoyed this “urban taste”, this sesame ring. There are those who eat Turkish bagel to assuage their hunger when they feel hungry all of a sudden, and those who buy some to offer to their guests coming for tea in the afternoon… There are those who buy Turkish bagel for they could not go to a restaurant with that last three of five liras in their pockets, and those who race to eat it with homemade jams and the best cheeses bought from the market during a family size Sunday breakfast…
Turkish bagel is always the jewel of the crown for Istanbul people. Turkish bagel was eaten in Topkapi Palace, and also has been sold on the peddlers’ trays. Not only the traditional Turkish bagel but also the holy night bagels, sweet bagels, and the olive, kashar cheese, soujouk, sausage, sunflower seed, grain, even chocolate bagels, which are very popular now, are consumed eagerly.
Today, Turkey consumes 2.5 million Turkish bagels. The great part of them are produced and eaten in Istanbul obviously. In Istanbul, over 300 bakeries produce Turkish bagels. Almost 1 million Turkish bagels are sold on the bagel peddlers’ trays on the street. There used to be bagel peddlers who shout by stretching the “i” letter and cracking the “ç” letter at the end. They have been replaced by palaces offering much more varieties and alternatives under the same roof now.
Reportedly, the traditional Turkish bagel used to be baked on hornbeam fire in masonry ovens. Nowadays, it is baked in electric furnaces by using the state-of-the-art technology and sold through modern marketing methods in “palaces”. The ready-to-use yeast is used now, but it used to be baked with flower yeast in Istanbul and chickpea yeast in Izmir back in the old days. The bagels are made by using the bagel flour the quality of which is between the bread flour and pasta flour, but now there are even bagels made of bran flour or whole-wheat flour.
Turkish bagel is not just a tasty food. It is a food identified with Istanbul from its production to consumption. Moreover, it is not only the humans who consume Turkish bagel. The seagulls racing behind the ferries on board you enjoy the unique scenery of the Bosphorus to grab a bite of Turkish bagel you will throw are also Turkish-bagel-lovers. Actually, you cannot do this anywhere but Istanbul.
For those who want to learn more, let us remind that Artun Ünsal’s book “Susamlı Halkanın Tılsımı” (Charm of Sesame Ring) is a reference book that includes almost everything on Turkish bagel from past to present.