If you ever have to opportunity to visit Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city, you’ll come across a selection of delicious street foods like no other around the world.
You’ll find everything from roasted chestnuts, fried, spiced tripe called "kokoreç," succulent meatballs or crispy lamb strips wrapped in tortilla-like flat bread, grilled corn on the cob, stuffed baked potatoes called "kumpir," and the best of the best, fried mussels.
Mussels are plentiful in the northern Bosphorus straight and the shores where it opens into the Black Sea. Musselmen harvest and clean them daily for sale in the fresh fish markets throughout the city.
Better known as "midye tava" (mid-YEAH’ TAH’-vah), these crispy snacks on a stick are sold by street vendors in seaside neighborhoods throughout Istanbul like Ortaköy, Yeşilköy and Kumkapı.
The mussels are battered and fried in a huge metal cauldron with the hot oil in the center and a wide edge to arrange the sticks of cooked mussels. The edge serves to drain the excess oil as well as keep the mussels warm.
You can have your mussels as is with a dolop of tangy "tarator" sauce for dipping, or you can have your mussels between crusts of Turkish bread as a sandwich. You can also find fried mussels with "tarator" at most Turkish restaurants serving fish fare.
If you want to make Turkish-style fried mussels at home, use this easy recipe. Put a few skewers on a plate with a small cup of dip as an appetizer, or make a platter of them as a finger food at your next get together.
- ¾ cup plain yogurt
- ½ cup crumbled white bread (crust removed)
- 6 walnut halves (crushed)
- 1 clove garlic (crushed)
- 2 tsp. lemon juice
- ½ tsp. salt
- 36-40 mussels (shelled and cleaned)
- ¾ cup flour
- ¾ cup club soda
- 1 egg yolk
- Oil for frying
- ½ tsp. salt
- 3 ½ tsp. baking soda
- 4 ¼ cups water
First, prepare the tarator dipping sauce by combing the yogurt, bread crumbs, crushed walnuts, garlic, lemon juice and salt in a chopper or food processor. Set the sauce aside to set.
Next, prepare the mussels. Make sure the mussels have no remaining pieces of beard or debris. Rinse them under very cold water and pat them dry with paper towels.
Dip each mussel in flour and shake off the excess.
Put three floured mussels on each bamboo skewer leaving space at one end for holding.
In a deep skillet or saucepan add the oil and heat it for frying.
While the oil heats up, whisk together the club soda, flour, salt and egg yolk until smooth in a large mixing bowl.
When it thickens to resemble the consistency of cake batter, stop whisking and set it aside.
In a separate bowl, stir together the water and baking soda until well combined. Set it aside.
Dip the mussels on each skewer in the batter and turn it until all the mussels are well covered.
After the batter, immediately dip the mussels in the baking soda and water mixture and put it in the hot oil to fry.
Turn the mussels on the skewer as they cook with thongs so they brown evenly on all sides.
Put a few hot skewers on a plate with a dolop of tarator sauce for dipping. You can also spread some tarator sauce between the crusts of a hunk of Turkish bread.
Then use the bread to hold the mussels and slide them off the skewer.
You have an instant fried mussel sandwich!