When I think of all the meals I enjoyed in Turkey, one stands out above all the rest.
I’m not as much of a ‘foodie’ as many other travellers, but I’ll admit Turkey was one of the most surprising gastronomic destinations I’ve visited. Of all the great meals I enjoyed there, Iskender is the only one I still often have cravings for.
Yes, I had snacks, fresh Baklava and Turkish Delights from the markets in Istanbul. I enjoyed some seafood feasts while sailing on the Mediterranean. I had some savoury, home made Gozleme in Selcuk too…but Iskender beats them all.
Even the Testi Kebap in Goreme – cooked in a clay pot that you get to break – couldn’t beat Iskender.
What is Iskender?
You can find Iskender variations around the country, but the birthplace of the original (and best) Iskender dates back to the 19th century in Bursa. Created by İskender Efendi, it is a mouth-watering mix of strips of meat (generally lamb or beef), tomato, hot pepper, yogurt and fresh pita bread.
What brings it all together, creating the tastiest meal in Turkey, is that it is topped off by pouring a bubbling hot butter mixture over the plate, which mixes all the flavours together. It might not look pretty, but it is sweet music for your stomach.
Where to eat Iskender
Be warned, there are many knock-off Iskender kebab versions out there, which are frequently done quite poorly. The mix of ingredients and boiling butter are a must and the only way to guarantee you’re dining on the official Iskender is to visit one of their restaurants.
The original Iskender restaurant is a small blue corner restaurant that still exists in Bursa. This is where I first had Iskender, but they have a handful of locations in Turkey now. As it is the only meal they serve, it’s fixed price dining and you know it will be done perfectly. The family that runs the Iskender restaurants are descendants of it’s creator, so it is a proud family tradition.
They take the Iskender meal so seriously that they actually have a series of patents and trademarks protecting their name and the way they serve and prepare their Iskender meals! Kebapçı İskender is their official name and the name of the restaurants you want to find. You can also find their newer Iskender Ekspres locations, but you’d be doing yourself a disservice by taking the fast-food route.