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Beykoz Paça and İşkembe February 7, 2010

Posted by Steven Bartus in Turkish Cuisine.
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Human beings eat with a variety of considerations in mind. At times we seek pleasure or enjoyment. In others we require only basic satiation. But there are also instances when curiosity or a desire for adventure motivate our eating. It is this latter inclination that might best describe my recent lunch at Beykoz Paça & İşkembe.

Per the recommendation of Deniz over at Yemek Lazım, I ventured to Çankaya early this afternoon to sample some of Beykoz’s famous işkembe çorbası (tripe soup). It’s reputed to rank among the best in the city. I’ve always been a fan of intestine; the unique texture and flavoring make for a tasty combination when prepared properly. But I’ll admit it’s not for everyone. This soup, in particular, doesn’t exactly offer the best aromatic experience. So if you’re daring enough to try işkembe çorbası, do so with an open mind. I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not my favorite option in this country.

While eating intestine is as repulsive as it gets for most people, I decided to up the ante today. Beykoz also offers an old Ottoman creation, beyin salatası (brain salad). Yes, I typed that correctly: brain salad. Do I have particular affinity for the taste of a lamb’s central nervous system, you might ask? No, not at all, but it’s always a good culinary philosophy to be willing to try everything at least once. And that’s just what I did.

There’s no way to avoid saying this: beyin salatası was a decidedly bad eating experience. I’m usually hesitant to be so negative about any food, but it’s really all I can say here. By itself the poached brain is disgusting: flavorless and with texture reminiscent of extra dense tofu. Together with lettuce, parsley, olives and tomatoes, dressed with vinegar and fresh-squeezed lemon juice, it’s edible, but far from delicious. I’m honestly not sure of the appeal in eating it. Sure, there’s some novelty involved, and at least one website cites special nutritional value. But there are so many better salad options in Turkish cuisine that it’s reasonable suggest this is one part of the lamb that should be allowed to go to waste.

If I’ve piqued your curiosity, you should make the trip to Hoşdere Cad. (Google Maps) to give both a try. Each item costs around 7TL ($4.50 at 1.53TL/$). For those who don’t care to be so adventurous, Beykoz also offers vast selection of other Ottoman-inspired dishes to please your more conventional palate.