Walk n’ Choc – a Weal World Travel original combining travel, chocolate and fitness.
Self-guided walking tours where the road less travelled by foot leads to chocolate!
Choco-Lava! The Real Turkish Delight
I had my walking shoes on, had jogged the night before and had a light lunch in anticipation of the big chocolate extravaganza that I thought was to come. Istiklal Caddesi promised a street lined with chocolate shops. Once I finally found it (there was a slight detour from the walk up to Galata Tower, a great look out point for a panoramic view of Istanbul and the land mark for the area in which the street was to be found) I was sadly disappointed.
On my first pass along this bohemian and stylish street I didn’t see any of the chocolatiers the guide-book promised. There were numerous cafés, patisseries and restaurants selling chocolate desserts but no dedicated chocolate shops. A couple of shops specialized in Turkish delight and the only chocolate to be found in them was chocolate covered lokum-a chewy gooey sweet known as Turkish delight.
Disappointed at Taksim Square, the end point of the street, I checked the map to confirm that I had indeed traversed all of it. I had so I made my way back. And to my wandering eyes appeared shops that seemed to pop up out of nowhere. I came across 4 shops that sold individual chocolate pieces. They all appeared to sell the same chocolates and from what I could taste they were of the same quality. It was a limited range but there was often a choice between dark or bitter chocolate, milk, white chocolate and filled chocolate. The chocolate was decent enough but my heart and tongue longed for the chocolate that I first tasted in Hafiz Mustapha (see below).
Istiklal is advertised as a street with a bohemian feel. There are a number of embassies along the way and a church if anyone is interested. Whilst on my walk I came across a few buskers, supporters of the WWF (World Wild Life Fund) and a literal election campaign trail (it was election time in Turkey). The buskers consisted of a small troupe of female mimes while the other busker group was a dread-locked Turkish bohemian band outfitted in hippie clothing playing what sounded like Turkish traditional folk music.
Brand names like Adidas, Benetton and Starbucks reared their capitalist heads along the street and I even came across a Gloria Jeans coffee shop which I have only ever encountered in New Zealand.
As you start to descend Istiklal on the way back to the old city and the tourist district of Sultanahmet you come across the Whirling Dervish Museum and Galata tower.
Before crossing the bridge to the old city, keep your eyes peeled for Mabel.
Mabel was established 60 years ago in Turkey and they carry chocolate from Madagascar. Their aunt Jemima logo, however, seemed a bit odd and a little disturbing.
I had the strawberry cream filled milk chocolate piece. It was o.k. but not very memorable. Apart from selling their own chocolate they seem to supply other shops too e.g. Lebon foiled chocolates and the chocolate mushroom I had at Hafiz.
I bought the cocoa powder and next to Valrhona it has to be my favourite. It was delicious and decadent with a rich clean taste.
I missed Mabel the first few times I was in the area which ended up becoming a theme on this chocolate walk. Nothing stood out to me the first time around but the second and third time, things caught my eye. Lesson learned.
Persevere it’s there. Don’t just look for the obvious.
I thought chocolate shops would just jump out and grab my attention. Not so. The flavours of the chocolates I tasted didn’t jump out and grab my attention either. But they were there and pleasing to the palate of a chocoholic.
Ali Muhiddin Haci Bekir
This company has been around since 1777-not very long considering the extensive history of Turkey. They supply various sweets such as pastries, chocolate and of course the national sweet lokum i.e. Turkish delight. Of note were the 2 chocolate pieces I opted to sample.
I had a solid bite size piece of milk chocolate. It had a grooved design on top and reminded me of the ‘rosebud’ chocolates I used to get as a kid at the cinema. The taste was decent. The second was a drunken cherry blossom. The inside was a runny pink cream with a maraschino style cherry drowning in it and it tasted like it was marinated in 100 proof alcohol. I was not expecting such a strong taste, particularly in a Muslim society. Had I been near an open flame I may have gone up in smoke upon exhaling. That taste lingered and I had to find something with which to wash it down. Enter Inci...
This is where I was given a complimentary chocolate medallion. Yum.
Foiled again! I bought several pieces of foiled chocolates here. They came in solid white, dark and milk. Good taste.
Mek & Med
I had the dark and white chocolate disc with their logo on it. It tasted like pedestrian chocolate-nothing special although the white was the best white chocolate I’ve had on this trip.
This is the go-to shop for traditional Turkish coffee and a sweet tooth. They sell individual chocolates and I chose to try the rose shaped piece. It was filled with a delightful caramel cream. Yum! It had just the perfect balance of sugar, cream and salt. I also tried the chocolate mushroom piece. It had a white exterior that was chewy like marzipan but without the nutty taste. Inside was a chocolate cream which I would class as decent as far as chocolate goes.
This 147 year old company has been serving up Turkish coffee, tea, baklava and lokum as well as various other colourful confections for locals and tourists alike. There was also a selection of savoury sandwiches to balance out the enormous amount of sugar. There are 3 locations all within walking distance of the major tourist sites of Istanbul:
• Divan Yolo Cadessi, Sultanahmet (near the Blue Mosque)
• Hamidiye Cadessi (near the Spice Bazaar)
• Hocapasa Mah Muradiye cadessi, Sirkeci Fatih (near the train station where the Orient Express was filmed)
cadessi = street
Honourable Mention goes to…
Just when I thought baklava in the land of experts couldn’t get any better, I saw it!
In a silver tray languidly lying in a bath of chocolate coloured sugar syrup was a bevy of diamond shaped chocolate baklava. I dubbed it choco-lava as it literally exploded with flavour and the syrup oozed like chocolate molten lava when you held it between your fingers and let your teeth slide through the sweetly drenched chocolate layers.
Chocolate baklava can be found in many baklava shops scattered throughout major towns and cities in Turkey. It is sold by weight and not individual pieces. Who could stop at one?
Not only was the phyllo dough chocolate, the sugar syrup on it was too. This yummy nutty confection is usually made with walnut, pistachio or both and the moist mille feuille-like bite size package was positively addictive. This is a chocolate treat worth a return trip to Turkey.
Gozleme is a ‘Turkish’ pancake. It is thicker than a crepe and thinner than a North American pancake and can be filled with anything sweet or savoury. Of course I went for the chocolate gozleme.
Mine had a slight taste of onion to it which is an issue when using a communal gozleme pan to cook both the sweet and savoury variety. Despite that, it was lovely. I had it at the Nazar Borek Cafe in Goreme. The chocolate cream contained within had the consistency of Nutella but without the nuts.
Cocoa Bean Rating
The whole pod!
In my opinion chocolate Baklava should be crowned the new and best Turkish delight-ever!
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