As much as I like cooking by myself, cooking with friends is much more fun!
Recently, I met up with a couple friends at our Turkish friend’s house to learn how to make three types of Turkish hamsi (anchovy) dishes. I like eating hamsi at the meyhane, so I figured I finally should learn how to cook it too.
My Turkish friend, Ayşe, and I met through a mutual friend a few months after I moved to Istanbul in 2010. I was new, and my American friend, Sharon, was good at connecting people together. She was like, “You bake, and Ayşe cooks, so you two should meet.”
We’ve both learned a few tricks in the kitchen from each other since we met.
Ayşe, who lived in the U.S. for 20+ years, is an amazing Turkish home cook. Every day, she sends her husband off with a home-cooked lunch for his staff and himself. You can find her teaching cooking lessons through the International Women of Istanbul as well.
I recently hoped she was going to help us demystify the Turkish hamsi, which comes from the Black Sea region of Turkey. As I said, I enjoy eating hamsi, but I can never quite bring myself to buy these little suckers to cook at home myself. These delectable fish are small, and they scare me. (Remember I grew up in Nebraska – the land of cows.)
Ayşe’s menu for that day included the popular hamsi tava (or fried anchovies that arrives at the table like a crispy plate of little fish), hamsi baked in the oven with tomatoes and onions, and hamsi stuffed with Turkish cheddar cheese and parsley and then fried. Anything fried always tastes better, right?
We all took turns trying to clean these little suckers. Ayşe’s helper, Elif, made it look so simple. Break the bone by the head and then pull down, basically deboning and degutting the fish all in one easy stroke.
|Cleaning Turkish hamsi is a messy job, but someone has to do it.|
Spending the day with international friends and cooking together was fun! My favorite dish of the day was and still is the hamsi tava.
|Left, hamsi baked with tomatoes and onions, and hamsi tava on the right. All served with traditional cornbread.|
Even though Ayşe was a patient and generous teacher, I can honestly say I will never be buying hamsi to cook at home. The deboning, degutting and deheading process was a little too much for me.
But if you want, you can pay the fish guy a few extra lira to do that disgusting work for you.
And if you don’t want to cook hamsi, go to your favorite meyhane now and order them before the season ends. This is what I’ll be doing.
Rough directions for Hamsi Tava or Fried Anchovies
1 kilo fresh hamsi (anchovies)
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
As needed salt
As needed cornflour
Wash the fish, break off the heads and degut the fish.
Briefly rinse and drain on paper towels.
Add the oil to a large non-stick pan. (In Turkey, you can even buy special hamsi tava frying pans.)
Season the cornflour with salt. Lightly dredge the fish through the cornflour.
Carefully, lay out the hamsi in a circle, filling the pan, in one single layer.
Over medium-high heat, fry the fish on one side till golden brown (about 3-4 minutes).
Then, carefully flip over the fish (as demonstrated in the photo above) and continue frying the other side until golden brown.
Serve with lemon wedges, a salad and cornbread.
|Stuffing the hamsi with Turkish cheddar cheese and parsley.|
|I'm very thankful for meeting friends like Ayşe here in Istanbul.|