In 10 days, I’ll be back in Istanbul for a short weekend get-away.
I’ve already started making my list of Turkish goodies to bring back to Poland such as: cinnamon, pul biber, pistachios, walnuts, beyaz peynir, kaymak, 1 kilo of cocoa powder, Turkish olive oil soaps and more!
That means I’ll be paying a visit to my favorite spice girl, Bilge Kadioglu, owner of Ucuzcular Baharat, No. 51 at the Mısır Çarşısı (Egyptian Bazaar) in Eminönü. The store has been open since 1980, but the roots of this five-generation business date back to 1886. The name “Ucuzcular” comes from the Turkish word for cheap or thrifty and harks back to the wholesale prices Bilge’s grandfather offered his costumers back then.
I love visiting Ucuzcular and being surrounded by the familiar and exotic flavors of Turkey! The herbal tea blends, dried fruits and nuts and aromatic spices are enough to make my head spin as soon as I walk inside.
Bilge is no ordinary spice seller at the bazaar. She is a female running her successful family business in a very male-dominated world. She is educated, enthusiastic and full of spunk. I miss my nearly weekly visits to the market!
|Bilge and me in 2012. I think we should get a better photo this year!|
During the three years I lived in Istanbul, I got to know Bilge and many of her staff members as well as her brother, Ahmet. Everyone always greeted me with a smile. They offered me new spice blends to sample as well as a glass of Turkish çay. I would chat a bit with everyone as I made my purchases, wait kindly in the background if the store got too busy and steal the occasional Turkish Delight whenever I could!
As someone who cooks or bakes nearly every day, I often needed to refill my spice supply. I preferred to buy in smaller amounts because I knew I would be back soon. I have always appreciated the quality of Bilge’s spices and teas as well as her honesty. When I had a bad cold, she would whip me up a special tea blend to soothe my sore throat.
To me visiting Bilge wasn’t just about refilling my spice jars.
We developed a friendship as we chatted over the spices and our daily musings. And that is something I miss most of all!
NOTE: If you enter the Spice Bazaar from the front entrance, walk through until the pathway Ts. Then, turn left. Look for the blue sign of Ucuzcular on your lefthand side about halfway down.