Wednesday, March 19, 2014

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!

Sonra görüşürüz!

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.

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14 comments:

Carrie Zimmer said...

This spice shop...is the best! We had such a good time there while in Turkey! I think it's hysterical to think about having a good time in a spice shop, but they were so nice and let us taste everything and I think I bought everything too!

Elizabeth said...

First off, I LOVE you blog. I'm an ex-pat in Istanbul, but only came across your blog as you were leaving. Sadness! I would have loved to attend one of your baking classes!

I was wondering what you use for brown sugar. Do you use the dry Turkish brown sugar? Do you make your own with molasses, and if so which type of molasses do you use?

I LOVE to bake, and your site has helped me so much!! Wish you were still here, but best wishes in Poland!!

Joy said...

@Carrie, glad you enjoyed my spice store too! :-) Bilge also will ship your spices if you need, but I cannot wait to see her in person!

@Elizabeth, Merhaba! What a nice message to see after my 3-hour Polish lesson. Sigh!

For brown sugar in Turkey, I always made my own. Mix regular granulated sugar with uzum pekmez until you have the color you want. Usually 1-2 Tablespoons or so per 1 cup of sugar. I would use my hand mixer to blend up the sugar really well. Since I did a lot of baking, I would make a big batch, like 3 or 4 cups and keep it stored in an airtight container. That way I would have brown sugar to make cookies whenever I needed.

Hope you enjoy your stay in Istanbul as much as I did! :-)

Julia said...

Well we'll make sure to call in on this stall next time we're in Istanbul. Nice memories for you. :)

Elizabeth said...

Joy- Tanıştımıza çok memnun oldum!!

So you use uzum pekmez? But it tastes so different from molasses in America. Does that flavor come through in your baking? Have you ever tried the keçibornu (carob) pekmez?

Also, what about powdered sugar? I find the powdered sugar so grainy here.

I love this stall at the spice bazaar, by the way. They are awesome. Thanks for the recommendation! I also love to take guests to Cennet, just near Ucuzluk. They know me there and I get good prices on their scarves and ceramics.

Sorry!! I LOVE to cook and bake so I will probably drive you crazy! Ha!

Moe said...

I was there just last week picking up supplies! Stayed for a couple glasses of apple tea and talked wedding plans with one of the girls - our dates are set for the same in May! They're really the best and completely trustworthy.

Joy said...

@Moe, that's great! Congratulations! You just don't develop these types of relationships with stores elsewhere. I'm hoping it will eventually happen here in Warsaw if I am persistent and sweet enough! ;-)

Backto Bodrum said...

I'm sure you will be welcomed like a long lost relative when you come back next week.

Joy said...

Definitely stop by on your next trip! The nar lokum is one of my favs too!

Joy said...

Evet üzüm pekmez worked great. I tried the carob one and know some gals who liked it, so i think it's a personal preference. I did not care for the carob one as much.

You'll never find the same kind of powdered sugar as in the US. However i would buy as a kilo from Sancar in Eminönü and it was much better than most. For my icings unless it was a simple cake glaze, i would only make an Italian Buttercream w a cooked sugar syrup. I could never get cream icing to turn out either!

Joy said...

I cannot wait, Annie! :-)

Lois Britton said...

Joy, I've tried to invite you to our expat blog group by email, but I'm not sure if it was received. This is the exact wording of our name:
Expat Bloggers - Central/Eastern Europe

I'd love to connect!

PS - spice market looks like Disneyland!!

Joy said...

Cześć Lois!
Thanks for the invite! I couldn't connect through my blog email so I just sent u a group request from my personal Facebook account. So annoying! Anyway, can't wait to connect with you too. Cheers, Joy

Kathy said...

This looks so beautiful! I really would like to visit here someday, the range of herbs and spices they supply is amazing! Just looking at your pictures makes me feel peckish!

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