Mediterranean Holiday Series 8 – Balik Ekmek in Istanbul

Another of my versions of Balik Ekmek was featured by City Press.

mackerel sandwich

Along the water’s edge, and on either side of the Galata bridge in particular, vendors with carts that read ‘Balik Ekmek’, tend to hot grills and locals queue at their favourite stands. Balik (fish) Ekmek (bread) is a traditional snack of grilled mackerel on bread, often toasted.

Everyone has their own favourite spot that they return to, for whatever reason – best bread, plump fish fillets, a friendly relationship with the vendor or habit.

Balik ekmek stand Istanbul

The sandwiches are piled with fresh vegetables, if you like and served with a hot chilli paste. My research revealed that eating a balik ekmek is a sort of rite of passage that belongs to the ‘must do’ list on any food traveller’s itinerary on a visit to Istanbul.

There is a concern that dwindling fish resources has led to vendors using imported mackerel. Be on the look out for that.

 Havurzbasi Istanbul

 My tip would be to observe the locals and take your cue from the stand or stands they favour. Some stands are attached to small restaurants or make-shift tables and chairs where you can enjoy your sandwich and a view of the comings and goings of passers by.

queues for balik ekmek


boats along the water, Istanbul

 For this sandwich, I used Mediterranean Delicacies smoked peppered mackerel fillets and basil pesto, cucumber, fresh peppers, fresh basil and sweet chilli pepper flakes from Istanbul. You can substitute with a sprinkling of regular chilli pepper flakes.

Ideally, freshly grilled mackerel would be perfect in this iconic snack, but if you can’t get any the smoked versions work very well too.

locals picnicking on the rocks


mackerel sandwich


Serves 2

1 pack Mediterranean Delicacies peppered Mackerel

2 ciabatta rolls, sliced in half, buttered and grilled

2 T Mediterranean Delicacies Basil Pesto

6 cucumber slices

1/2 cup sliced red and green peppers

6 basil leaves

chilli flakes, to taste

mackerel and basil pesto sandwich


1. Cut the mackerel fillet in half. Spread the pesto on both halves of the sliced roll.

2. Arrange on the bottom half of the roll, the cucumber, mackerel, peppers and sprinkle with chilli flakes. Top with basil leaves and the other half of the roll.

3. Serve with extra chilli pepper flakes or sauce for dipping.

fresh picnic sanwiches

This post forms part of the series of recipes I am preparing for Mediterranean Delicacies. It is a Food and the Fabulous Endorsed project and I will be remunerated for it.

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