The good news about eating börek whilst in Turkey is that you can eat it practically everywhere and it’s always amazing. A greasy, pastry, salty indulgence that’s a daily temptation to anyone in the country, especially to those on the tired cucumber and sad tomato breakfast thrown in free by cheap hotels.
If you don’t know what it is, loosen your waistband, are you sitting comfortably?
Then I’ll begin.
It’s a savoury pastry eaten for breakfast or lunch which comes filled with various staple Turkish stuffings – white cheese (peynirli börek), minced meat (kiymalı börek) or spinach (ıspanaklı börek). Then there are three main kinds, one baked in the oven in a huge round tray which looks like a big frittata and only comes with cheese inside (su böreği), another that is flakier looking and, then, individual böreks that look like spirals or spring rolls. Sometimes the latter is deep fried, as if you needed any more calories, and appears on the hot meze menu as cigara börek.
For a basic börek there are special bakeries that sell only this called börekçisi or, sometimes börek ve pide salonu. You can find these in almost any neighbourhood and so far, I’ve never had a bad one. You can see them in the window so if it looks good it is. Ask for a “porsiyon” and you won’t need to eat again ’til dinner time. Personally I refute the status of the su boreği as the King of Böreks, finding it a bit like slimy pasta, and crown peynirli börek in its place.
Other bakeries can also sell börek. This is a slightly riskier affair. Two excellent ones are Ciğdem Pastanesi on Divan Yolu (No 62A) in Sultanhamet which has a great range of individual böreks, the aubergine (patlıcan) is especially good, and Dilim Pastanesi in Küzgüncuk (take a bus or minibus from Üsküdar towards Beylerbeyi, it’s the first village you come to).
If you’ve really become an addict, then you might venture out to Sarıyer (bus or ferry) for an innovation not found anywhere else – Sarıyer Börek (meat börek with currants). The two most historical Sarıyer Börekcisis vary only in age (the original by the mosque dates from 1895) not menu. Eat these and you won’t eat ’til tomorrow.