Join Culinary Backstreets

Sign up with email

or

Already a member? Log in.

Log in to Culinary Backstreets

Trouble logging in?

Not a member? Sign up!

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someone

One of the big downsides to Istanbul’s otherwise great food scene is the lack of a credible Mexican option. We’re not asking for anything special, just a place that serves simple, tasty tacos or burritos. But when the craving for Mexican gets strong, we don’t despair; we just head down to the waterside neighborhood of Karaköy, home to Beşaltı Kirvem Tantuni, a hole-in-the-wall (literally) spot whose food and atmosphere remind us of the tiny taquerías in Mexico and the United States that we miss so much.

Beşaltı Kirvem is located in a ruined former Orthodox church in the heart of the old port district, an area still packed with import/export offices and frequented by stevedores waiting for work, whose streets have lately become the place for architecture and design offices. But the chic cafés and art galleries that have followed the buzz don’t seem to have threatened this old-school joint’s business. In fact, the recent gentrification of Karaköy has only made it harder to find a stool out front during lunchtime.

As its name implies, Beşaltı Kirvem serves up tantuni, one of Turkey’s classic – though shamefully lesser-known – street foods. To make this dish, thin strips of beef are fried and kept warm on the side of a massive circular pan with a concave depression in the middle. When an order is made, the cook scoops up some of the beef and reheats it in the middle of the pan in a steamy combination of oil and water, which creates a thin gravy. In the meantime, he starts warming up a long piece of lavaş, a flatbread that is the Turkish equivalent of the tortilla, on the side of the pan, letting the lavaş soak up some of the meat’s juices. Once the beef has been warmed up, the cook piles it on top of the lavaş – along with tomatoes, sumac-dusted onions, parsley and a combination of spices, including cumin and red pepper – and rolls it up into a long, thin torpedo that’s easy to gobble down in a few quick bites. Served along with nothing else but a side of hot peppers, it’s simple, yet delicious.

Tantuni originated in Mersin, a city on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast best known for, well, being the birthplace of Tantuni. From there, the dish has gone on to become a street food staple in other parts of the country. In Istanbul, the backstreets of Beyoğlu have loads of tantuni shacks that do a bustling business, particularly late at night. But we’ve found Beşaltı Kirvem, which caters to a lunchtime crowd in the more commercial Karaköy neighborhood, to be in a league of its own. It’s a two-for-one deal: the best tantuni and – we like to pretend – Mexican in town.

Address: Mumhane Caddesi 35/B, Karaköy
Telephone: +90 212 244 0347
Hours: Mon.-Fri. 8:30am-8pm;Sat. 8:30-6pm; closed Sunday
 
(top photo by Monique Jaques; bottom photo by Ansel Mullins)
 
[google-map-v3 width=”640″ height=”320″ zoom=”15″ maptype=”roadmap” mapalign=”center” directionhint=”false” language=”default” poweredby=”false” maptypecontrol=”true” pancontrol=”true” zoomcontrol=”true” scalecontrol=”true” streetviewcontrol=”true” scrollwheelcontrol=”false” draggable=”true” tiltfourtyfive=”false” addmarkermashupbubble=”false” addmarkermashupbubble=”false” addmarkerlist=”41.024076,28.978285{}4-default.png{}Beşaltı Kirvem Tantuni, Mumhane Caddesi 35/B” bubbleautopan=”true” showbike=”false” showtraffic=”false” showpanoramio=”false”]

Related stories

May 15, 2017

Biscoito Globo: King of the Beach

By Danielle Renwick
Rio -- Asking cariocas if they remember their first Biscoito Globo, the ubiquitous, crunchy beach snack, is like asking anyone who teethed in the United States if they remember trying Cheerios for the first time. Globo biscuits and sweet iced mate are to Rio's beaches what hot dogs and beer are to American baseball stadiums. Calls…
June 14, 2017

Friggitoria Masardona: Naples' Ur-Pizza

By Amedeo Colella
Naples -- Pizza, as you might already know, was born in Naples. What you might not know is that in Naples, fried pizza existed before baked pizza. And although Neapolitans have raised pizzamaking in the oven to an art form, their skill at turning out fried pizza is even greater. As with so many local…
May 18, 2017

El Bisaura: Fishmonger to Table

By Paula Mourenza
Barcelona -- Inside Barcelona’s lesser-known Mercat de Les Corts is a small, unassuming bar offering up the bounty of the Mediterranean. El Bisaura opens up shop at 6:30 a.m., serving esmorzars de forquilla (hearty Catalan breakfasts like sausage and beans, tripe stew and grilled cuttlefish) to local workers. At lunch, it serves a more refined…