Join Culinary Backstreets

Sign up with email


Already a member? Log in.

Log in to Culinary Backstreets

Trouble logging in?

Not a member? Sign up!

Regulars at Özkonak, a well-loved fixture in Cihangir’s ever-changing restaurant scene, must cluck in disapproval at the sight of a new generation of customers who walk right past the pudding display at the front and head for the steam table and its selection of prepared savory dishes in back. Though the lunch specials here are quite tasty, Özkonak is a pudding shop at heart and should be approached accordingly. To fill up on stuffed eggplant and beans before dessert is to deny yourself the sweet, milky pleasures that have made this a neighborhood institution for almost 50 years.

Özkonak's tavuk göğsü, photo by Monique JaquesTavuk göğsü, chicken breast pudding, is most often mentioned in travelers’ tales alongside salted Oaxacan iguana and deep-fried Vietnamese cobra. But unlike so many other bizarro edibles, the pudding doesn’t taste like chicken at all. The chicken is merely an agent of texture in this thick, milky pudding roll, bringing an unexpected – though pleasant – fibrous feel to what you’d expect to be smooth. However, we prefer tavuk göğsü’s poultry-less cousin, kazandibi (“bottom of the cauldron” in Turkish), whose caramelized bottom layer gives it firmness and a smoky-sweet finish.

We hold Turkey’s rice pudding, fırın sütlaç, in high regard but Özkonak’s is a bit too sugary for our taste, so we often opt for keşkül, an almond-based custard colored Day-Glo yellow. Just watching the seemingly radioactive pudding arrive at the table is exciting. An order of keşkül, which is dusted with crushed almonds, and a tea make a perfect midafternoon snack.

If you still have room for a main course after a couple of rounds of dessert, make your way to the back and you’ll find the steamtable, stocked with well-made old standards. Stuffed cabbage, stewed vegetables, baked meatballs with fingerling potatoes and pilav are usually on offer. But if you don’t make it to the mains, no one will fault you. After all, this is a pudding shop.

This review was first published on Istanbul Eats on June 12, 2009.
  • July 5, 2014 First Stop (0)
    Editor’s note: In the latest installment of our recurring feature First Stop, we asked […] Posted in Istanbul
  • May 20, 2014 Kaymak (0)
    Editor's note: We are profoundly sad to report that Beşiktaş Kaymakçı has closed.  In […] Posted in Istanbul
  • Doyuran Lokantası and Boris’in YeriJanuary 13, 2017 Doyuran Lokantası and Boris’in Yeri (0)
    We usually steer clear of the touristy Old City district of Kumkapı, where you are more […] Posted in Istanbul
Ansel Mullins

Related stories

July 5, 2014

First Stop: Anissa Helou's Istanbul

Istanbul | By Winnie Yang
By Winnie Yang
IstanbulEditor’s note: In the latest installment of our recurring feature First Stop, we asked chef and food writer Anissa Helou where she heads first for food when she arrives in Istanbul. Helou is the author of many cookbooks, including Lebanese Cuisine, Mediterranean Street Food, Savory Baking from the Mediterranean and The Fifth Quarter and has…
May 20, 2014

Kaymak: The Heavenly Cream

Istanbul | By Istanbul Eats
By Istanbul Eats
IstanbulEditor's note: We are profoundly sad to report that Beşiktaş Kaymakçı has closed.  In our imagination, kaymak – the delicious Turkish version of clotted cream - is the only food served in heaven, where angels in white robes dish out plate after plate of the cloudlike stuff to the dearly departed, who no longer have to worry about…
Select your currency
USD United States (US) dollar
EUR Euro