Grilled fish

Turkish grilled fish is among the best in the world

When you think of Turkish food, do you think of meat and kebabs? Believe it or not, fresh fish is also a very important part of Turkish cuisine.
Which fish species are the best and most popular? What should I ask for when eating in Turkey?

Fat is better

Blue fish is one of the most common fish in Turkish cuisine. Blue fish has a high fat content, so it is best cooked on the grill or broiled. A brush of olive oil and a little salt and pepper are all it takes to get a golden crust and wonderful flavor.

You will find blue fish cooked the same way almost everywhere in Turkey. The fresher the fish, the better. The best season for blue fish is from August to December.

The tastiest oily fish is said to come from the Bosphorus Strait that is also a good destination for bonito fishing, or palamut in Turkish. Similar to fatty fish, bonito is best during the fall and winter months.

Bonito has a rich, dark and consistent color. It is known by the locals as the “fish of the Bosphorus par excellence”. Bonito is cheaper than oily fish, so it is often a better option for larger families or those who choose to eat fish more often.

Bonito is also high in fat and only requires a light coat of olive oil and some seasoning before placing it on the grill.

Turkish tzatiki
Turkish tzatiki

The most popular fishes

Sea bass is the most coveted of all Turkish fish. To the point that huge seaweed farms raising “domestic” sea bass now dot the Turkish Aegean coast to meet the growing demand.

The best season for farm-raised sea bass is the summer months, from late May to early August. Sea bass is best when grilled, always with a little olive oil and light seasoning.

Several Istanbul restaurants are famous for roasting a whole sea bass encrusted in a thick shell of hardened sea salt that is ablaze with bourbon before serving. Imagine a 30 kilo sea bass brought to your table on a special trolley and set on fire!

But not just sea bass. Turbot is one of the most popular fish, which is very common during the winter in the sandy and muddy harbors of the Black Sea.

Turbot is very popular served on the grill too, but it can also be cut into thick strips, covered in flour and fried. Both ways are delicious, so it’s up to you.

Among the most loved fish, sardines cannot be missing, especially during the beginning of autumn, when they are in season. Some of the best Turkish sardines are harvested near Gallipoli, where the Aegean and Marmara seas meet.

Locals in this region insist that the best way to make sardines isn’t pickled or fried as you might think. They have a wonderful way of wrapping fresh sardines in grape leaves and cooking to perfection to perfection.

Little known outside Turkey but much loved here is the Pandora, the “fish of the summer”. Its mild flavor is as delicious as its light pink flesh.

The best time to eat pandora is during June and July. Pandora can be found almost everywhere, but it is said to be the best in the Aegean.

Pandora can grow to be quite large, reaching up to 30 pounds. Smaller fish between two and ten pounds are preferred.

The delicate flavor lends itself to delicate condiments. A brush of olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper is enough to let the natural flavor through. Put them on a grill and you will be good to go.

Turkish tzatiki