Comforting Dishes at Istanbul Hawai‘i That Feel Like Home
(Partner Content) For those days when you need some TLC, these picks will soothe, warm and lift your spirits.
Do you ever have times when you just need some comfort? Chef Ahu has been there. Istanbul Hawai‘i’s executive chef has always been open about her past struggles with mental health, when homesickness hung over her like thick, dark cloud. “I was so depressed, I had no energy to do anything,” she says. “I even started to ask myself, ‘what’s the point of living?’” The doctor prescribed her medication, but her mother, Nili, had other medicine in mind: food. And it worked.
Since then, Chef Ahu has been a devout believer in the power of food. Not only does it give our bodies strength, but it can also bring us comfort, joy, nostalgia and even, in her case, fly us back home through taste and smell. Quality, of course, makes a difference: Fresh local produce, carefully selected Turkish imports, and plenty of time and effort go into each dish at Istanbul. “When you eat good things—taste matters, yes, but I also mean real, whole foods—your body and mind feel good,” says Chef. Even at times when your spirits are low, the power of good food can lend a gentle hand.
On days when you need comfort, says Chef, hearty, earthy and fragrant lamb tagine is her pick. The dish features lamb shank, local vegetables, dates and 20 herbs and spices, which are pressure cooked for eight-plus hours with a red wine glaze, then served with saffron rice and tzatziki. No knife required—the lamb meat is tender and falls from the bone. The warmth and deep, rich flavors make each bite better than the last.
Ice cream is a universal comfort food, and Istanbul’s new Turkish ice cream is exactly the craveworthy dessert we deserve to treat ourselves with. Chef Ahu’s recipe incorporates two of her home’s most loved ingredients—saffron and pistachios, imported straight from Turkey—with La‘ie Vanilla Co. vanilla bean for a frozen treat that you’ll close your eyes and savor with every bite.
Ihlamur tea holds a special place in Chef Ahu’s heart. It reminds her of her home and her grandmother, who would always brew a cup for her during visits. A popular drink in Turkey for centuries, ihlamur—the Turkish name for dried linden flowers—has a pleasant, slightly floral taste with a hint of sweetness and spice. But what makes this tea special is its many benefits, which include promoting calmness, reducing anxiety and encouraging sleep. Chef Ahu serves her tea with Turkish Delight, a chewy sweet treat that perfectly complements the bitterness of tea.
As someone who has been through depression, Chef Ahu says it’s all about taking small steps: “Even if you don’t feel like doing anything, just do it. Do something. One small thing you do for yourself each day will eventually color your grey clouds and will lead you to colorful landscapes.”
For more information on Istanbul Hawai‘i, visit istanbulhawaii.com.