For some reason, I never got around to trying manti the first time I lived in Turkey. Maybe it was the description – “Turkish ravioli” seemed like it could be sketchy, so I stuck to my imam bayildi and various kebaps. This was a grave mistake, and one that I’ve spent many meals rectifying this time around. Manti is delicious. Of the many manti places I’ve eaten at, the one I keep going back to, even though it’s currently ridiculously inconvenient to get to, is Bodrum Manti.
First, some background: Manti is made of noodles enveloping minced meat, usually lamb or beef, in little packets. They’re about 3/4” or 1”, depending on who’s making them. Once they’re formed, they’re boiled, and served smothered in a garlicky yogurt/tomato sauce, usually with dried mint and sumac to sprinkle on top. Sumac is a very Turkish spice not generally used in the West; Wikipedia says it’s got a lemony taste, which I guess is a fair description. Basically, manti is hot and filling and delicious.
Still, manti places are scattered across the city. What makes Bodrum Manti so awesome? Several things. First, their manti itself is really good. They have traditional manti, and then they take it to the next level: they also offer manti made with wheat dough and manti stuffed with chicken, potato, spinach or cheese. Even better tastewise, although surely pretty deadly healthwise: they have fried manti. Oh my goodness the taste explosion. If you can’t decide which kind you want, or are new to the world of manti, they’ll serve you a combination of several varieties.
After you finish your manti at Bodrum (incidentally, “bodrum” is the name of a city to the south and also means “basement”), you’ll probably be pretty stuffed. Portions are pretty generous. But the meal’s not done: they include dessert free with every entrée, and it is good. The waiters serve up a scoop of ice cream sandwiched between crunchy waffles, topped with a tart berry sauce. Once you’re done with the ice cream, it’s coffee/tea time – they make very good Turkish coffee.
Rounding out the list of things that make Bodrum Manti one of my three favorite restaurants in the country are its location, right on the waterfront in Arnavutkoy, the fact that it has free wireless, its hours (the restaurant is one of woefully few places in the city that’s open 24 hours – that’s right, I can get manti at 5am should the mood strike me) and its delivery, which sadly doesn’t extend to my current neck of the woods but which I made very good use of when I lived up at Bogazici and when I used to crash at friends’ places over in Arnavutkoy.
If you’ve visited me in Istanbul, I have taken you to Bodrum Manti. If you visit me in the future, we will go to Bodrum Manti. My mom liked it so much when she was in town, we went twice. Arnavutkoy’s not on the tourist trail, and guidebooks will likely never mention Bodrum, but Bodrum Manti is most definitely part of my Istanbul.
Arnavutkoy Iskele Cad. 111
Also 2 locations on the Asian side
Manti TL 12-14ish (also try the piyaz [white bean salad], it’s quite good)
You can also try making manti at home (I know of one successful homemade fried manti attempt as well); this is a recipe from a decent Turkish cooking site to get you started.