Posted by: mollyscafeistanbul | November 29, 2009

comfort food in istanbul

i was struck by a recent article in today’s zaman by viriginia lowe, an american living in istanbul.  her topic was comfort food.  for those non-native readers, comfort food is sort of nostalgic food, the kinds of things that perhaps our mothers made for us when we were young.  on her list were oatmeal porridge, chili, and macaroni and cheese, among other things.  molly’s cafe is built around the comfort food niche.

mac and cheese

ah, mac and cheese!





having travelled in some other countries, i have two particular memories of comfort food being welcome as i was on the road.  the first time was many years ago when i was in palenque, mexico.  a local had told me and my companion that there was a back way to las ruinas, so we set out on a trail to get into the ruins for free.  we thought!  we were walking on a jungle trail, but after walking for a few kilometers and being passed by many villagers coming towards us carrying chickens or wood or whatever, we realized that we were probably on the wrong one.  we asked someone, and he asked which ruins, those or these, pointing in different directions.  ach!  we decided to go back the way we had come, as we had no idea how far into the jungle we would go otherwise.  when we emerged from the jungle into the clearing where we had started, a hippie school bus was parked to the side.  not only that, the hippie mother came out and asked if we wanted some chocolate chip cookies.  wow!  we were in heaven!  not only that, she also had some cheddar cheese.  here we were in the jungles of palenque near the mayan ruins eating comfort food from our modern culture.  obviously i have never forgotten it.


the mayan ruins at palenque







the other memory that stands out was in bali.  i am not greatly impressed by asian food in general, with the exception of thai food.  we had travelled to bali via bankok (where we had the worst thai food ever at one place).  i was getting a little tired of satay and whatnot.  we had rented a car (i was driving because my friend was a crappy driver anyway and it was right-hand drive).  as we were driving along the coast, sort of in the middle of nowhere, we came across molly’s garden cafe!  of course we had to stop and my friend was in heaven because he could eat “our” rice pudding.

mollys garden cafe

molly at molly's






when i decided to open molly’s cafe, i realized that my niche was foreign home cooking, especially for strangers in a strange land.  there is no nescafe here, nor is there turkish coffee.  some well-meaning turkish friends suggested i offer borek, but 1) i don’t like borek very much and 2) i don’t know how to make it.  it is not a common canadian food.  instead, i offer the best carrot cake in town, along with other cakes and pies– the apple pies fly right out of here.  i also offer pasta, including macaroni and cheese.  someone gave me some packages of kraft mac & cheese and i am trying to figure out how to offer those, humble in north america, but very exotic here. now that thanksgiving has come and gone i have turkey soup and throughout the year i have other soups, but usually not mercimek.  my turkish friends at first turned up their noses at my food, but now they understand that although it is different, it is still good and tasty and sticks to one’s ribs.  of course the cakes tend to stick to one’s hips…

apple pie

as international as apple pie

i have learned to do without many of “our” ingredients and instead use what is available here.  for example, i use peti bur instead of graham crackers or eski kasar instead of cheddar.  otherwise, when someone is coming from north america i send my shopping list.  as a result, molly’s cafe is probably the only cafe in istanbul (or turkey) that tops homemade hot chocolate with mini marshmallows.

hot chocolate

hot chocolate withe marshmallows








so, if you are hankering for comfort food, come to molly’s cafe!  you won’t be disappointed.



  1. mmm the thought of hot chocolate with marshmallows has me drooling!

  2. […] comfort food in istanbul November 2009 1 comment 3 […]

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