The first time I bit into a piece of baklava from Karaköy Güllüoglu in Istanbul’s Beyoglu neighborhood, it was a revelation. The layers of phyllo dough were crisp but delicate and thin, the syrup was rich but not too sweet, and the finely chopped pistachios added not just crunch but flavor as well. It smelled decadent, of butter and honey. To me, it’s always the food that I will most associate with the city, more so than the thick coffee, the sweet candy, or the kebobs.
Fortunately for cruisers, there are several locations of this old Turkish candy shop around the city, including one right near the port on the Bosphorus, where you can try sweets that date back to the Ottoman Empire in a shop that opened in 1949. There, you can buy a wide variety of pastries that come in diamond, square, rectangle, and cigar shapes. They’re made with phyllo, honey, and pistachios, walnuts, hazelnuts, or almonds. Some also have a layer of egg custard cream, or a nest of crunchy shredded wheatlike pastry. I also liked the fried dough nuggets glazed in honey that are called Tulumba, and locals I mentioned the shop to seemed to marvel at its most unusual option: the chocolate baklava.
You can eat your sweets (with tea, or a lemonade that’s so bracingly tart, it’s clear it was created to be served with these desserts) at the shop on the edge of the Beyoglu neighborhood (with inside and outside seating), or bring them back on the ship with you to sample on your balcony. However, if you’re going to buy some to go, ask about their shelf life. Some sweets need to be refrigerated and eaten the same day, while others can stay fresh in your suitcase for seven or even 15 days.
Our advice: Although you can buy preboxed baklava, the freshly made choices taste significantly better, so don’t try to pack this messy treat to take home. Instead, pick up boxes of rosewater-scented (or date-flavored and pistachio-studded) Turkish delight to bring back for friends and family, and keep the baklava for yourself as a perfect memory of the city. (Mumhane Caddesi 171, Beyoğlu İstanbul, Turkey; +90 212 249 9680; karakoygulluoglu.com)