Melissa Leong discovers the best Turkish street food in Melbourne

So much of travel for me is in the eating.

The first thing I do as soon as I’ve dropped my bags is to get a feel for where I am by checking out what’s for lunch. 

Or dinner, supper or breakfast. It may sound trivial, but in discovering the food of a place, you’re also experiencing an innate sense of culture and history that is anything but.

Today, we’re off to Turkey. An ancient place that’s seen the rise and fall of empires and cultures and manages to retain an essence of all. 

I’ve talked before about my ever-inspiring chef mate Coskun Uysal and the magical way he can make you feel the nostalgia of Turkey, even if your roots stem far from there – all from his little corner of the world at his restaurant Tulum. 

Throughout lockdown, Carlisle Street in Melbourne’s Balaclava has been imbued with the scent of the rich Turkish spice trail wafting from Coskun’s weekend street-food cart where spiced meat cooks over charcoal and irresistible freshly baked simit are ready to go with your morning coffee. 

Each week sees a trip to a different part of Turkey. From pops of crunchy, golden battered mussels drizzled with rich walnut tarator and served in a soft roll channeling the coast to toothsome chicken shish that recall the streets of Istanbul, you can practically hear the hubbub of vendors in the markets slinging their produce, or the chug-a-chug of ferry engines in the harbor, waiting to take people somewhere else.

The Tulum cart and Coskun Uysal.
The Tulum cart and Coskun Uysal.

I don’t think I can ever forget the feeling of being engulfed in an unfamiliar place, intoxicated by an assault on my senses with new and strange and wonderful things. 

Coskun’s lockdown restaurant pivot is a love letter to his home, and a window onto Turkey for those of us not from there to dream – and, of course, to eat extremely well.

Tulum Restaurant, 217 Carlisle St, Balaclava, Vic.

This article originally appeared on Escape

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