Saturday, 17 March 2012

Boza: Another Extraordinary Turkish Drink

Just when you think you have discovered the ultimate Turkish food or drink, along comes boza.

all very nostalgic at Vefa Bozacısı

Boza is a very special drink that I will forever associate with  a very polluted Ankara circa 1976 and the mournful cry on a winter’s night of boooo –zaaaaa reverberating from the darkened street outside. It immediately takes me back to when my girls were little, fast asleep in their beds and there I was wondering what on earth I was doing in such an exotic place!

behind the counter there are two splendid marble vats
of freshly- made boza
Boza, a traditional winter’s drink that's been around for centuries, is made from hulled millet boiled in water, poured into broad shallow pans and after cooling, sieved, with water and sugar then added to it. I would say it is basically fermented millet with an alcoholic content of about 1%. How does that sound? Probably not too promising.  Take heart:  the Ottoman Empire fed its army with boza as it’s rich in carbohydrates and vitamins! It is served with a beguiling sprinkling of cinnamon  and a few roasted chickpeas scattered on top.

turn left down this road and you'll find it

But visiting Vefa Bozacısı is an absolute must if you are in Istanbul.  Vefa is the name of the crumbling shabby district just by Aksaray  down the road from the ancient Roman aqueduct, and bozacı means the person who makes or produces this strange winter beverage. This is a registered family business started in 1876 by Hadji Sadık who immigrated from Albania to Istanbul in 1870 and settled in Vefa, a very select residential district in those days.  

this hangs on the wall of the shop: note, it is made from millet not
Also note its efficacy against cholera!

a photo of Atatürk hangs prominently on the wall

I just loved this place as there within that one room is Istanbul as it was all those decades ago: the picture of Atatürk high on the wall, the cup from which he drank his boza enshrined next to it. I can’t promise that you are going to love the taste  but it is a real cultural experience so it doesn’t matter. It is the real thing, I promise you.

young but serious as befits the place
you can buy boza in bottles too but be careful: it can go off

As you cross the portal, the marble step worn deep over decades, you enter the timeless world of boza. You should have stopped over the road before entering to buy your obligatory leblebi/ roasted chickpeas which you will sprinkle on top of your boza.   A plastic spoon will help you eat them.

or you take a seat and have your boza right there
along with the locals
the historical place opposite where you buy your mandatory leblebi

it was a miserable wet day when I went yesterday

liking it isn't the point

Vefa Bozacısı
Katip Çelebi Caddesi 104/1
(0212) 519 4922