Turkish cuisine is very much alive and thriving in Istanbul and while this country is known for its delicious street food, it should also be known for its more traditional dishes, as well. No trip to another country is complete without a trip around its most popular flavors, and Istanbul is the perfect place to explore foods that have inspired its culture for generations. Each dish is more diverse than the last, with spices that are unique to the region and ingredients that are local.

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The food travelers will find in Istanbul is rich in both flavor and history. From snacks to eat on-the-go to dishes that should be eaten slowly and savored with each bite, there's something for everyone. These iconic foods gained a reputation for a reason and if wanderlust is pulling you toward this incredible country, then these foods should satisfy your breakfast, lunch, and dinner cravings.

Lahmacun

Contrary to popular belief, this dish is not a Turkish-style pizza or anything close to it. While many people believe that it's similar to a traditional pizza due to its topping, which is seasoned ground beef, it's entirely a Turkish creation that takes no inspiration from Italy.

Once the seasoned meat has been placed on top of the thin, slightly crispy dough round, a squeeze of lemon and some parsley is usually all it takes to add the finishing touches. It's simple, yet delicious and satisfying.

Döner

Those who have had the chance to visit Turkey can probably attest to the fact that these vertical spits can be found all over, in many popular restaurants. The meat that's carved from them, called döner, can be served in a multitude of different ways.

Dürüm is döner that has been wrapped in lavas bread and is the simplest of the döner dishes. Iskender kebap is döner that has been piled on pide bread, with a healthy topping of yogurt, butter, and tomato sauce to create a rich lunch or dinner.

Meze

One of the most delicious ways that a person can eat their way through Istanbul is by ordering meze. Meze simply means 'appetizers' and these come on small plates which are perfect for sharing. These are served similar to the way that one would order tapas in a Spanish restaurant.

Depending on the restaurant, meze can include practically anything from eggplant dips to fava. One of the most popular dips is muhammara, which is made by grinding red pepper down into a paste and adding lemon juice, walnuts, and a drizzle of sweet pomegranate molasses.

Kebap

The main thing that newcomers to Turkey should know about kebap is that it encompasses all types of meat, from lamb to beef. What changes in each kebap is the flavoring and spice level of each; depending on the meat that's used, the spices can vary, as well.

Many times, kebap will be wrapped in lavas bread before being topped with tomato sauce and yogurt, or it will be served simply on a skewer. Each kebap can vary in appearance, as well, with some meat blends being hand-kneaded with spices while others are cut into cubes before being grilled.

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Balık Ekmek

When it comes to the simplest of street foods, balık ekmek is a local, and tourist, favorite. This simple sandwich is served with ingredients that are equally simple, but are deliciously fresh: grilled fish, onions, and a light salad mix.

The sandwich is easy to find from vendors or lunch spots, and it's a favorite throughout the country.

Pide

Pide is a rich meal that consists of practically anything you can stuff into it. The dish starts with dough that's kneaded into a boat-like shape, before being filled with any manner of fillings from meat to cheese and even vegetables.

Travelers can find these large lunch and dinner meals filled with things such as spinach, spicy sausage, eggs, and even veal. They're perfectly filling all on their own but they're also perfect for sharing with another person.

Kuzu Tandır

The most tender meat you'll ever find in Instanbul can be found in a dish called kuzu tandır. At one point, the lamb that was used in this dish would have been cooked in a clay oven underground. Nowadays, it's still cooked low and slow in order to get that tender, fall-apart meat that makes the dish so good.

It's served over a grain or starch along with a mixture of nuts, currants, and diced liver. The flavors meld together to create something altogether unique and the scent from the meat and rice is mouth-watering.

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