EVENTS / FOOD / July 28, 2015

Eatwith Istanbul

Have you ever heard of Eatwith? Not many people have, I suppose.  Eatwith offers a local- or  an underground, I would say- dining experience for travellers and operates through a social networking site in the same fashion Couch Surfing or Airbnb does. I have had so amazing and not-so-pleasant experiences over the years through these sites. Still, I am positive about trying out new medium to get connected with people from all over the world! Eatwith experience is meant to be for those who want to get under the skin of  a culture at dinner hosted by locals; which is you share food with total strangers in their houses rather than restaurants. This kind of local dining concept was something I had in mind for years. Those who know me also know I fall short of cooking… Otherwise, I’d love to cook for those I love or for those I host in Istanbul. I need another decade of experience in this life or another reincarnation? 




I was introduced to Eatwith by Esra, an old high school friend and also my neighbor. Esra has invited me to her Eatwith dinners on a few occasions. For I really enjoyed the amazing Turkish food she prepared and appreciated her enthusiasm of cooking,  I photographed the last event in  the company of her guests from Brazil. A joyful night where we were oriented to look out for similarities rather than differences in our cultures. We told them about the Brazilian soap operas we grew up watching while they turned us on about the TV series set in Cappadocia, Salve Jorge. Of course, the dinner ended with reading fortune in the coffee cups.

Esra and I  also offer joint programs for those who want a full-day experience of Nişantaşı- a walk in our neighborhood, a market tour, a cooking class and dinner at a Turkish household. Let us know if you’d be interesting in booking with us.


eatwith8      eatwith7

eatwith3     eatwith23


By the way, do you know how Esra lured me into the dinner? “Come and join us tonight. I got the stuffed vine leaves with cherry ready.” That was it! The stuffed vine leaves with cherry- we call Vişneli Sarma in Turkish- made me grab my camera and clear the rest of my day to attend the dinner. While I was going back home, she handed me a take-away bag of vişneli sarma.

And I asked for the recipe.  Not that I will do it at home; I can get myself invited whenever I crave for it.  It is  for you!






  • 200g fresh vine leaves boiled for ten minutes or preserved vine leaves
  • 500 g rice washed and rinsed
  • 250 g unseeded sour cherries
  • 3 onions thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp allspice
  • Half a tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp salt
  • Half a tsp black pepper
  • 2 tsp dried mint
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 5 cups virgin olive oil



Place the cherries in to a bowl after removing their seeds so that they ooze their sour water.

Heat one cup of olive oil and saute the onions with sugar on medium heat.

When they turn light brown, add the rice and stir till it becomes opaque.

Then add allspice, cinnamon, salt, black pepper and mint (and pine nuts if you like).

Stir them for another 5 minutes and add boiling water up to the level of the rice.

Close the lid and reduce the heat to very low until the rice cooks (you will see that it will have holes in the rice). Let it be crunchy a little because it will be cooked in the leaves again.

After cooking the fresh leaves for 10 minutes, remove their stems.

When the leaves and the stuffing for the leaves are cooked, we are ready to roll.

Put the leaf with the shining side down, and opaque veined side upwards. The wide edge should be closer to you.

Take a table spoon of filling for a medium size leaf, and place it horizontally by squeezing it a little.

Place sour cherry halves on the filling, too. 3 half cherries for a medium size leaf would be enough.

Then fold the sides and roll to the pointing edge tucking it for a nice roll shape.

Lay the stuffed leaves in a circle in the pan.

Sprinkle the rest of the cherries and olive oil over the stuffed leaves.

Then pour cherry water that the cherries oozed in the bowl and water up to the level of the rolls.

Turn the heat on. When it starts boiling, turn it to very low heat.

Let it cook for half an hour.

Then check if the leaves are cooked by trying one.

If the water of the stuffed vine leaves evaporates before they cook, add a little more. (1glass)

When it is cooked, turn off the heat and let it rest for 20 minutes.

You can serve it warm or cold.


*Instead of cherries, you can use raisins.

Enjoy your Vişneli Sarma!


Tags:  Brazil cooking class Eatwith Nişantaşı recipe slide vegetarian walk

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Aug 18, 2015

Visneli sarma sounds delicious Nihan!! I must try this next time i am in Istanbul!

    Aug 18, 2015

    Yes, you should John! So when is “next time” ? 🙂

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