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Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Iskembe Soup

Those of you who know Turkish know what I am about to say. For those of you who don't...let me give you a quick Turkish lesson. But first some background info...

I love soup. Pretty much any kind of soup. I have tried numerous kinds of soup in Turkey, and for the most part I have enjoyed them all. Sometimes they might be a little too oily for me. Or maybe a little too sour in the case of a yogurt based soup. But I can usually add some red pepper or salt or bread to help even out the taste.

There was one special Turkish soup I had never tried despite having lived in Turkey for 6 years. Iskembe soup. I had seen it on the menus at several restaurants. I just never wanted to order it. There were always soups I knew I would love so I never had the urge to try it. Well, to be completely honest, I was scared to try it. I knew what was in it. I had heard people who seemed to eat anything say it tasted terrible. I figured that there would come a day when I wouldn't have a choice...a day where I would be served Iskembe soup, and I would just have to eat it. That day came yesterday. Kind of.

On our trip up to the Black Sea we stopped for lunch in a town that was known for it's chef school. We were hoping for awesome food. The restaurant we chose happened to have a broken oven so their menu was quite limited. We could have soup or grilled meat. Or both. I ordered some cracked wheat and tomato soup. It came and was just as good as I thought it would be. A little bit spicy. A lot of yummy! When the waiter brought my soup he also brought a bowl of Iskembe soup, the special Turkish soup. Now I must say that nobody at our table ordered Iskembe soup. We weren't quite sure why he brought it to us. But hey...it was at our table. It was really cheap so I decided I would try it. Surely it couldn't be as bad as everyone said.

I mean look at it. It looks like it might have a chicken broth base. There is meat...kind of. Surely I, the lover of soup, can at least handle taking one bite of this soup. I took a bite.

Disgusting! This is the most disgusting thing I have ever tasted in my life. And I am completely serious! I swallowed the tiny spoonful I put in my mouth and tried not to gag. I drank water. I ate bread. I ate bites of everything else on the table to try to purge that flavor from my mouth. It wouldn't leave me. Brian had planned to take a bite as well. That is until he watched my reaction to it. He decided to just smell it instead. He said "that smells like a barn." And that is exactly what it tasted like. Like a barn filled with stinky, sweaty cows. I took a bite of stinky, sweaty cow barn soup. Yuck.

Oh...and the reason I had always steered clear of it before was because the main ingredient in Iskembe soup is what we might call tripe...or cow stomach.



So here is the Turkish lesson I promised. Iskembe means cow stomach...or stinky, sweaty cow barn soup. Remember that!

24 comments:

Charlie Girl said...

Well, you can't look a gift "cow stomach soup" in the mouth...

Wait, that saying made no sense...

You can't look a gift horse in the mouth....

Wait, that is not what I want to say either....

Why exactly did you put the cow stomach soup in your mouth?

Because it was a gift??

Seriously, do not try to trick me when I come to Turkey... I know how it is spelled now, AND thanks to Brian, I will be on the "smell out" for stinky barn soup! Thanks Brian!! I owe ya!

HeyJoe said...

Coincidentally, I had planned to make Iskembe soup for dinner tonight. Thank GOD I read this post before leaving the office.

I guess it will be BLT’s instead, albeit with stinky, sweaty pig barn bacon.

becky marshall said...

That's so funny. Reminds me of when we go to Chinese restaurants in Houston and someone orders egg drop soup. We nicknamed it dishrag soup, because for the life of me it looks like a disrag floating around in the bottom of the bowl...not sure how it tastes b/c i've never been brave enough.

LiteralDan said...

Mmmmm... yummy

Ignoring the cow stomach, I'll focus instead on bread and tomato soup.

Bread and tomato soup.

Bread and tomato soup...

Ick... cow stomach soup.

citizen of the world said...

I am dead crtain I will nver try that soup. And not just because I don't eat mammal. Yuck! But it reminded me of visiting my Dad in Saudi Arabia. My litttle sister said, "Don't drink the nilk - it tasts like an old man soaked his arm in it." (I tried it anyway, and she was right!)

The Over-Thinker said...

Good God. Thank you for the Turkish Lesson. I think :)

And also? THAT'S WHAT TRIPE IS OMGOMG!!!!!!!!!!

derya said...

If it is made well, it's to die for with some lemon juice and garlic. But if not, it does taste awful... It's not supposed to stink, either. Sorry for the bad experience.

That said, I don't think it's any worse than eating hot dogs. At least, we know what's in tripe soup.

Now, I should go get meself some black pudding;)

Natalie said...

charlie girl - i know. i had to try it. you know me...i'll try anything once. this, i must say, will only be tried once! and i would never dream of tricking you!

heyjoe - i am so glad i was able to stop you before you made this soup. there are so many good parts of a cow i'm not sure why anyone would choose to eat the stomach! and i would eat stinky, sweaty, pig barn bacon any day of the week!

becky - oh...i love egg drop soup. well...at least it just tastes like chicken broth. seriously...there isn't much else to it. a chive or two maybe. i can guarantee it is way better than what i put in my mouth the other day! for sure!

literaldan - the bulgur and tomato soup i had was delicious. really. i would eat it again in a heartbeat! cow stomach soup...not so much.

citizen of the world - well it almost turned me into a vegetarian for sure! and why don't we listen when people warn us? really.

over-thinker - you are very welcome! i am happy to educate you on the delicacies of cow stomach! and on the reasons never to try it!

derya - i will now confess to you and you alone that i have been told since my iskembe experience that i must have had a bad bowl. the other foreigners are saying that it isn't good, but they can at least eat a bowl of it if it was served to them. i can guarantee that nobody could have eaten the bowl of soup i was given. and i didn't use the lemon juice and other stuff they brought with it. my plan was to taste it and then season it to my liking. i never got that far!

black pudding. i think i might have to draw the line there!

Dannie said...

Oh, YUCK! I have always thought I would be the on to try anything in my family and for the most part, I am. I could never bring myself to try this soup in a million years knowing that THAT was in it.

Now, on a day me and the husband were having issues - this might be the thing I would serve him. Oh, that is just mean :)

Natalie said...

dannie - i know. it was disgusting. the grossest thing i have put in my mouth! ever! and i knew what was in it. i just didn't think it could be that bad or people wouldn't eat it. i was wrong...oh so very wrong!

i don't know if i could even serve it to my husband. did you see the picture of the stuff raw? that in and of itself would totally gross me out!

Mike S said...

Iskembe can be like that, really 'edible' or yukko! Never considered it 'good' though. The Chinese have a few right up there on the 'once to say I did it' scale, stinky tofu & sheep's stomach make the list easily. As did the Japanese soup with tiny fish still swiming in it, and the balut, a popular Philippine treat(?) consisting of a fertilized partially grown duck egg/embryo buried for at least 30 days, great for drinking free if you don't chew. Love hot dogs and black pudding. But never again will I ever eat the only thing to ever make me literally puke instantly. In Spain I was dared to taste a delicacy(?) that I actually had to watch two locals eat before they could convince me it was for real: raw bull testicles. One bite & gone!! I did quite like them deep-fried though. Bon appetit.

Natalie said...

mike - i honestly don't know any foreigner who loves the stuff. most tolerate it though. i have heard of the balut...i can't even imagine eating it. and soup with fish swimming in it? no way! talk about sushi! as long as stuff is cooked i will try it, but when it comes to eating raw meat...i have to draw the line!

~m said...

I love soup, too! But the only soup I never loved was menudo. What is it with the ungulant bits?

Natalie said...

~m - i have never tried menudo despite having two mexican american sisters-in-law. i am pretty sure i will continue to avoid it!

Anonymous said...

Just tried it. Crap.

Natalie said...

anon - sorry! i tried to warn you!

Anonymous said...

heard it was pretty hard to stomach, but was rumored to be a great hangover cure. i may try it if the headache gets too bad, but i'm more likely to grill tripe than attempt this.

-zach

Natalie said...

zach - i think i would opt for the hangover. i tasted that soup for days even though i only took one bite. it was horrible!

Anonymous said...

i just have to say read ur post and i must be strange my husband is turkish and we go to corba houses all the time to eat and i love iskembe soup its my favorite i also like kelle pacha if anyone here has tried it i would love to hear ur opinion

Anonymous said...

I cannot believe this load of tripe. Iskembe is delicious and is a known cure for hangovers. I have visited Turkey numerous trimes and have found many back street cafes that serve Iskembe and bread and nothing else. Living in London thankfully there is an abundance of cafes that serve Iskembe and all of them seem to be very busy. Don't go for the kelle paca (Lambs head soup) cos you are obviously a snob who sneers at others peoples diets

Anonymous said...

If you're going to eat meat, why waste sections of the animal that are perfectly edible? Just because you didn't like the soup you had, don't assume that other people won't like it. Personally I think iskembe is delicious, and I'm not a big meat eater. It's better than the crappy industrially-produced food most Americans eat.

Anonymous said...

there is no middle in this soup. if you eat the bad cooked you can vomit. if you eat the good one you will be addicted. even in the ottoman palaces there were two diffrent guy to cook iskembe and paca (which is another this kind of soup ) But as i said it is really delicious if it is cooked well. in barcelona the most expensive restaurants cook the same soup with chickpea and you cant believe how expensive it is... so finally you have to know where to eat this soup if you wanna eat it. and this is the thing that a lot of people try it just because of this because these kind of tastes are intresting you know you wonder if you would love it or hate it :)))))
thanks......

Jacqueline Can said...

Iskembe is my worst nightmare! I laughed when I read this because my husband is Turkish and a very fussy eater, and turns his nose up at many things most people find delicious- which is why I find his LOVE for iskembe so mind boggling! I am quite adventurous when it comes to food and eat/try mostly everything. Really enjoyed kokorec when I tried it (another popular turkish dish made of intestines).... But Iskembe.... I just can't do it! The smell alone of my mother in law making it has stayed with me for the past 20 years. She is an amazing cook, but I don't think I will ever develop a taste for tripe . I can totally relate to your experience! Ha ha.

Anonymous said...

You're a typical western tourist who does not know how to appreciate another culture's cuisine. Go ahead. Stick to what you are comfortable. Eat MacDonald's. Stay close-minded.