Harvesting Mussels off the Princes Islands

We took a ferry from the port at Kabataş to Burgazadı, the third largest of the Princes Islands, a small archipelago in the Sea of Marmara, and a popular summer retreat for Istanbulites.

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We found there a sheltered cove filled with mussel-covered rocks. We decided to take some home and make a curry with them, as a send-off to Turkey. We leave tomorrow for Yemen.

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This is not a food blog. Nor will it ever be! But these mussels were so delicious that we had to tell you about how awesome they were. Now, I only recently started eating shellfish again. I had kept moderate Kosher for around 12 years, and the seafood finally broke through that dam. In retrospect, I wish I had broken my Kashrut when I lived in Seattle, because their seafood is world-famous. I still don’t eat swine though. That just sounds disgusting.

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We packed a lunch with us, befriended a very happy and friendly dog on the way to the beach, and then swam around until we found a nice rock sticking up from the water, covered in mussels. Whenever a cargo ship would pass by on its way into the Bosphorus, huge waves would come and knock us off the rocks.

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We picked two small bags of them and then lounged around on the shore for a while, hanging with Mr. Dog. The island is a perfect place for dogs; there are no cars, only horse-drawn buggies, and plenty of places to explore and cats to chase.

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We took the ferry back, and sat next to a young Iranian couple from Mashad. I noticed they, too, had a bag of mussels. We started speaking, very slowly and with much gesticulation, as the guy’s English was pretty rudimentary and my Farsi is barely existent. Pleasantries, the numbers etc.  It was funny, because it was clear that his wife spoke English well, but she never spoke to me at all, only whispered in his ear. At first he said, “You [point, point] country??” whisperwhisperwhisper, and then “Where are you from?” We spoke/mimed for a bit, then I said “Ahmedinejad [left thumbs up] or Moussavi [right thumbs up]?” He says “Moussavi! Citizen Iran Ahmedinejad NOOOO. [fierce finger-wagging back and forth]” I replied, “Baleh [yes], I see [two fingers point to eyes] on television [box drawn with fingers] that Ahmedinejad [mime ballot being put into box] take [mime stealing, putting hand into pocket.]”  To which he vigorously nodded, and made the ‘switch’ motion with his hand, as though he was unscrewing the lid of something. I nodded. I like Iranians.

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We scrubbed the mussels till they were free of all the sea-junk they accumulated, which took a while. Then we cooked them in coconut milk, green curry, lime, sauteed onions, red bell peppers, garlic, and ginger. It was freaking awesome.

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Next stop, Yemen.

All photos by Rachael Strecher!

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~ by Josh on September 15, 2009.

4 Responses to “Harvesting Mussels off the Princes Islands”

  1. If you ever want to break into pork, let me know. My mom’s Korean pork BBQ is amazing. And you will realize, pork is not disgusting at all.

    Oh yeah, and illegal bacon wrapped hot dogs in the Fashion District. AMAZING.

  2. You forgot the green curry and lime-both important!

  3. I think its Istanbullus. And the mussel look incredible. I guess you remember them from the Cape. Good travels.

  4. That sounded wonderful – from taking the ferry to getting the mussels to the delicious meal you made with them. I would like to do that. Miss you.

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