Lakerda: Istanbuls Salty, Fishy Soul
The fatty torik the Turkish name for a large, mature Atlantic bonito, similar to the little tunny courses the straits of the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles for just a short period each year in November and December. Yet the people of Istanbul eat it year-round by preserving the fish in a light brine, something it seems they have been doing for millennia the Byzantines even minted coins with an image of the fish. Making lakerda is more than a means to preserve bonito for the rest of the year, however; its part of the citys culinary instinct.
Around 5 a.m. one recent morning in Yenikap?, yellow rubber boots were piled high in front of the one serene spot on the sprawling grounds of the Municipal Fish Auction. Inside the Fishermans Mosque, 70 or 80 men were saying their prayers after a long frenzy on the Bosphorus. These fishermen had brought in the winters first haul of torik the seasons most valuable catch. As they sat whispering their prayers, the ecosystem of middlemen was churning with negotiations that would ensure the passage of these fish from the long hangar at the seafront into local fish markets and restaurants throughout the city. Outside the mosque, vans marked with the citys top fish restaurants filed into the damp dark parking lot, which was littered with Styrofoam fish coolers, and the place began to smell less like fish and more like money.
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