We love hamsi. If you've been a visitor here since last January you know this. You know that we journeyed to Turkey's Black Sea coast in the middle of winter just to eat hamsi -- anchovies -- at the source.
We're back in the region but still inland, in Kastamonu. Yet we've already had our first taste of the Black Sea's beloved cold season bounty, thanks to a few generous balıkçı (fish sellers).
What is it with Turkish guys who sell fish? They see you snap a photo or two of their product and they want to feed you.
When this bunch at the Sunday market in Kuzeykent, just outside Kastamonu city, saw Dave photographing the basket of beautiful hamsi perched over the grey coal ash in their grill one of them grabbed a thick piece of bread, loaded it up with cooked specimens from the pile on their dining table (opening shot), squeezed over some lemon juice and handed the lot over.
The fish were delicious, perhaps better even than those we ate at our fish seller friend Mert's shop in Sinop nine months ago. It's early in the season and hamsi are still small; these specimens were no longer than our little fingers. Their bones are still tender -- entirely, easily edible. We popped the fish into our mouths whole, though our new balıkçı friends carefully stripped the backbones from theirs.
After we finished our first shared slice of hamsi bread (köy ekmeği or village bread, from a dense, chewy wheat flour -based loaf baked in a wood-fired oven) the cooks threw strips of roasted red peppers onto a second open-faced hamsi sandwich. When a third was offered we had to beg for mercy.
This man, a regular at the market who -- like us -- was drawn from a far corner to this fish stall by the scent of hamsi cooking over an open fire, was happy to take up the slack.