In search of simits

When I traveled to Istanbul I was totally enchanted. Aside from the dreamy, dusty city, the food was fantastic and totally vegan friendly. But one item in particular captured my attention, probably because they were so ubiquitous and affordable: "simits," these round, kinda-crispy, sesame covered breads that you can find everywhere. Vendors sold them everywhere out of large baskets, and you could see students, tourists, and little old ladies eating them happily with butter or cheese and a cup of the ubiquitous sweet tea.

Here in Berlin, with a substantial Turkish population we also have plenty of simits. I could buy one for less than a euro at any given shop or at market places, where they are piled into huge stacks alongside other Turkish breads. (I often eat them with fancy mustard like a pretzel, as a German twist.) However, I really want to make them myself! First, because I want to make a bunch to eat all week since they keep well, and second, because I want to have a handy recipe for those times I'm not in Berlin or Istanbul, or to share on the vegan interwebs.

So the other day, I interrogated a vendor for his secret recipe, as carefully as possible given my crap German. It went something like this:
Me: Hello, these are simits, yes? I have allergic. Do they eggs inside have?
Vendor: No, naturally not, no eggs.
Me: Do they milk have?
Vendor: No, these are simits, they aren't made with milk.
Me: So, then, water, flour, and.... yeast? Or bake powder? I want have cooked them at my house.
Vendor: Very complicated recipe, better just to buy some from me, all fresh.

Hmmph. The woman at the store downstairs (which also sells them) gave me a similar run-around, and seemed a little pissed that I wouldn't just buy one. So, before alienating more people, now I've resorted to baking small batches of recipes I find online, and so far I've reached a few conclusions:

1. Definitely yeast and not baking powder.
2. The outside is brushed or dipped in something sticky to make all the sesame seeds stick, and its not soymilk.

Above you see the first attempt, which was definitely tasty with black tea but not quite right and missing the requisite deep brown crust. I have a feeling that it could be a few drops of pomengranate syrup diluted in water, from some vague references. Anyways, the simit mystery is not solved yet, but I will keep at it, until I can enjoy a lovely vegan treat with tea and soy margarine without leaving the house. (Lofty goals there, I admit it.)

Well, if any of you readers are aware of a perfect simit recipe out there, let me know. If not, I'll keep laboring after them myself, which I'll admit, is not all that bad of a way to spend an afternoon.


Robin said...

I hate to tell you this, but as someone who lived in Turkey as a vegan I feel like I should. Simits are not vegan. They are made with milk. I have never seen them made without milk, although I am sure you could substitute the milk with soy milk. I'd be happy to send you my Anne (Turkish for mother) recipe if you'd like! :)

jd said...


I love your interpretation of the conversation you had about the simits (which I've never heard of before, by the way!).

When I was living abroad, I was just headed toward vegetarianism, so I didn't run into too many language/ingredient barriers, although I can definitely empathize. In fact, sometimes I think no one else speaks English around here when I see the crazy "vegan" results that end up on my plate! Hmph!

T said...

Hey Robin,

Yeah, I thought so too! But everyone I've asked here has told me they don't have milk. Maybe they are made with milk in turkey but not Berlin? I don't get it... this is why its a mystery! Thanks for the comment...

Amey said...

oh my gosh, you are THE BEST. I love this post! those little babies look super tasty, and I loved the transcribed conversation. Ha ha. That's like me with my rapidly deteriorating Italian skills. Keep us posted on your recipe experiments!

Jennifer (It Ain't Meat, Babe) said...

I can see how this would be frustrating! "It has almost no ingredients! It's very complicated!"

Mike Carner said...

Here is a link to a Simit recipe. http://www.azcookbook.com/turkish-sesame-ring-simit/ It is supposed to be authentic and it is vegan. I have never had them before but am interested in making them now. Thanks for posting about these.

Michelle said...

Hahaha, I love your German conversation (German is hard!!) Good luck on your Simit journey, they sound delicious!

Mihl said...

Your simit Kringel look good!!!

The simits I can get in Dresden are sweet and they are not vegan. Pre-vegan I wanted to eat them with hummus and well, that didn't taste so good. I made my own and there is a recipe on my blog. But I made them with a sourdough starter. So it's not a traditional recipe. If you still want to have a look, you can find them in the recipe index.
And I can totally relate...I hate these kind of conversations.

T said...

Hey Mike, that recipe looks a lot better than any of the other one's I've found online, I'll definitely try it out!

And Mihl, I should have known that you would have tackled this one! That's funny that the Dresden simits are sweet, I wonder if people were just lying to me here about them being vegan? Not like I would know, with my sub-par German. :P

Anonymous said...

Simits are so good - loved them pregan, but my former neighbour did make them for me once using soy milk & they were so good. They were also sweet. I was going to suggest Mihl's recipe, but I see she already did that!