What pretzels are to New Yorkers, simit are to Istanbulians, who buy them from street stalls all day long and munch them between appointments.
They are at least 600 years old—Topkapı Palace documents from 1593 include bulk orders for simid-i halka (round simits). They have entered the language of metaphor. A Turk who hates his job will say: ‘I’d be better off selling simit ’. Protesters trying to dissuade police from breaking up a demonstration will shout: ‘Sell simit and leave with honour.’
There are bakeries that cook nothing but simit —in wood-fire ovens, of course, at 300°C (570°F/ Gas 10+). And there are cafés, usually with titles such as ‘Palace of Simit’, that serve them with melted cheese, tomato and other unnecessary additions. Personally, I would never sit down to eat simit, and I would never cook them at home if I was in Istanbul. But outside my homeland, you need a recipe.