Bored of Your Breakfast? Try Turkish Bagels at Simit and Smith

June 11, 2015 6:25 pm Last Updated: September 8, 2015 7:34 am

If you find classic bagels and pretzels too uneventful with the same monotonous consistency, freshly made simits, better known in NYC as the Turkish bagels, are the business at Simit and Smith.

So what exactly is a simit? Think of a circular pretzel with a crunchy exterior and fluffier, bagel-like interior, but crusted with sesame seeds. The juxtaposition of crunchiness and softness will make any texture eater flutter with excitement.

With the hopes of creating a stronger association with traditional Turkish culture, Simit and Smith’s executive chef and director of operations, Jay Son, is introducing a brand new menu with sandwiches, salads, spreads, and dips. There are simit loafwiches like the Baba Kuzu with lamb, babaganoush, sweet pepper spread, and mixed greens; and Tahini Avocado with plenty of vegetables, spinach spread and spicy tahini. The spread and dip program features notable mentions like the chives and garlic cream cheese; herbed cream cheese with oregano and thyme; hummus; and spinach artichoke.

Jay Son, executive chef  and director of operations  at Simit and  Smith. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
Jay Son, executive chef and director of operations at Simit and Smith. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

As a whole, the new menu is centered around traditional Turkish ideas and concepts with a focus on clean healthy eating. For example, the Istanbul Cobb is a spin on the classic Cobb salad with grilled chicken, raw corn, raw beets, feta, smoked eggplant, avocado, and chili tomato dressing. As you can see, it’s not just about carbs. The new menu has something available for everyone to enjoy.

 Istanbul Cobb with with grilled chicken, raw corn, raw beets, feta, smoked eggplant, avocado, and chili tomato dressing. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
Istanbul Cobb with with grilled chicken, raw corn, raw beets, feta, smoked eggplant, avocado, and chili tomato dressing. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

These Turkish bagels found their way to Manhattan nearly three years ago when Simit and Smith opened its first location on the Upper West Side. Having pioneered the simit movement in the city, Simit and Smith is responsible for around 75 percent of the simit found in Turkish restaurants and groceries here in New York City.

We had a chance to sit down with Son to talk about the difference between simit and the classic New York-style bagels, the origin of simit, and cream cheese.

Epoch Times: Why should New Yorkers try simit and Turkish Tea and Turkish coffee rather than the classic New York bagels and coffee?

Jay Son: To start, simit has fewer calories. It has a sesame crust for extra texture, for the crunchiness. The inside of a simit is not nearly as dense as a bagel, so it has a lighter chew. Traditionally it is enjoyed with Turkish tea, a black tea brewed with loose tea leaves and mixed with hot water upon serving for stronger to weaker taste.

Turkish coffee is special because it’s not traditional, it’s not a coffee but more of a way of preparation. Because it’s got the grind in there, it creates a heavier coffee flavor. Coffee beans are finely ground and boiled, extracting the flavor and creating a foam that is the highlight of all Turkish coffee connoisseurs.  All of the coffees that we serve here are on the heavier side with bolder flavors—we don’t like to serve light coffee at all.

Turkish coffee. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
Turkish coffee. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

Epoch Times: Any other notable features of simits?

Mr. Son: Well, simit originated as street food in Istanbul, in Turkey, during the Ottoman Empire. It’s a staple of everybody’s day. People walk to the simit stand and pick up one or two rings and eat it as they go. Usually its eaten plain but it can be served with some type of cheese like feta or kasseri, fruit jams, butter, or even black olive tapenade.

The way we’ve been serving our simit is with a spread and dip program with hummus, babaganoush, red pepper feta spread, spinach artichoke, and, of course, our cream cheeses. What we’re really focusing on right now is our cream cheese program.

We have the greatest cream cheese in the world, I believe. We get it from Zingerman’s, and we hand-mix the cream cheese flavors here in-house. The good thing about Zingerman’s cream cheese is that it’s an old school traditional recipe, so it’s fresher, lighter, smoother and tangier with no added preservatives, flavors, or vegetable gum. It’s pretty exclusive. We’re the only ones in New York who get cream cheese from Zingerman’s.

Epoch Times: How did you come up with these flavors?

Mr. Son: I spent some time in Turkey. When I was there, I wrote down all interesting flavors that cream cheese can be made into. Thyme and oregano are very commonly used in Turkish cuisine so I figured, why not? We should have an herb cream cheese with thyme and oregano.

So far, the herb cream cheese is my favorite.

Eventually, we’ll have seasonal specials. For example, strawberry or blueberry cream cheese in the summer time. Maybe pumpkin spice for the fall. But for now, we’re focusing on the basics.

Epoch Times: How have people reacted to first trying out simits?

Mr. Son: Not a lot of people know what a simit is. Unless you’re from the Mediterranean area you won’t know what it is. Otherwise a lot of people are confused by what it is, which is why we have to call it a Turkish bagel to relate and compare it to something New Yorkers can recognize. Someday New York will recognize the name simit. I mean, if you go to Turkey, you can’t just walk in there and be like, “Can I get a Turkish bagel?” They’ll just look at you like you’re crazy. Simit is a part of the culture in Turkey and the Mediterranean and it’s always great to see a guest walk in excited to see something so staple to their lives overseas, that reminds them of home.

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