Saturday night. You’ve been out clubbing until late and you’re hungry. What do you want? A kebab! You race to the nearest kebab shop (and it doesn’t matter where you are in the world there is always a kebab shop) and you order your kebab “with the works”.
Within minutes you are holding your kebab, smothered in chilli sauce (or God forbid BBQ sauce) and you find your mouth filling with saliva in anticipation. You’re excited. You know it is going to be the best kebab you have ever had – and it is.
Fast forward to Turkey. You have arrived in Istanbul, ready for adventure. There are historical sites, amazing beaches, gorgeous people – and kebabs. Yes Turkish kebabs. The real thing. You make your way to the first lokanta you come across ready to order your first genuine kebab. With confidence you place your order. They speak English! A bonus. Your table is laden with a basket of bread, a plate of lemon and pickled chilli and a small salad. Am I going to have to pay for all this stuff? Um?
Within minutes a plate is placed before you with a smile. You look at it. What is it? It is not a kebab. It is not what you were expecting. You try to get the waiter’s attention but he is too busy with customers.
What just happened here?
Heads up folks. There are a variety of kebabs available to you in Turkey and each one is unique.
You’ve got the Şiş kebab. This was what I received the first time I ordered a kebab in Turkey. Large cubes of meat threaded onto a skewer and grilled over charcoal. Usually served with grilled domates and biber. Just a warning for you though, keep your wits about you when ordering. If you are not sure check because instead of siğir eti (beef) or piliç (chicken) you may just end up with offal as your meat of choice and nobody wants that to happen.
Then there is the iskander kebab. It’s got the shredded meat (beef or chicken) but the bread is also shredded. What? You might get a side dish of rice and a fresh salad but there will also be yogurt involved and a smothering of butter. Delicious but again … what?
My absolute favourite is an Adana kebab. I love this kebab because it is hellishly hot. Minced meat on a skewer and with some crazy hot spices it is also grilled over the charcoal. Definitely served with pita bread, salad and I suggest a cold glass of ayran to help you digest or you will be a puddle of sweat by the end of the dish.
But we are still trying to find that elusive kebab. You know the one that you have after a night out at home.
“Help me Janey,” you cry fearful of your next meal.
“Fear not gentle traveller. Go forth and get yourself a doner kebab.”
Usually beef, lamb or chicken the doner kebab is slow roasted on a vertical rolling spit. The Turkish doner kebab was invented in Bursa by a cook named Haci in the 19th century. The man was quite obviously a genius but not so much of a genius that he put a copyright on his invention. Nope. He probably died a pauper.
Your doner kebab will consist of shredded pieces of meat wrapped in flat bread. You will no doubt also find tomato, onion with sumac and a pickled chilli or two.
Just don’t ask them for BBQ sauce.
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