Most people assume Turkey is a nation of kebab eaters, but this statement is possibly one of the worst stereotypes that we could label the Turks with. Meat in turkey is not cheap and has been that way for many years, so vegetarian dishes are a staple part of the diet.
Having said that, kebabs have their own corner on the culinary scene with more than 50 versions stemming from the typical donor kebab frequently sold on street corners as fast food to go. Regional aspects and the availability of ingredients have played a large part in diversifying the standard recipe, which has been around for more than 10 centuries.
Different cooking methods such as boiling, stewing or baking also contribute towards the end flavour. Indeed, if you want to explore the kebab scene of Turkey, it is an eye opening experience with a lot of new facts to learn.
7 Tasty Kebab Variations of Turkey
Instead of wrapping the juicy donor lamb meat in durum bread, it is instead stacked strategically over a healthy serving of fresh pide bread and then lathered with a generous serving of yogurt and tomato sauce mixed with melted butter.
Originating from the north-western district of Bursa that was once the Ottoman capital, it takes its name from the inventor who dreamed up the delicious variation in 1867. Such is the roaring success of the Iskender kebab around the country; the family of the inventor has trademarked the name.
Adana or Urfa Kebab:
The highly seasoned Adana kebab is typically served with bulgur wheat and a simple salad of tomatoes, onions and cucumbers. Named after Turkey’s fifth largest city, the simplicity of the accompanying ingredients ensures the seasoning of the Adana kebab still shines through. Ground lamb is combined with a heavy dose of red chilli pepper, coriander and cumin, and then it is moulded and shaped onto a long, flat skewer stick to be grilled slowly over hot flames.
Anyone who prefers fewer spices, devoid of the hot seasoning can instead opt for the Urfa kebab, which is widely similar apart from the hot chilli peppers. With both variations though, anyone eating food on the go, can opt for it to be served in a durum wrap instead of on the plate.
This version of kebab originating from the central Anatolian region is especially renowned for its cooking process which is extremely healthy with no added fat. Lamb or beef combined with tomatoes, onions, peppers, herbs and spices are sealed into a specially made clay pot and cooked at a high heat so that the juices from the ingredients combine.
The clay pot is sealed tightly but can be opened by a sharp knock to the neck. The testi kebab is then served onto the plate with simple white rice. Although the popularity of this kebab has spread to most restaurants throughout the country, it is better known to have stemmed from the Cappadocia region of Turkey.
Cop sis Kebab:
Known as the poor man’s dinner, this version originated from the Aegean coast area around Soke and Ephesus and means “from the garbage”. The name stems from the pieces of lamb meat which are typically small, and consist of fat, therefore being the scrag ends.
Placed on a short, round skewer with tomatoes, onions and peppers and then grilled over a coal fire, it is served to the table with flat bread and a serving of Ayran to drink (mixed yogurt, water, salt.) If you are eating on a budget, this is one dish to look out for. Otherwise, if the menu simply says şiş kebab, it is larger pieces of meat of better quality. Lamb, beef or chicken sis kebabs are widely sold in restaurants that specifically cater for foreigners.
Most foreigners will compare this kebab to a casserole, since it is typically cooked in an earthenware pot. The meat varies from chicken, lamb, beef or fish and the vegetable ingredients include onions, tomatoes and other standard vegetables.
What makes the dish unique however is the inclusion of paprika and eggplant that also leads it to be compared to a ratatouille. This dish although popular throughout Turkey is a common example of the old Ottoman kitchens, in that it stems from many cultural influences including Bulgarian, Croatian and Serbian.
This dish, invented in 1961 after a gentleman called Beyti Guler visited Switzerland to watch their butchers, has become a nationwide favourite associated with the family who still run their restaurant in Istanbul. Seasoned and ground beef or lamb is carefully selected for prime quality before being wrapped in lavash that is tandoori style bread. Grilled over open flames, and served with yogurt and melted butter, spin off variations have also become popular such as the patlican beyti of which the staple ingredient is eggplant.
Lastly a favourite, especially on the Mediterranean coast at restaurants near the ghost village of Kayakoy, lamb tandir kebab is a dish that you will remember for years to come. Whole chucks of meat are wrapped in foil before being lowered into a tandir oven in the ground to cook slowly for hours. The juices penetrate the meat and produce the juiciest and tender cooked lamb that you will ever taste. Served with salad, it is highly unlikely you will even eat that because the eagerness to order seconds is overwhelming.
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