We have all enjoyed kebabs of various sorts back home, including lamb (shish), beef, and chicken. I have even had fish, cheese, fruit, vegetable, and tofu kebabs in some places around the world. But what really is a kebab?
In the Middle East, Asia, and the Muslim world, a kebab is any variety of grilled meats, usually on a skewer, but not always. The meat on the kebab can be ground, cut, or cubed, and may include anything that can be grilled. But rarely pork due to religious reasons. One of my favorites is the doner kebab, available throughout the world, but particularly good in this part of the world.
The “Adana” kebab is quite popular here. It is made of ground beef or a combination of ground beef and lamb. Quite commonly, onion, garlic and Turkish spices are added. Then they are packed by hand onto large, flat, metal skewers. The fat helps bind the meat together on the skewer.
A cook from Bursa is credited with the invention of the doner kebab. It is quite different from the doner, which can be found throughout Europe. Both generally are roasted over a rotating grill or rotisserie. From Istanbul food: In Turkey, the word kebap extends to include any of these dishes that are cooked over, or next to, a flame. It includes both small and large cuts of meat, as well as ground meat. Kebab in Turkey can be served on plates (known as porsiyon), in sandwiches, or even in wraps (known as durum).
Traditionally, the meat used to make Turkish kebabs is lamb. However, as individual tastes evolved, and regional specialties developed, other popular meats used in Turkish kebabs have extended to include beef, chicken and fish. Using vegetables in kebabs has also always been popular in Turkey, and most commonly you’ll find varieties of kebab made with eggplant, tomato, peppers and onion.
It is generally accepted that the first kebabs in Turkey originated from the Erzurum province in Eastern Turkey, as cağ kebab; with meat stacked and cooked on a spit horizontally, rather than vertically as today’s döner kebabs are. These kebabs are first mentioned in Ottoman travel books dating back to the 18th century. The ‘father’ of the modern döner kebab, Iskender Efendi, then wrote that he and his grandfather “had the idea of roasting the lamb vertically rather than horizontally”, and invented a vertical rotisserie. It is this dish that is today most commonly recognized throughout the world as ‘kebab’.
My favorite is, of course, the grilled lamb cubes, that we know back home as shish kebab, from our wonderful Armenian friends in the Valley. My Mom learned to make the shish, along with several dishes, from the Armenian ladies in her Tuesday night bridge club.
Most interesting to compare these kebabs to the ones back home. I love kebabs. I grew up on kebabs. My Mom had a great recipe form one of her Armenian bridge ladies. It was the best!