Cooked on a rotisserie or spit, doner kebabs – where doner literally means ‘turn around’ – are made primarily from lamb meat. However, chicken and veal doners are also popular now. The meat is spiced and salted, then grilled on an open flame. The kebab itself can be served with rice or bread, and a selection of salad and sauces.
Some 40 years ago – food historians differ on this – two Turkish men decided to adapt the dish for on-the-go eaters and put the meat, along with lettuce, tomato and onions, in a pita pocket and the doner kebab as we know it today was invented.
It has since become the go-to food for late night revellers and those looking for a quick bite.
The Oszar Turkish Doner House in Centaurus Mall is one of the city’s first doner kebab outlets and offers both traditional servings of the meat and the more contemporary version with the kebab sandwiched in flatbread.
The restaurant offers both chicken and veal doners, and also Veal Iskender, which is a mix of spiced lamb and veal, said to be one of the bestselling items on the menu.
The well-roasted slivers of hand-carved meat are placed on a bed of tandoori roti, soaked in light gravy. The meat comes garnished with green chillies and a dollop of rich, creamy Greek yogurt.
A forkful of the dry meat, yogurt, and gravy soaked bread releases a medley of flavours and will leave you wanting more. The veal Iskender is also served with butter rice and diners can chose between mildly spiced or hot and spicy meat.
The perfectly spit-grilled veal, lamb and chicken comes with a side order of thick cut potatoes, fried with the skin on and then dusted with spices .
Every order comes with a complimentary plate of salad. Diners can chose from diced, boiled potatoes marinated in red chillies and other spices, a simple macaroni salad, a thinly-cut garden salad, pickles, beetroot, salsa and a Russian salad.
At the salad bar one can find the Shakshoka, a Turkish salad that features fried eggplant slices immersed in a marinade of sautéed tomatoes, garlic, green chillies, and ginger. Brimming with flavour, the Shakshoka packs a punch of garlic but does not over power the taste buds.
Zaigham Shah, a young man enjoying doner kebabs with his friends, told Dawn: “I just came back from Germany and was going through a serious doner withdrawal before I found this place. The doners here are even better than the German ones and much cheaper too.”
His friend, Qaiser Jamal, joined in, saying, “I have had doners in Istanbul and the kebabs here taste the same. I absolutely love the hot veal Iskender.”
Babagoosh, a doner kebab house in Safa Gold Mall, also offers a variety of breads to go along with the meat.
The Pita Doner is a pocket of pita bread filled with kebab meat, cucumbers, onions and tomatoes, with a choice of sauces.
The Durum doner is lamb, beef or chicken meat, rolled in a thin, tortilla-like bread that is surprisingly light. The meat is coupled with yogurt and thinly cut, crispy vegetables.
The Turkish doner, on the other hand, is for those looking for a more filling meal. The meat comes swaddled in Turkish bread which is like a naan, but thicker and crispier. The meat lies in a medley of herbs and vegetables and can be dressed in mayonnaise or yogurt.
For a complete Turkish experience, order Ayran with your doner, a sweet or salty lassi that chases down the hot chilli in your garlic sauce. Or head over to a Turkish stall next to Babagoosh that serves Salep.
Salep tea is a thick, creamy hot beverage that tastes flowery, a bit like hot, liquid custard. Sold out of shiny urns, by a man wearing a traditional Turkish red vest and cap, Salep tea is made from the flour of a wild orchid’s bulbs. A nice change from hot chocolate and chai, it is made of thickened milk, Salep flour, honey, dry nuts and is served with a dusting of cinnamon on top.
Salep is also used to make the famous Turkish dondurma ice-creams, which are served by the same stall.
The dondurma served at the Salep stall comes in many flavours including chocolate, vanilla, pistachio, strawberry and a mix of all flavours. It doesn’t run down the cone and is sweeter than usual ice cream and rougher as well.
Published in Dawn, November 16th, 2015
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