When speaking about Turkish food, the first thing they mention is kebap. It is the most globally recognized dish, the kebap. Each region of Turkey has its type of kebap, making it the country with the highest number of kebap varieties. In addition, kebap is a widely referred name for various meat dishes derived from the Middle East.
What is kebap?
The word Kebap derives from the Sumerian term “Kabuba,” which means to char and is used in Arabic and Turkish to denote a meat dish. A kebap is cooked over or next to a flame and can include large cuts of meat, as well as ground meat. Traditionally, the meat used to make Turkish kebaps is lamb, but today kebaps can be made of beef, chicken, and fish. In addition, some Turkish kebaps will consist of vegetables combined with meat, such as eggplant, tomato, peppers, and onions. Kebaps can be served on a plate, as a sandwich, or even in a wrap.
The origin of kebap goes back to many different places, which may explain why the spelling of the word “kebap” is written differently. It is believed that the original Turkish “kebap” is the Çağ Kebap from Erzurum in the eastern Anatolian region of Turkey. It was mentioned in one of the Ottoman travel books dating back to the 18th Century. This delicious dish has had such an impact on Turks that it continues to be a widely popular dish in almost every restaurant across the country.
There are at least 110 different kebaps in Turkey, and each one has its unique taste. I will discuss the ten most popular Turkish kebaps that everyone should try at least once!
The most common kebap you will see is the Adana Kebap which originates from the Adana region. This region of Turkey is called the east-Mediterranean kebap belt, which consists of Adana, Mersin, and Tarsus.
It is made of finely minced lamb meat, salt, and Turkish red pepper flakes. The meat is molded into patties, wrapped around the skewer, and cooked over a wood fire. Adana Kebap tends to be spicier (from the red pepper) than any other type of kebap made in Turkey. It is served with grilled vegetables and bulgur pilaf.
- Here is the Adana Kebap recipe.
Cağ Kebap, as I mentioned earlier, is known to come from the city of Erzurum and is believed to be the original kebap of Turkey.
Cağ is made from lamb meat cooked on a horizontal rotisserie before being sliced off and grilled on a skewer. It is made with thin cuts of fatty lamb meat marinated for 24 hours in salt, black pepper, and sweet onions before being cooked skewered on a horizontal spit. The meat is caramelized and served with lavaş (pronounced – lavash) or flatbread and grilled peppers.
- Here is Cag Kebap recipe.
Iskender Kebap is known to originate in the Bursa region. It officially claims to invent the genius vertical doner, attributing it to Mehmetoglu Iskender Effendi, a Bursa city butcher from the 19th Century. He turned the Cağ Kebap vertically and served it with yogurt and butter.
The thin slices of meat are served over cubes of freshly baked pide bread, topped with tomato sauce, and accompanied by yogurt, which is then doused in sizzling butter at the table.
- Here is Iskender Kebap recipe.
In the Hatay region of Turkey, you will find the Tray Kebap. It is made with minced meat spread on a tray with potato slices and vegetables placed on top of the meat. Then, a layer of tomato sauce is added and cooked in the oven.
- Here is a Tray Kebap recipe.
TAVUK ŞIŞ KEBAP (Chicken Shish Kebap)
One of the most popular kebaps in Turkey is Chicken Shish Kebap. The dish consists of cubes of chicken that are marinated, then skewered and grilled. The chicken breast is marinated in yogurt, milk, and tomato paste. Most commonly served with bulgur pilaf, grilled tomatoes, and green peppers.
- Here is the Chicken Shish Kebap recipe
TAVUK ŞIŞ KEBAP
When you ask Turks where in Turkey is the best place to visit for some of the best Turkish food, they will usually point you in the direction of Gaziantep in the Southeastern Anatolia region.
Eggplant Kebap is a popular and well-known dish in this region. It consists of eggplants, meatballs made from ground beef, garlic, onion, red pepper flakes, black pepper, and salt. The eggplant is cut into thick slices arranged in a round pan with meatballs between each piece. In the middle of the pan are tomato halves and pearl onions. A mixture of salt, olive oil, and tomato sauce is poured over the top. Cover the dish and bake. It is typically served with rice pilaf and lavaş.
- Visit the website for the recipe.
Testi Kebap (Pottery Kebap)
Unique to the Cappadocia and the Black Sea region is the Testi Kebap. It is an elaborate mix of lamb (or beef) and vegetable stew that is cooked in a clay pot (“testi” means jug in Turkish) over a fire. The pot seal is generally broken at your table, right before eating. This is undoubtedly a fun experience to enjoy while dining!
- Here is Testi Kebap recipe.
The most widely recognized type of kebap is the Şiş (pronounced shish – in Turkish) Kebap, also known as the Çöp şiş. The translation of the Çöp şiş means “garbage meat.” This may not sound tasty, but it has become one of the most popular kebaps.
It consists of scraps of meat marinated in garlic, tomatoes, and thyme before being placed on a wooden skewer and cooked over a grill. Depending on where you are in Turkey, the meat may be marinated in vinegar. This dish is generally served with grilled peppers and onions over a bed of rice or wrapped in lavaş. In addition to beef or lamb, you will also find chicken skewers.
- Here is the Şiş Kebap recipe.
CIĞER KEBAP (Liver Kebap)
I have not tasted Ciğer Kebap, but many locals love this dish. This kebap is made from portions of lamb livers, diced and marinated with herbs, and grilled on a skewer, served with bread and a salad.
- Here is the Ciğer Kebap recipe.
Çökertme Kebap is known in the Muğla province. Çökertme is the name of a village in Milas where it is believed this dish originated.
It is made from marinated veal strips seasoned with cumin, chili pepper, onion, and thyme and served over shoestring potatoes covered in tomato sauce and a dash of yogurt. Sometimes you will see potato chips used instead of shoestring potatoes. The Kebap dish has a much lighter taste than the other kebaps.
- Here is Çökertme Kebap recipe.
I love traveling throughout Turkey to experience the specialty dishes of that region. So, now that you know the different types of kebaps, it’s time to visit Turkey!
Enjoy your travels! Please read my blogs about other exciting places around the world at Traveling Lens Photography.