How well do you know your kebabs? Unless you were born or travelled extensively in the Middle East, our guess is not well enough. For most Westerners, the word ‘kebab’ denotes the shish kebab, little cubes of grilled meat on a skewer. But there are so many other varieties and Istanbul is one of the best places to try these meaty treats.
Walking down the city's streets you’ll undoubtedly spot huge meat towers on gigantic skewers in the windows of casual eateries. These are called döner kebab, which literally means ‘rotating kebab.’ Döner kebab is usually served in a wrap made from a tortilla-like flat dough with lettuce, tomatoes and sometimes French fries. You can also choose to have it on a plate with rice.
If instead it is combined with yogurt and tomato sauce and laid over a bed of pita bread, then it is called an iskender kebab. Invented in the city of Bursa by a 19th century cook named Haci Iskender, ‘Iskender kebab’ has a reputation for being one of the most delicious meat dishes on earth.
On a typical menu at a kebab restaurant, you will see urfa kebab, adana kebab, kebabs with varieties of eggplants, pistachios, yogurt, tomatoes and so on. The kebab usually refers to the meat patty cooked with tomatoes, onions, peppers and fresh herbs and the different names refer to how they are served.
Urfa kebab, for instance, is a long patty served over pita bread with grilled tomatoes and green peppers on the side. Adana kebab is the spicy version of the same dish. Beyti is the small round patty wrapped with a very fine dough called yufka, and served with yogurt and tomato sauce.
Here are some of the best places to try these kebabs in Istanbul....
Köşebaşı lies tucked away in a side street at a short walk from the heart of the shopping haven of Nişantaşı. Since its foundation in 1995, Köşebaşı has remained a favourite thanks to its fine menu and delicious kebab varieties on offer. Make sure to order share plates to your table to make sure you get a taste of everything from the mezes to the main meat dishes and don’t overlook the delectable desserts! In shades of blue and white, the decor is serene and no fuss as it is clear that all focus and attention is given to the meal.
Bronz Sokak, 5, Maçka, Istanbul, Tel. +90 212 2303 868, www.kosebasi.com
Develi was established in 1912 in the southeastern city of Antep, moving to Istanbul in 1966. Develi is a trusted brand when it comes to kebabs, now boasting seven branches around the city and a food lab with the aim of procuring highest quality ingredients. In its elegant villa in Etiler, Develi serves delicious meat dishes and kebabs, some of which are their own original recipes.
If it is your first time at Develi, you have to have the pistachio kebab which was invented by their founder. Tandır is another specialty dish made of slow-cooked lamb and firik rice. If you like tomatoes, try their Ezmeli Kebab with small pieces of kebab over oven-roasted tomatoes.
Etiler Mh., Tepecik Yolu 22, Istanbul, Tel. +90 212 2632 571, www.develikebap.com
Kaşıbeyaz is located in the green coastal neighbourhood of Yenikoy. Established in 1974, Kasibeyaz is one of the city’s most well-known kebab restaurants delivering to a savvy clientele. Newly transplanted from the city’s Florya area, its glitzy new Bosphorus location seats over 300 people over its three-floor venue which includes open terraces for the summer and Ottoman-inspired halls for the winter.
Delectable meat dishes, kebabs, cheese varieties and traditional meals such as yuvalama and Antep dolma on the menu make it difficult to choose. They also has a chain of baklava pastry shops around town, so make sure you taste some of their incredible desserts before leaving.
Köybaşi Cad. No.10, Yeniköy, Istanbul, Tel. +90 212 4681 717, www.kasibeyaz.com.tr