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The Great Turkish kebab crawl

Monish Gujral Last Updated : 06 Jan 2012 02:08:22 PM IST
Sometimes, best things happen to you when you are least expecting them. The same happened to me a few days ago, when I had to visit Turkey’s capital, Istanbul, for work. Walking by the streets of Istanbul, the birthplace of kebabs, you witness lines of kiosks and restaurants, always filled with gastronomes. Most gorge on Doner Kebabs, spicy beef chops, soft meat rolls, fish pancakes, beef burgers and pizzas, while the health freaks love to gulp the soft tender meat from oyster shells, dampening it with lemon juice.
Turkish cuisine is a heritage of the Ottoman empire. With influences from Middle Eastern Cuisine along with traditional Turik elements such as yogurt, the Turks created a wide array of specialities.
Turkish cuisine varies across the country. Some use fewer spices, while others prefer rice; most like seafood. In the areas around the Black Sea, people extensively consume fish, especially the Black Sea anchovy (Hamsi), and they also eat a lot of maize dishes because of influences from Balkan and Slavic cuisine. Southeast Turkey is famous for its kebabs, mezes and dough-based desserts—for instance Baklava, Kadayif and Kanafeh. In the western parts of Turkey, where olive trees grow abundantly, olive oil is a primary ingredient for cooking. The cuisine of Aegean, Mediterranean and Marmara region is rich in vegetables, herbs and fish.
In Turkey, besides lamb meat, beef and sea food, vegetables are also widely eaten and sometimes a vegetable can also be a main course on a Turkish dining table. When in Istanbul, a visit to the Old Fish Market and the 20-25 restaurants by the street is a must. One of my favourite restaurants is Kalamar. You can savour kebabs, hot and cold mezzes and roasted chestnuts here, along with live music by the gypsies and finish off the hearty meal with a cup or two of Turkish coffee.
Since Turkey is said to be the birthplace of kebabs, I have dedicated this column to some special types of Turkish kebabs. Kebab stands for a variety of meat-based dishes in Turkish cuisine. It not only encompasses grilled or skewered meats, but also stews and casseroles. Here’s a low-down on the varieties of Turkish kebabs:
■ Adana Kebab: Kebab made with hand-minced meat mixed with chilli on a flat wide metal skewer (shish). The kebab is associated with the Adana region and is popular all over Turkey.
■ Ali Pasa Kebab (Ali Pasha Kebab): Cubed lamb, tomato, onion and parsley wrapped in phyllo sheets.
■ Alinazik Kebab: Ground meat kebab sautéed in a saucepan, with garlic, yogurt and eggplants.
■ Bahcivan Kebabi (gardener’s kebab): Boneless lamb shoulder mixed with chopped onions and tomato paste.
■ Beyzok Kebab: Tomato and onion flavoured lamb, wrapped in aubergine slices and garnished with lamb brains.
■ Beyti Kebab: Ground lamb or beef, seasoned and grilled on a skewer. Often served, wrapped in lavas, hand topped with tomato sauce and yogurt. The kebab’s origin can be traced to the famous Beyti Kebab House in Istanbul.
■ Bostan Kebab: Lamb and aubergine casserole.
■ Bugu Kababi (steamed kebab): Cooked in low heat until the meat releases its moisture and reabsorbs it.
■ Cag Kabab: Cubes of lamb is first roasted on a cağ (a horizontal rotating spit and then on a skewer), a specialty of the Erzurum region. It has witnessed rising popularity in recent times.
■ Liver Paper Kebab: A lamb liver kebab mixed with meat and marinated with thyme, parsley and dill .
■ Earthenware Bowl Kebab: Meat and vegetable casserole with eggplant, carrots, shallots, beans, tomatoes and green pepper.
■ Cop Sis (small skewer kebab): A speciality of Seluk and Germencik region. It is made of pounded boneless meat with tomatoes and garlic marinated in black pepper, thyme and oil on wooden skewers.
■ Hukan Kababi (sultan’s kebab): Sliced lamb meat mixed with aubergine purée, basil, thyme and bay leaf.
■ Iskender Kabab: A form of Doner Kebab, it is served with yogurt, tomato sauce and butter. Originated in Bursa, the kebab was invented by İskender Efendi in 1867. He was inspired by the Cag Kebab and turned it from horizontal to vertical.
■ Islim Kabab (steamed kebab): Another version of the Aubergine Kebab.
■ Kagit Kababi: Lamb meat cooked in a paper wrapping.
Kuyu Kababi (pit kebab): Prepared from goat, it is a speciality of Avdin.
■ Kuzu Incik Kababi (lamb shank kebab): Lamb shanks mixed with peeled eggplants and chopped tomatoes, cream, salt and black pepper.
■ Kofte Kebab: Minced lamb meatballs with herbs, often including parsley and mint on a stick, grilled.
■ Orman Kebabi (forest kebab): Lamb meat on the bone and cut in large pieces mixed with carrots, potatoes and peas.

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First chef from India to be invited to Le cordon Bleu to demonstrate in Paris. Monish is credited with the trailblazing turn-around of Moti Mahal, from being a small but iconic presence in Delhi, to becoming a multi-national corporation that is well on its way to defining how the world eats Indian food. A traditionalist, Monish has remained true to the signature dishes that made Moti Mahal a legend, while reinventing the dining experience into one that is exciting and avant garde to suit modern sensibilities.

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