Turkish Food – Kuzu Tandır (Lamb Tandir)

We’ve been wanting to do a post on the sheer delight that is lamb tandır for a long time but I always forget to take a photo of it whenever we’re at Cin Bal in Kayaköy. As soon as the tandır arrives at the table, we all dive straight in there; testament to how good this dish is I guess.

When we were at Cin Bal a few days ago with friends, I finally remembered to have my camera ready before our forks did battle in the communal pan, trying to pierce every last morsel of meat.

Lamb Tandır

A highlight of any meal

Unless you’re vegetarian, of course, lamb tandır is a must when you’re in Turkey – just look out for the boards outside restaurants advertising ‘Kuzu Tandır’. Red meat is not cheap in Turkey but it really is worth treating yourself to this lamb, even if you only get yourself a tiny sample. Most places sell it by weight, so you can choose the size of your serving. At Cin Bal, we usually order half a kilo between 4 people and eat it along with our meze dishes as a starter.

As you can probably tell from the photo, lamb tandır is lamb shanks that have been cooked very slowly over a period of hours, resulting in soft, tender meat that falls away from the bone. In days gone by, the lamb was cooked in an underground oven (a tandır) but these days, restaurants are using more conventional ovens.

If you visit Cin Bal, look out for their tandır oven inside the restaurant. They have a huge brick oven that’s heated by coals, built into the wall. Once the lamb is cooked, it’s stored in iron trays under the oven and then served to order on hot plates.

I always resist temptation because I know it can’t be good for you, but people like my dad love to mop up the juices with bread once we’ve all polished the meat off. Would you be able to resist the temptation?

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  1. Would I be able to resist the temptation?


  2. @ omentide: I guess that just about sums it up then. 🙂 I do look longingly at it and then tell myself it won’t be ‘juice’ once it’s cooled down.

  3. Oh, I was hoping for a recipe! 🙁 Looks so delicious and we love lamb in this house. Yum!

  4. @ Ping: Awww, sorry to disappoint you. If we ever do get round to making our own, it would be a Christmas treat or something like that. Maybe this Christmas…you never know… 🙂

  5. We love Cin Bal but we do make our own here and in UK. Shoulder of lamb works well, we wrap in foil after removing the fat to our liking, sprinkle with olive oil plenty of salt and pepper and a dash of wine. Two layers of foil to make a parcel very hot oven for quarter hour then reduce to 140/150 leave for two hours check and rewrap if not ready maybe another hour at 130/140. We like to see the meat starting to brown then release the foil return to the oven to crisp up a little more and the juices reduce and stick to the lamb. Thats roughly what we do but everyone will have a favouite way.

  6. It looks butter tender and delicious!!

  7. @ Anonymous: Lovely to have it all prepared for you too,though. Saves on gas and electricity. 🙂 If we have lots of people round at Christmas, we may treat ourselves. Thanks for the recipe.

    @ Nisrine: It’s ridiculously tender. So good with a blob of yoghurt on the side.

  8. I have never seen that round here. Will give it a go when I am there. Beginning to fill up a note book from all the stuff on your blog.

  9. @ Natalie: Wow, you’ve amazed me. Thought tandır would be everywhere. When are you in these parts, then?

  10. Hi Julia, I am starting off in Kemer next week and just working my way to Fethiye and Dalaman as and when. Got fed up planning everything. So maybe in Fethiye around the middle of October.

  11. I remember I loved lamb in Turkey, it was tender and very tasty, while I didn’t really like it in Dublin and London, probably because their lambs are very big and less tender. Turkish food is great, in Shanghai I was undoubtedly the best customer of a Turkish restaurant aptly named Anadolu!

  12. @ Natalie: We get bored of planning too. Well guess what – we may miss you, unless your plans fluctuate. We’re in Istanbul for about 4-5 days middle of Oct. Hopefully, we’ll get to meet…! 🙂

    @ Angela: Yeah, good name for a Turkish restaurant – in any country. 🙂 I think Turkish lamb is good because of the cuts. Completely different to the UK and probably Ireland, too.

  13. Are you trying to kill me? This tandır looks so tempting! I can imagine how tender it is. We say, as soft as Turkish delight for sunch kind of tender meat. It’s been a long time since I had a well cooked kuzu tandır. Drooling in front of the screen!

  14. @ Zerrin: It’s sooo good from Cin Bal. Thanks for the Turkish delight info. We’ll use that to impress our friends, next time we have it. 🙂

  15. Anonymous says

    The best place on earth to eat kuzu tandır is Tire. Tire is a small city of Izmir. Tandır is a traditional food in Tire and I believe it is way cheaper. And you MUST try tandır çorbası-soap. It is unique. Let me know when you want to visit Izmir, I will help you 🙂

  16. @ Anonymous: Thank you for the comment and for the extra information. Much appreciated. 🙂 Wow, the tandır çorbası sounds amazing – just the type of food we like. We’ll add Tire to our list of places to see in Turkey, now. 🙂

  17. Kuzu Tandir is my absolute favourite Turkish dish. Cin Bal’s is amazing, especially with the village yoghurt and a shake of salt. My dog used to look longingly at us when the tandir arrived (he used to come to Cin Bal’s too and feast on bones). You’ve got me imagining I can taste it. Oh I feel so far away!

  18. Judy Kellett says

    We had some lovely tender roast lamb that looked a lot like this: they sold it to us as “firin kebab” and we liked it so much at lunchtime we came back and had it again for dinner. I declined salad so they sent it out with the most glorious set yoghurt in a little terracotta baking dish, nigella seeds on the top. It was glorious!

    • Hi Judy. Thanks a lot for your comment. Yeah, the Turkish word for oven is fırın. Lamb tandır has been baked in the oven over a lot of hours. The lamb is so tender isn’t it – and always great served with yoghurt. A happy memory for you it seems. 🙂

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