We know there’s so much more to Turkish cuisine than the döner kebab (there’s more than enough evidence of that throughout this blog). And we know there are lots of different street foods available throughout the country to tantalise our taste buds. Tantuni kebab springs to mind, nohutlu pilav, ıslak hamburger, we could go on…
And once you’ve had a döner kebab in Turkey, that’s it, right? A döner kebab’s a döner kebab isn’t it? Noooo, that is not the case. You can get some mediocre, disappointing versions where the ‘meat’ isn’t meat, or the bread’s not quite right, or it’s too greasy, not quite warm enough, not enough filling, limp salad…
These are all the little complaints that pop into the mind of the person who lives in Turkey and becomes a connoisseur of Turkey’s most famous street food. Because we’ve never had a bad one, to be truthful. But, when you get a good one…when you get a good one, you know why the döner kebab is so treasured.
Is This The Best Döner Kebab We’ve Eaten In Turkey?
The photo above is of Hisar Büfe kebab stand on Fevzi Paşa Bulvarı in Izmir. If you remember from our post about how to get to Kızlarağası Hanı, we said you pass a fantastic kebab place. Well, this is it. Small, unassuming, chairs right next to the main road. There are a few stands along this stretch, so why did Hisar Büfe catch our eye?
Well, we fell for a little gimmick. Hisar Büfe has döner kebabs served with Mexican sauce, Italian sauce and you can choose between bazlama or pita bread. Most importantly, the chicken and the lamb looked to be good quality, so we allowed ourselves to be intrigued by these sauce additions.
We took our seats, ordered an ayran and two karışık döner kebabs (a mixture of both lamb and chicken), one with Italian sauce and one with Mexican sauce. The intention was to cut them in half and swap then we could try a bit of each. Now at this point, let’s lose the gimmick. The kebabs arrived and we had a bite of each. Both had liberal sprinklings of chilli flakes – just to our liking – so our döner kebabs didn’t taste much different to each other.
But that’s no bad thing! Outside of Istanbul, our favourite karışık döner kebab is created by the wonderful Yengen in Fethiye. These guys genuinely deserve the title Usta (master) but they never use it. They’ve got nothing to prove. They’ve just been quietly going about their business for years and never fail to disappoint their loyal customers. And then we bit into these döner kebabs, hailing from Izmir.
Generously filled with, not slithers, but thin slices of lamb and chicken. Lamb and chicken that was charred on the outside yet juicy and succulent in the middle and coated in the spicy sauce. Mexican or Italian, who cares? Fresh, crunchy salad – not too much, just enough – and a slice of tomato (one slice of huge Turkish tomato is enough) complemented the meaty filling perfectly.
All About The Bread
But then there’s the döner kebab’s important outer casing – the bread! We opted for the ‘pita’ – an airy bread that was lightly toasted on both sides before the filling was added. Warm, and crispy but soft in the middle. And then those all important words escaped my lips. “This is better than the Yengen döner kebab.”
Did I really mean that or were we just caught up in the moment? We went to Yengen a couple of weeks back and ordered a karışık döner kebab. I bit into it and those all important words escaped my lips. “I take it back. This is the best döner kebab.”
Who knows which is the best döner kebab?
What it all boils down to is that, when you sink your teeth into a quality one, you float into street food bliss and fall in love all over again with the Turkish favourite, döner kebab…