Addicted to Döner

Before our arrival in Istanbul, we had no idea how much döner we were about to eat… Ach, who am I kidding? We knew exactly. Scarfing down plate after heaping plate of delicious döner meat was our plan from the very beginning. It’s part of the reason we chose Istanbul in the first place.

Addicted to Döner - Iskender Kebap

We had become addicted to döner during the five years we lived in Berlin. Packed into a bun with salad, and slathered with sauce, the German variation of döner makes excellent hangover food. But in Istanbul, it’s served completely differently. Over the course of our 91 days here, we’ve had to open our minds and mouths to unexpected new döner horizons. Oh, how we have grown!

The vertical, spinning cone of meat is found on nearly every corner throughout Istanbul. The apron-wearing cook slicing off thin strips of meat is a beautiful sight, and just might be the quintessential image of Turkey. If you listen attentively, döner falling onto a plate sounds suspiciously like a chorus of angels. Or like the joyful laughter of children.

Usually, the meat on a döner cone is lamb, but you can also find beef and chicken. The standard plate, a porsiyon, is nothing more than slices of meat served with a bit of salad. You can also get it piled on top of rice. My favorite, though, is the İskender variation, which is a specialty of Bursa. This is döner meat served atop heavily-buttered pita bread, and then drenched in yogurt and tomato sauce. With a helping of french-fries mixed in. I just heard your stomach growl! Don’t be ashamed, mine is growling, too.

Kebap horizontal real flame with man cutting the meat

Another interesting variation is the Çağ Döner, where the meat cone has been laid on its side, and is being rotated over a pit of coals. The cook pierces the meat with long skewers, and then cuts the döner slices directly onto them. This is usually served with flatbread and salad.

For a quick bite, we frequently ordered Dürüm Döner, which is like a döner burrito. Just wrapped up meat with salad and tomato, these cost less than the porsiyon, and provide a good fix when you’re in need.

Ah, döner. I love you, but to be honest, it will be good for our relationship if we take a break for a while. It’s not you, it’s me. I can’t control myself when I’m around you, and fall into fits of violent jealousy when I see others eating you. I want you all to myself. And when I look in the mirror, I don’t like the shivering, smear-mouthed mess staring back at me. So for my own good, farewell. But despair not… I doubt it will be long before we meet again.

Turkish Cookbooks

Huge gyro kebap
Döner Kebap with fries
Iskender Döner Kebap Istanbul with ayran

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Cynthia

    You guys are doing a wonderful job of travel writing! My favorite doner is also the Iskender or Alexander doner, but I don’t think you mentioned the guy who comes along with a big long-handled pan full of sizzling butter and drenches the Iskender–Oh my, it is fabulous!!!!!!!! And started in Bursa it seems, the original is in the courtyard of the Koza Han.Have fun and keep up the great work–somebody has to do it.Cynthia

  2. Mir

    Great food no doubt.  But what leaves a bad taste afterwards is the cooking of the books.  Istanbul restaurants, especially those in tourist areas like Sultanahmet, have mastered the art of overcharging, adding menu items you didn’t order, slipping in a service charge, etc.  If you don’t check your bill item-by-item, you are getting ripped off.  We were in Istanbul earlier this year and this happened every day, without fail!  It got to a stage where I would note down the exact name (in English and Turkish) of every item we ordered along with its menu price so I knew how much the total would come to.  And boy did I catch them red handed. They often tried to charge me for a larger sized (buyuk) version of a dish, e.g., a salad or a pide (Turkish pizza) or add a few drinks to the bill.   I would not let the waiter remove any dish nor drink container from our table until the bill was finalized, so if he charged me for extra drinks I could point to all empty containers and count them for him. If I I caught them this way, they would change their story and convert the extra charges into a 10% service charge. I wish there were more awareness among travelers for such issues. The sad fact is that tourists are getting ripped off everyday and most of them don’t have a clue.  Beware!

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