What Kebap To Eat While Visiting Istanbul?

Not coming across a kebap dish while visiting Istanbul is close to impossible. In this article I want to give you some information about the different kebab varieties. Here is already an important tip on how to spot a well-prepared kebab. If the kebab is made masterly, then the meat coated around the skewer should not fall on the ember charcoal. If it falls, this means that either the amount of grease in the mixture or the level of the fire is not accurate to get the real kebab taste.

Picture of a plate of kebap in Istanbul, Turkey.
A plate of kebap in Istanbul. © Photo by Martin

Kebaps find their origin in the eastern and south-eastern cities of Turkey because of their culture mix. These days, you can find plenty of restaurants with several types of meat dishes in Istanbul. The most common kebabs include lamb and beef, whereas chicken on a skewer is very common too in those restaurants. Yet, pork is not used for kebabs because of religious and cultural reservations.

I divided some of the well-known kebab dishes into two, according to the type of meat used.

Kebabs With Minced Meat

Picture of a nice plate of Urfa Kebap served in a restaurant in Istanbul, Turkey.
Urfa kebap. © E4024
  • Adana Kebabı – Lamb meat, tail fat, dried red and green hot pepper and fresh local red pepper are kneaded, brochette mounted on the skewers, charcoal grilled and served on lavaş (tortilla like thin layers of bread) with grilled onion, tomato and green pepper on the side.
  • Urfa Kebabı – Lamb meat, dried red hot pepper, onion, tomato and parsley are kneaded, mounted on the skewers and charcoal grilled. Served on small pieces of pide and dressed with parsley and gravy.
  • Antep Kebabı – Lamb meat is kneaded with dried red hot pepper and salt. The chunks of meat are lined on skewer with either onion, tomato and green pepper or eggplants on the skewer and grilled onion, tomato and green pepper are served on the side. Serving in between pide is also very common.
  • Beyti Kebap – Lamb or beef meat is kneaded with tomato, tomato paste, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper, wrapped in lavaş, oven baked and served in thick slices with tomato sauce and yogurt on top.
  • Patlıcan Kebabı – Lamb thigh meat, salt, pepper and sometimes garlic are kneaded as meatballs, put on the skewer in turns with 2 cm thick chopped pieces of aubergines, charcoal grilled and served with grilled tomatoes and peppers. In some restaurants the same ingredients are oven cooked and served with tomato sauce added gravy.

Kebabs With Pieces of Meat

Picture of a typical plate of Şiş Kebap served in a restaurant in Istanbul, Turkey.
Şiş kebap. © Biso
  • Çağ Kebabı – A dish originates from the north-east of Turkey. Sliced lamb meat and tail fat are marinated in onion, yogurt, salt and pepper for a day, impaled on a spit (çağ) which gives the name to the dish, and vertically charcoal grilled. Thin slices are cut like döner and served on special small skewers with grilled pepper, tomato and onions.
  • Şiş Kebap – Cubes of mostly lamb or beef, chicken and even goat are marinated in onion, yogurt, salt, pepper, olive oil and sometimes tomato paste in the fridge for minimum two hours and charcoal grilled on skewers with cubes of pepper and tomato.
  • Buğu Kebabı – Small pieces of lamb are first briefly roasted with shallot (small onions) and then stove cooked with tomato, thyme, salt, pepper and bay leaves on top in casserole (clay pot) covered tightly with dough in order to keep the steam in.
  • Sebzeli Kebap – Small pieces of lamb are roasted with butter briefly and then oven cooked with lightly fried eggplants, potatoes, carrots, green pepper and grated tomato. In some recipes none of the vegetables are fried, just added to the mixture raw. Broccoli, zucchini, peas and celery are other common ingredients of this dish since it is “vegetable” kebab after all.
  • Kağıt Kebabı – After stove cooking sebzeli kebap (see above), it is wrapped in fireproof paper and cooked some more in the oven . That is why it is called “paper” kebab.
  • Tandır Kebabı – Lamb chops (legs) or a whole lamb are tandoori baked with lemon, onion, tomato and green pepper, served with fried potatoes. Tandır – tandoori is an oven consisting of a clay-lined pit or a large earthen jar buried in.

My Favorite Kebap

And the last but not the least is one of my favorites. I did not put it in the categories above because it can be cooked both with very fine chopped meat and minced meat.

  • Alinazik – Roasted meat is served on top of the mash of broiled and peeled eggplants, yogurt, garlic and spices.

Further Recommended Reading

  1. Know Your Döner Kebap — History Overview and Selected Dishes
  2. Common and Popular Mezes In Istanbul
  3. Our Top Turkish Dishes, the Best of the Turkish Cuisine
  4. Do you have a question? Ask it here!

Last updated on 03/07/2015