Serious Eats' Culinary Ambassadors check in from time to time with reports on food fare in their homeland or countries of residence. Today, we have two(!) reports on the döner kebap sandwich. —The Mgmt.
Supposedly Invented in Berlin
Although Germany may be more commonly associated with sausages of all kinds, the number one street food that is found everywhere would be the döner kebap sandwich. It may long be an international food, but it was allegedly invented in Berlin. The doner's rise to popularity is an encouraging sign for a nation where immigration is still a debated topic.
Especially since the last two decades, döner stands and shops have supplied this meaty treat all over the cities. For about US$4 to US$5, you can get what is ideally a freshly baked pita bread, filled with sliced spit-roasted meat (around these parts, most commonly turkey), topped with an abundance of lettuce, tomato, onions, cabbage, chili flakes, and garlic-yogurt sauce. The variations are infinite—any combination of ingredients is possible, making it popular among picky eaters and children.
Of course the döner sandwich is hardly a pinnacle of culinary delight or aesthetics, but fresh ingredients can turn it into a whole meal that is a delicious and healthier alternative to most other fast food. You'd have a hard time finding an inner-city workplace where no one is having a döner for lunch, and the sandwich's popularity among late-night party-goers has even led to my city prohibiting the street sale after 1 a.m.
So here's to the humble döner kebap sandwich — looked down upon by Turkish chefs and yet a contribution to our food culture that is beloved by millions.
A Balanced Lunch or a Light Dinner
Since most people think of a juicy bratwurst as a typical German street food, it's easy to overlook an even more popular option for street-side dining: the döner kebap, a Turkish halal sandwich similar to a Greek gyro. For around €3, you get a great balanced lunch or light dinner that beats a simple sausage any day.
The vendor takes a large piece of fluffy flatbread, quickly chars it with some grill-marks, then fills it with meat, veggies, and sauce.
The Kebap (or "kebab") meat is essentially a 2- to 3-foot stack of marinated lamb or chicken (usually chicken around my neck of the woods), layered on a tall skewer, and set to spin in front of a large heating element, which cooks the meat through, and crisps up the edges after each sandwich's filling is shaved off the constantly rotating skewer.
After placing the shaved meat in the pocket of warm, crispy bread, they top it with various vegetables (cabbage, tomatoes, onions), and your choice of 2 sauces: a red spicy sauce and a white garlic sauce, reminiscent of tzatziki.
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