"Kebab" is another category of food which, like the börek, is typically Turkish dating back to the time when the nomadic Turks learned to grill and roast meat over campfires.

Given the numerous types of kebabs, we see that they are categorized by the way the meat is cooked. Many people know "şiş kebab" and "döner". Şiş kebab is grilled cubes of skewered meat. Döner kebab is made by stacking alternating layers of ground meat and sliced leg of lamb on a large upright skewer, which is slowly rotated in front of a vertical grill. As the outer layer of the meat is roasted, thin slices are shaved off and served.

There are numerous other grilled kebabs including those cooked in a clay oven. It should be noted that the unique taste of kebabs is due more to the breeds of sheep and cattle raised in open pastures by loving shepherds than to special marinades and ways of cooking. Therefore, you should stop at a kebab restaurant in Turkey to taste the authentic item. "Kebapçı" is by far the most common and the least expensive type of restaurant, ranging from a hole in the wall to a large and lavish establishment.

Cağ Kebap / Photo:Gülcan ACAR

Kebab is the traditional Turkish response to fast food and at the same time is not unhealthy for you. A generic kebapçı will have "lahmacun" (meat pide) and "Adana kebab" (spicy, skewered ground meat, named after the southern city where it was born), salad greens with red onions and baklava to top it all off. Beyond that the menu will tell you the specialty of the kebapçı. The best plan is to seek out the wellknown ones and to try the less spicy types if you are not used to kebab. Once you develop a taste for it, you can have inexpensive feasts by going to the neighbourhood kebapçı anywhere in the city.

"Izgara" (grilled) is how the main course dishes are prepared at a meat restaurant. Mixed grills are likely to include lamb chops, "köfte", or "şiş". Köfte or meatballs can be grilled, fried, oven-cooked or boiled, after being mixed with special spices, eggs, and grated onions and carefully shaped into balls, oblongs, or round or long patties. Another popular dish is raw meatballs, inspired by the nomadic Turks who carried spiced, raw meat in their saddles, and is known to Europeans as "steak Tartar". It is made of raw, twiceground meat, by kneading it with thin bulgur and hot spices vigorously for a few hours. Then bite-size patties are made, and served with cilantro, known for its stomach-protecting qualities.

Some restaurants specialize only in grilled meats, in which case they are called meat restaurants. The fare will be a constant stream of grilled meats served hot in portions straight off the grill, until you tell the waiter that you are full.

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