5 of the world's best kebab joints
Kebabs: the food of ancient Ottoman emperors, Persian courts and, in recent times, inebriated persons.
In much of the Western world, particularly Europe, the kebab has become the must-have meal for all variety of people falling out of pubs and clubs between the hours of 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.
This couldn’t be further from the situation in the Middle East. Here, grilled meat served with salad and flatbread or rice is a meal for all the family.
Here’s where to find some of the world’s best kebabs.
1. Barbar in Beirut, Lebanon
Beirut is a cosmopolitan city where food standards are high.
When it comes to kebabs, Barbar is a Beirut institution. It’s a snack bar with branches throughout the city, but its flagship store is in trendy Hamra, where it takes up a whole block and overflows with customers night and day.
You can eat almost anything at Barbar and be happy, but the chicken shawarma is the tastiest pint-sized snack.
Marinated in spices including cardamom and cinnamon, the chicken is sliced off the rotating shawarma, laid in a piece of warm, fresh Lebanese bread with a smear of garlic paste and a pickle.
Barbar, Hamra, between Hamra main road and Emile Edde (leon) Street, Hamra, Beirut; +961 (0)1 747 721
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2. Öz Asmaalti Kebap & Döner Salon in Adana, Turkey
Looking for a town that's crazy about kebabs? Adana, in southern Turkey might be what you're craving.
Adana is famous for its spicy minced lamb kebab cooked on an iron skewer over an oak wood barbecue.
The kebab is brought to your table on flatbread that’s been collecting meat juices as it’s cooked. Charred tomato and pepper come alongside, as well as a tasty salad of onion, parsley and sumac.
To enjoy it like a local, you’ll need to crush the tomato and pepper with your fork, smear it onto some bread, add a little kebab, then top it with onion salad, roll it up and munch.
Öz Asmaalti Kebap & Döner Salon is the place for authentic Adana action.
Öz Asmaalti Kebap & Döner Salon, Kocavezir Mah, Pazarlar Cad. No:11, Kuruköprü, Seyhan, Adana; +90 (0)322 351 40 28
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3. Nagí in Abu Ghosh, Israel
In Israel, the kebab joint is one place where Jews and Arabs can agree on something: kebabs are good.
In the Arab village of Abu Ghosh, where residents became famous for their "hummus wars" with Lebanon, you’re guaranteed a plate of memorable meat.
At Nagí, chefs mix minced beef thigh with onion, parsley, pine nuts and a little fat before threading it onto an iron skewer.
It's cooked on a barbecue and served with rice or salad, a little pink on the inside.
Nagí, 4 Mahmoud Rashid St., Abu Ghosh; +972 (0)57 943 8242
4. Santorini and Kolonaki, Greece
The Greek island of Santorini is a place where all kinds of dreams come true -- especially kebab dreams. All across the island you can pick up snack-sized gyros for bargain prices.
Pork gyros is a favorite early lunch. The crispy outer layer of the gyros is shaved onto a warm pita, topped with tomato, a little onion and some creamy, sharp tzatziki. It’s presented with paprika-sprinkled fries sticking out the top.
The Souvlaki Stop on the Kamari Beach Promenade makes particularly good pork gyros.
The same goes for the souvlaki at Kalamaki Kolonaki in Athens. Halfway up the hill toward Mount Lycabettus, this charming little taverna has mastered the art of making street food look smart.
It's the kind of place where you can order a few chicken souvlaki and a potato salad and wait for everything good about Greece to come to you on a plate.
Kalamaki Kolonaki, Patriarchou Ioakim and Ploutarcho 32, Kolonaki, Athens; +30 (0)210 7218800
5. Salva Restaurant in Bijar, Iran
If you’ve been to Iran, you’ve likely eaten kebabs. In fact, that may be all you’ve eaten, such is the ubiquity of kababis, or kebab houses.
But never say you’re tired of Iranian food until you’ve been to Bijar, a town famed throughout the country for its succulent kebabs.
Kabab-e koobideh is minced lamb or beef, marinated in onion juices, spices and saffron. The meat is molded onto flat iron skewers, cooked over a fiery charcoal barbecue and served on top a mass of rice with a dollop of butter.
The side dishes make it magic. Raw onion, charred tomato, beetroot and even kiwi fruit must be eaten with the kebab to balance the meal, according to ancient Persian philosophy.
Being Iran, there’s every possibility that a stranger in the street might invite you to their home for dinner, in which case, you should say yes. Failing that, try Salva Restaurant.
Salva Restaurant, Shohada Street, Bijar; +98 (0)872 423 7331
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