Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Regional Recipes Turkey: Lamb Kebab

[eatingclub] vancouver has chosen Turkey as the spotlight region for this month's Regional Recipes, and while I’ve never been to Turkey (but it’s high on the list!) to experience the food firsthand, I did live in Denmark, which might be the 2nd best thing. Confused? Let me explain...

Many people may not know there is a sizeable Turkish immigrant population in Denmark (as well as other Western European countries). The first wave came over as guest workers during the labor shortage in the 60’s and decided to stay. The guest workers subsequently brought over their families, their religion, their customs and, of course, their food. Of all the things these guest workers brought with them, it’s the food that seems to have been absorbed most readily into Danish society.

Nothing says "eat me!" like a picture of a kebab sandwich in your face, except maybe a real kebab sandwich in your face.

The interesting thing about Turkish (and other Middle Eastern) cuisine in Denmark is that it’s usually offered as quick food—things like sharwarma or kebab—and it is very popular. In Copenhagen you didn’t have to look very hard for a sharwarma joint, even at 3 AM after a night of pub crawling (the best time to eat kebab IMO). Our favorite place was located on StrØget, the pedestrian shopping street. They boasted the best sharwarma in the city and that their secret was a spice combination consisting of an outlandish number of spices. The number that keeps coming to mind is 65, but that just can’t be right. Maybe the place is still there and still popular? I’ll have to try to squeeze in a visit the next trip to DK.

So what’s the difference between a sharwarma and a kebab? Honestly, I’m not really sure. I always thought sharwarma consisted of sliced meat that was compressed into a big hunk and slow cooked on a vertical spit. When you order, a little meat is shaved off, quickly browned then rolled in a flatbread with some dressing and maybe some tomato. Kebabs always bring to mind seasoned meat (chunks or minced) grilled on a skewer then rolled in flatbread or served with a rice pilaf. That’s just my understanding, but people seem to use the terms interchangeably, so how's a girl supposed to know? If you have any insight, do chime in!

Since I didn’t have an occasion or the equipment to slow cook a hunk of compressed lamb on a spit, I went for the easy route and made minced meat kebab sandwiches. Can’t really go wrong with anything comprised of well-seasoned minced meat on a stick, now can you? The only thing was missing the rinky-dink-hole-in-the-wall-everyone-around-me-is-half-drunk ambiance. You know how some things just taste better when eaten in a particular context? Going to have to figure out how to achieve that in my backyard.☺

Lamb kebabs
  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp paprika or cayenne
  • 1 tsp ground cumin or coriander
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg or cinnamon
  • 1 to 2 tbs toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp kosher salt (I use Diamond brand)
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 tbs all-purpose flour

Mix everything well, form onto skewers (pre-soaked if using wood), then grill until done. Can’t get much easier than that.

Serve with a nice rice pilaf and fresh sliced tomato and cucumber. Or in a flatbread of your choice with tomato and yogurt dressing (Greek-style yogurt + chopped fresh mint and/or cilantro, squeeze of lemon, finely chopped garlic and salt).

This is my submission to Regional Recipes. I'm hosting this month and will take submissions up until May 20th. Send them, along with a picture that is approximately 250x250 pix to blazinghotwok(at)gmail(dot)com.

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The Meal Planner said...

I always thought Shawarma was marinated chicken and cabbage with a tahini sauce in a pita because that's how a restaurant in town served it. After reading what it is on wikipedia now I'm totally confused!! Donair, shawarma and kebab all pretty much seem like the same thing to me. Names aside, your dish looks delicious :)

Jeff said...

Head to Home Depot buy a punch of sheets of plywood. Roughly hang, have friends over, feed and booze them, and tada your own makeshift hole in the wall.

I got nothing to add to the whole sharwarma and a kebab so I will end with nicely done!

dp said...

Meal Planner, the cabbage is different! I don't think I ever saw that, but I'm sure there are a gazillion variations. There was a place in SF near our apartment that sharwarma with fried potatoes inside. Don't know if that's an American thing or what, but it was good.

Jeff, my son's B-day party is this weekend, and it seems like I've got everything covered but the plywood. Although, I've got a shabby storage shed that might do the trick :-)

Manggy said...

Shawarma to me will always be the vertical spit thing :) It exploded in popularity here about a decade ago, then it died down, but it's still pretty common, and with good reason! I only wish I had one of those contraptions, heh :)

La Cuisine d'Helene said...

Great submission. I love those streets vendors in Montreal. (I miss those now that I'm in BC). We don't seem to find them around. That must have been nice to live in Denmark for a while.

dp said...

manggy, interesting...I wouldn't have thought sharwarmas would be popular over there, what with all the other street food readily available.

Helene, we don't get sharwarmas here in PDX either, at least I've yet to see a cart or stand anywhere. We do miss them and making them at home is just not the same.

Yes, it was nice living in DK. It was one of the best experiences of my life and we really miss Copenhagen. At least we have reason to visit since all of Hubby's family is there.

Wandering Chopsticks said...

Maybe it's a regional thing? Like cola, soda, pop, Coke?

There's quite a sizable Turkish population in Norway too. The kebabs were funnel-shaped. A pita cut open, stuffed with meat, sauce, chopped napa cabbage (b/c lettuce was a bit pricier?), and drizzles of hot sauce.

That was a long time ago, but since it was my first time really traveling, I try to eat a doner kebab wherever I go. Have eaten them in Amsterdam, Paris, London, and Stockholm.

TS of eatingclub vancouver said...

Oooh, nice. We're late with our entry! We made several dishes and now I have the unfortunate task of dealing with the photos! =( But, wait for us!! =)

dp said...

WC, you're the second to mention cabbage...interesting. I think you're right--the names are regional, but that doesn't make it any less confusing. Isn't it funny that in just about every Western European country, you could count on finding affordable, delicious sharwarmas? We ate them a lot when we were poor traveling students.

ts, don't worry! You have until the 20th! I'm too busy to put up the roundup before then.

Cate O'Malley said...

Oh man, that looks fabulous. I'm not a big fan of lamb, but would love to try this with beef.

Jason said...

Lamb with spices, my favorite! I think you just inspired my dinner!

Marvin said...

I was about to ask about Falafel, but then saw the link to your Falafel post. I guess Falafel is a veggie meatball version of kebab. Either way the kebab looks amazing with the tomato and yogurt sauce.

Admin said...

The picture says "eat me" indeed ... :)
I didn't know that the best time to eat kebab is at 3:00 am (haha), but I sure will keep that in mind. If anyone objects, I'll just tell them Darlene said so.

Paula said...

I've never heard the term Shawarma, but I like saying it! I bet I'd like eating it, too! This sounds really, really, REALLY good! I was surprised to see the sesame seeds in the ingredients list, and I bet it all tastes wonderful. Somehow tacos for dinner just doesn't sound good anymore ... I want a lamb kebab! :-)

Langdon Cook said...

Love kebabs. When I lived outside London we used to eat them all the time, along with Indian and other Middle Eastern foods. Different story in Seattle. BUT: I should be making my own. Thanks for the inspiration. said...

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Mary Bergfeld said...

As a lover of lamb in any form, I can tell you with certainty that these little treasures will appear on my table before the month is out. These sound delicious. I find your experiences and discussion of your time in Denmark fascinating.

dp said...

LC, London was such a great food city for "ethnic" foods, but British food, not so much (jellified eel??). I hear that's changing though. We keep saying we need to revisit, but then warmer climes always entice instead.

Ted, thanks for the heads up.

Mary, I really loved DK. Sounds so cliche, but I really learned a lot about the world outside the US.

Just Cook It said...

Oh my golly gosh that looks amazing.

Anonymous said...

why do we need to pre-soak if using wood?

Dee said...

anon, I like to pre-soak because the wood tends to burn otherwise. But if it's wet, it won't. Up to you, of course.