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Who really invented the doner kebab? 29 octobre 2013

Posted by Acturca in Turkey / Turquie.
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The Guardian (UK) Tuesday, October 29, G2, p. 3

James Ramsden

Kadir Nurman died this week in Berlin at the age of 80, leaving in his wake the kind of legacy many of us can only dream of. For Nurman was the inventor of that king of midnight feasts, the doner kebab. Or so they say.

The doner differs from other familiar kebabby preparations, such as shish, by being layered up on a spit and grilled vertically. This in itself wasn’t particularly novel; 18th-century Ottoman travel books talk of meat being cooked this way, while in the kebab’s spiritual home of Bursa, the vertically grilled Iskender is perhaps Turkey’s finest mouthful.

Nurman’s supposed innovation came in sticking the shaved pieces of meat into a flatbread with the saladings. Until then, in theory, they had been shoved on a plate. While few seem convinced by Nurman’s claim, in 2011 a slightly mysterious Berlin-based organisation called the Association of Turkish Doner Manufacturers made it official, and so it passed into history.

« I’m quite puzzled by all of this, » says Lebanese food writer Anissa Helou. « The sandwich has been around for ever in the Middle East, so I’m not quite sure how anyone can claim to have invented it. I think it’s some kind of marketing ploy. »

In any case, here in the UK, where we do love a kebab, the first doner is said to have been sold in 1966, predating Nurman’s « invention » by six years.

Sadly, British doners have become irrevocably linked with the worst of our weekend excesses. The typical high-street kebab in the UK is to a real doner what a pot noodle is to pho. « You have to be drunk to eat one of those, » chuckles Helou. Done well, however, a doner is a fine thing, neither as unhealthy nor as inelegant as we tend to think.

« A good doner is made from a lamb’s shoulder and breast (non-processed) and seasoned handsomely, » says Ferhat Dirik, co-owner of Mangal 2 in east London. « It’s best served as a wrap, with warm pitta or lavas bread. Be careful not to drown the meat by including every vegetable available; opt for onions, white cabbage and lettuce. Eat it like a caveperson. Tell no one. »

While there are plenty of kebab shops in the UK producing delicious doners, there could be more. The British Kebab awards launched this year, and with them, one hopes, the impetus for higher quality. With fewer elephant legs, better bread, and crisp salads, perhaps Kadir

Nurman will be laid to rest without too often having to turn, doner-like, in his grave.


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