Some of the world's best and spiciest kebabs come from Turkey's southeastern provinces. People travel here from all over the world to sample them firsthand.
Here are five of the most popular Turkish kebab dishes that represent Turkish regional cuisine from this area of Turkey.
01 of 10
Classic Shish Kebab, or 'Şiş'
We're all most familiar with the classic shish kebab. In Turkish cuisine, 'şiş' (SHEESH') refers to the metal skewer the meat is laced on. Chunks of marinated lamb or beef are placed on the skewers, usually without vegetables, and turned over a coal fire until they're done to perfection.
02 of 10
'Adana kebabı' (ah-DAH'-nah keh-BOB'-uh) is the signature dish named after one of Turkey's most famous "kebab cities," Adana. 'Adana' kebab is made with ground beef or a mixture of ground beef and lamb that's kneaded together with onion, garlic, and Turkish spices, then packed by hand around large, flat metal skewers.
When they're placed on the grill, the fat drips from the meat causing it to bind together. It forms a long, hollow tube of cooked meat... once the skewer is removed.
'Adana' is very spicy. Generous amounts of hot red pepper flakes and paprika are kneaded into the meat mixture giving it a deep red color and fiery flavor.
03 of 10
Another popular kebab is the cousin of 'Adana' kebab. Named after the city of Urfa, 'Urfa' kebab is prepared in nearly the same fashion as 'Adana' minus the heat. 'Urfa' has a mild flavor seasoned with onions, garlic, cumin, oregano and sweet paprika kneaded into the meat. It cooks up tender and juicy letting the flavor of the meat shine through.
04 of 10
Another favorite from the grill is called 'çöp şiş' (CHOPE' SHISH'), which literally translates as 'shish made of garbage.' Believe me, it's anything but garbage.
'Çöp şiş' is actually lamb scraps and fat, the "garbage" left over when trimming perfectly symmetrical cubes of meat for a classic shish kebab. These small bits of boneless meat are pounded together with garlic and tomato, then left to marinate in a mixture of black pepper, oregano and olive... oil.
Once placed on small wooden skewers, the bits are thrown on the hot grill along with the other kebabs. The tiny pieces of meat brown quickly to perfection and the pieces of fat become crispy and add extra flavor.
'Çöp şiş' is often treated like an appetizer, served before the main kebab meal. It whets the palate and prepares the stomach for larger things to come.Continue to 5 of 10 below.
05 of 10
Döner kebabı (done-EYR' keh-BOB'-uh), or 'turning kebab,' is a popular Turkish street food from which the Greek gyro and Arabic shawarma were derived. But in Turkey, the meat is leaner, and it's served much browner and crisper.
Shavings of 'turning kebab' are usually eaten plain over a bed of rice or wrapped in a soft tortilla made from durum wheat flour, called 'durum' (doo-ROOM').
This kebab originated not in the deep southeast, but in Bursa, a city just... south of Istanbul and the first capital of the Ottoman Empire.
Word on the street has it that originally, 'turning kebab' was hung horizontally and cooked over coals similar to the way it's done further East. One day, İskender Efendi , who lived in Bursa sometime back in the 1800s, decided to invent a special grill to roast meats vertically.
This new invention allowed the meat to be rotated and shaved off simultaneously. Thus, modern 'turning kebab' was born.
06 of 10
'Iskender kebabı' (iss-ken-DEYR' keh-BOB'-uh), another popular kebab dish from Bursa, is named after Iskender Efendi himself. Crispy shavings of 'döner' are laid upon a loaf of tender, flat 'pide' bread, similar to pita, that's been cut into small squares.
The entire dish is doused with melted butter, creamy yogurt, and a tangy tomato sauce. Authentic 'Iskender kebabı' is still served in Bursa, as well as across Turkey in a chain of restaurants named... after Iskender Efendi himself.
07 of 10
Coming in a close second to 'Iskender kebabi' in terms of popularity is 'Polite Ali' kebab, better known as 'alinazik kebabı' (ah-KEE'-nah-ZEEK' keh-BOB'-uh). This succulent classic is a combination of marinated, grilled lamb served over a bed of warm, fire-roasted eggplant mixed with plain yogurt.
If you're an eggplant lover, this dish is for you. The smoky flavor of the roasted eggplant really enhances the taste of the grilled lamb.
08 of 10
'Patlıcanlı Kebabı,' or Eggplant Kebab
Another popular kebab featuring eggplant, this time, Turkish meatballs, called 'köfte' are sandwiched between layers of sliced eggplant brushed with olive oil.Continue to 9 of 10 below.
09 of 10
Chicken Kebab, or 'Tavuk Şiş'
'Tavuk' (tah-VOOK') or 'piliç' (pee-LEECH') shish kebab is made with either breast meat or dark meat marinated first in milk or plain yoğurt, then in olive oil and spices. A spicier version is coated with seasoned red pepper paste.
10 of 10
'Beyti' is a recipe said to date back to Ottoman times. It was rediscovered by a famous Istanbul restaurant with the same name and is now popular all over the country. A mixture of perfectly seasoned ground beef and lamb rolled in a thin flour tortilla-like dough called 'yufka.' It's then sliced into rounds and put on the skewer to grill.