Döner kebab: This traditionally Turkish delight was brought to Berlin in the early 1970’s, or so the story goes, and given a salad-stuffing makeover — wait, what?? Germans eat vegetables?? Yes, believe it or not, after their reinvention this may be one of the healthier fast food options out there — a hearty spiced lamb mixture roasted on a vertical spit until just beginning to crisp on the outside, shaved into a flatbread or thin, ciabatta-like bun, packed with fresh tomatoes, shredded cabbage, onions, cucumbers, and lettuce, and topped with some combination of yogurt, garlic, herb, and hot sauce. Like thin-crust pizza in New York or midnight quesadillas in San Francisco, döner has not only claimed a coveted niche in the bellies of the Germans but has also risen to the top of the food chain! To support the most popular snack in the country, over 400 tons of döner meat are produced and sliced into two million döners every day. And that tonnage was 2010 stats. [Association of Turkish Döner Producers in Europe]
Here’s the dilemma though, a classic bread pocket döner as seen above, or the rolled dürüm version below? Ok, so that top photo isn’t the most flattering — I’ve also had better ones — but imagine it so full it’s bursting at the seams, ripping the wrapper, begging to absorb every drop of hefeweizen you consumed that evening. The former is the original, what every German salivates for when they say döner, and isn’t there something to be said for the unadulterated product?
My personal preference?
Order a dürüm döner and watch the man grab a blob of raw dough from the fridge, sprinkle some flour on the counter, roll the round out quick and dirty, and toss it into the oven for a minute while he cuts a mound of meat off the spit and asks you if you want everything on it [yes]. Settle onto a bench in the town square next to a couple of gossiping cronies gnawing on plain white rolls, their faces dark brown with moist saggy skin, wrapped in head scarves. The tin foil peels back inch by inch — the döner’s a good foot long, a real handful — and the first bite releases a cloud of steam. The wrap is dry on the outside and doughy where it soaks up sauce in the middle; with every mouthful is the salty melt of lamb, crunch of cabbage, sharp tang of yogurt and hot pepper. Try not to drip on your knees . . .