Kebabs: the prima doners of fast food

For some, even the thought of a kebab is offensive. For others it’s a guilty pleasure. A pleasure that can only be fulfilled after a skinful of beer when your incoherent mind lets your stomach do the talking. When you’re so hungry that you could eat a horse. And it’s odds on favourite that you probably will.

But does being caught in the drunken moment and making that decision really matter? You’re a happy,  drunken monkey that’s complied with the demands of your hungry-self. So it’s all good…..until the morning.

You awake in horror, not thinking about how much of a tit you may been the night before, but thinking about what you ingested on the stumble home.

Then as you walk into the kitchen you’re hit with the realisation and that feeling of self-deprecation as you see the polystyrene carton on the kitchen worktop. You feel the guilt pangs, the meat sweats, and you start questioning your own morality: Did I really eat one? No, I couldn’t have. I think I did. But no, please no…..not doner!

But I ask this: Why should kebabs be confined to being a guilty pleasure? They are eaten, savoured, sometimes revered all over the world – in Greece, Turkey, the Middle East. And I’m glad to see that, albeit slowly, we are finally beginning to embrace this type of cuisine with a bit more amour than the usual drunken one night stand.

Due to its vast cultural diversity, London has endorsed this food for some time now. During a recent trip to Ealing I ate a wonderful meal in a Persian restaurant that puts the kebab at the heart of its menu along with most of its neighbours. Admittedly they have a captive audience of people that are accustomed to this type of food but they can’t all be wrong, can they? And I doubt that very many of them are ever drunk either.

Up north we are now beginning to turn the tide and shake the kebab of its turbulent past. Places like Aladdin in Withington are flying the flag for cheap yet phenomenally tasty kebabs that can be eaten at any time of day. Similarly, Flavours in Lymm is trying to educate the masses in the delights of their national offering. And let’s not forget Manchester’s old guard of Efes and Cafe Istanbul.

But who better to showcase the quality of the kebab than recent winner of the UK’s best kebab shop, Turkish Delight, in Chorlton. They are masters of the art and prove that the kebab can be a very tasty and relatively healthy meal that can appeal to everyone. Afterall, it’s really only a combination of meat, bread and salad.

Ok so maybe the issue lies with what’s in the meat. Chicken and shish seem to be widely accepted but the mention of the word doner often evokes gasps of revulsion. For some reason, the British public have a real hang-up about doner meat as they don’t know what’s in it. To those doubters, I say one word: sausages. Both doner meat and sausages are made with the same principles yet one is detested by the sober general populace and the other has become a national institution.

Like sausages, doner meat is made from cheap, flavoursome offcuts of meat (usually lamb) and blended with cereal and herbs and spices, then sculptured into an “elephant’s leg”. (That would be one rather large sausage). It’s unquestionable that in the main it contains high levels of fat and salt but then I don’t condone eating it every day of the week. Like everything that tastes good, it should be consumed in moderation (and smothered in chilli sauce).

I’m proud to say I like kebabs and I will continue to have my weekly fix. After giving all the kebab plaudits to Turkish Delight earlier, I just hope my local take out, Pinocchio’s, will still serve me. They must feel like a cheated girlfriend and I don’t blame them. One thing’s for sure though – I’ll never cheat on Doner. She may be a bit fatty and more appealing after ten pints but shish the only one for me.

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