Doner Kebap: Tender Slices of Heaven
It seems like you can't go 5 minutes in Berlin without getting tangled up in the force field like aroma of a kebap shack -- and just like star warring vessels caught in the magnetic overhaul of a vastly more powerful craft, you'll find yourself throwing open the doors and staring down that spinning meat on a spit before you know what grabbed you.
The Doner Kebap is indeed a powerful craft. It was first introduced to Germany in the 1970's due to a mass influx of Turkish immigrants responding to the "Wirtschaftswunder". This term translates to 'Economic Miracle' , and was a trade negotiated by the West German government with their Turkish allies to address a labor shortage facilitated by the economic boom of the time.
The kebap is a traditional fare in middle eastern cuisine, but it's meat had historically been cooked horizontally until Iskender Efendi and his grandfather decided to try cooking it vertically in 19th century Turkey -- thus Mr. Iskander is credited as the inventor of the Turkish Doner Kebap, which is the predominant variety available in Germany.
The unique method of stacking meat on a rotisserie and spinning it slowly over the fire is designed to generate a reaction from dripping juices hitting the flame, whereby the meat is singed by succulent waves of melted fat. This technique was pioneered at an unknown point in the ancient middle east and is responsible for the trademark flavor of the kebap. It also ensures that only the outer inch of the spinning meat is cooked, meaning that the remaining bulk of the 100 + kilogram slab can be preserved for use over a prolonged period of time.
The meat is then either wrapped in a tortilla or sandwiched in pita, and served in a medley of varying additional ingredients -- tomato, onion, sweet pickles and yogurt or chili sauce are some of the most common.
The ubiquity of Doner Kebap joints in Berlin is a testament to both the staying power of the product itself, and to the multicultural modern heritage of it's adopted hometown. I never imagined that I would unequivocally pass over the opportunity to indulge in more traditional German fare like currywurst, schnitzel, and pretzels to literally eat kebaps for every meal. But perhaps it is the Doner Kebap that best defines 2016 Berlin -- cobbled together by far flung influences, intensely flavorful, and constantly spinning.