Adana Kebab is undoubtedly one of the first few things that come to mind when people think of the Turkish city of Adana. This dish, which is identified with the city from which it takes its name, is a source of pride for the people of Adana and a cultural heritage that they firmly defend. On the other hand, many non-Adana people do not recognize this dish properly. So, what are the features that distinguish this dish from other kebabs, how it emerged, and how it should be served? Let's take a look at them.
The author has tried the Adana kebab in several places – regrettably not in Adana itself although this glorious moment will surely come soon. While kebab in Europe is synonymous with the late snack favoured by the drunken party-goers, in Turkey kebab is considered a very important part of the national cuisine. At the same time, it is very regional. Kebab stems predominantly from the southern and south-eastern areas of Turkey, but it conquered the whole nation’s palates and there can be hardly any tourist street in Turkey without kebab shops.
The word kebab entered the Turkish language from Arabic. It means meat cooked without water, in a pot or fire. Although this meaning of the word is insufficient to describe this dish, it is in widespread use. In the Çukurova region, where Adana is located, kebab has been made for a long time. Some archaeological finds dating back to about 4000 years ago show that barbecues were lit in this region at that time, and the meat was cooked over the fire by passing a skewer. These Turkish Flintstones indeed were the forerunners of modern Middle Eastern gastronomy! However, we do not know exactly what kind of kebab the people living in this region made at that time.
Adana Kebab, as we know it, emerged in the second half of the 19th century in Adana's historical bazaar, Kazancılar Bazaar. The Historical Istanbul Restaurant, which is still in operation today, is the place where Adana Kebab was presented to the public for the first time. This kebab, made with a new recipe, quickly became widespread in Adana, and kebab shops were opened in many corners of the city, turning into an inseparable part of Adana culture. Kebab in Adana was also affected by the French occupation, which lasted from the last days of 1918 to the first days of 1922. The French invaders banned anything that could be used as a weapon against them in those years. This included kebab skewers and the "zirh" knife used for making minced meat. Thus, Adana Kebab was kind of banned and some kebab makers were beaten in French police stations for having kebab skewers and zirh. In the Republican era, Adana, being the locomotive of Turkish cinema, made Adana Culture more widely known throughout the country. Thus, Adana Kebab became more well-known and has almost gained the status of a national dish today.
Adana Kebab is made with only male lamb. Veal is never used, as it is both tough and different in flavour. The ideal is a one-year-old male lamb and it should be raised under special natural conditions in the area of Adana. The surroundings have a lot of good pastures where our woolly friends happily enjoy their grazing until the day when their benevolent shepherd becomes the worst enemy. The circle of life turns one more time and the product of Adana is close to the plates of lamb lovers.
Meat is not minced in the machine. It is chopped by hand using a knife called "zirh", which is similar to a machete. Minced meat that is minced by hand is juicier and more delicious. The minced meat should be lean and the fat should also be minced and mixed with the meat. The mixture is obtained by adding salt and pepper to the minced meat. Nothing else is added. The mixture is once again minced with the knife and left to rest. If the mixture is not left to rest, the water is not drained and the meat is boiled on the barbecue. We do not want that for sure! If it is left to rest more than necessary, this time too much water will drain and the food will be dry.
After the mixture has rested sufficiently, it is passed on wide skewers. It is cooked on charcoal oak coal. Hot and greasy pita bread, roasted peppers and roasted tomatoes, mashed salad, onion salad with sumac, seasonal salad, lemon and parsley plate, served with roasted onion salad (ie with five kinds of salad) go along. The non-alcoholic drink that goes best with is ayran, and the best alcoholic beverage is rakı. The smoke rises high and everyone near will have a beloved smell on their clothes for the rest of the day. Still, many Adana kebab fans presumably think of it as the best aroma in the world!
In recent years, this service method has been expanded a little more in some restaurants in Adana. In addition to the above, other treats are also included in the service such as çaçlik made with strained yoghurt, hazelnut lahmacun, pita bread with cheese, and roasted mushrooms, mushrooms with cheese, hummus, liver skewers, puff bread and sometimes raw meatballs. In many kebab shops outside of Adana, Adana Kebab does not come with five kinds of salad; instead, it should be ordered. In most of them, rice is served with the kebab. One may also see that pasta was given. Apart from this, there are also those who eat Adana Kebab with lahmacun.
This type of thing, which is not in the real way of serving Adana Kebab, is met with a reaction by the people of Adana. Because this dish is an inseparable part of Adana culture, it is a cultural heritage. Every Adana person is very sensitive about making this dish correctly. So why not rice or pasta with this dish, or wrapped in lahmacun and eaten? In other provinces, salad is not considered a part of the meal. It is seen as an extra. Even the price for salad is paid separately. For this reason, unless the customer requests, not much salad comes with the kebab and its space is filled with rice. This makes the nutritional values of the meal on the plate not balanced and carbohydrate-based. In Adana, on the other hand, salads and other treats are not extras that come with the kebab, they are not treats in essence. Salad and other things are seen as a part of kebab in Adana. As much as the meat on the plate is a part of the kebab, the salad and appetizers next to it are considered as a part of the kebab. It is included in the account. Also, no fee is paid.
Adana Kebab is a balanced meal that contains all the nutrients a person needs with all its parts. Skewered ground beef, which is the main element of kebab; it contains protein, vitamin B12 and salt. Bread contains carbohydrates. Salads contain a variety of vitamins and other nutrients. Thus, everything that the human body needs is met in a single meal. Of course, it is possible to find many places that make kebabs wrong in Adana.
Adana Chamber of Commerce registered Adana Kebab and set the standards in order to maintain the quality of kebab. However, there are still kebab shops that do not apply the standards due to some difficulties in inspections. Unfortunately, there are kebab shops that use veal, adult sheep or ram meat. Because the amount of lamb in the market sometimes cannot keep up with the demand. There are also many kebab shops that make machine mincemeat instead of armour mince. Another common method is to maintain the price by reducing the weight due to the increase in the cost of living. Adana Kebab weighs 180gr in its original form. But 120gr has also become more and more common. There are even kebab shops that have dropped to 50gr. For this reason, before you eat Adana Kebab, it is useful to research the place where you will eat the kebab.