Steve's Weird Food for Turkey: Lamb. Sort of.

Monday, November 30, 2009

You remember back in Greece, when I thought I’d got off lightly because I couldn’t find a purveyor of the liver ‘n’ intestines thing that one of the local hostel people mentioned? Well I should have known it was too good to last. As soon as I got to Turkey, there is was. And now it had a name: kokoreç. And considering that the Turkish pronunciation of the ç is “ch”, it seemed appropriate that the last syllable of the word is “retch”.

Here again, the LP weighs in:

“Like most countries, Turkey has some dishes that only a local could love. Top of the confrontational stakes is kokoreç, seasoned lamb intestines wrapped around a skewer and grilled over charcoal.”

Cleary these lamb intestines were my fate, so despite the existence of some other quite odd foods in Turkey, I gave in to the kokoreç. Honourable mentions in the realm of weird Turkish food should go to ayran, the watered-down plain yogurt drink with a touch of salt, and most especially to a dessert pudding one of whose ingredients is chicken breast. I’m not kidding. For a nation so sweet-obsessed that truck stops stock 6’ high palette-sized stacks of Turkish Delight, this displays a bizarrely loose grasp of the concept of dessert.

Anyways, here’s the establishment I chose. A close-up look at the stuff on the spit will reveal that it looks like exactly what it is – long ropey bits wrapped again and again around a skewer.

Once the sausage-shaped blob is cooked they take it off the skewer and cut it into rounds, and then put those on a flat grill and chop them all up into little bits. Then the bits get stuck in bread, or on a pide (a sort of Turkish pizza), or just on a plate, with spices added.

I chose to have mine served on a bun. The “On a Bun Gambit” served me well when tripe was on the menu, so I thought it would be a safe choice. I even sort of ordered in Turkish. Well, ordered might be a generous definition. What I said was “Kokoreç. Ekmek” (which means bread), accompanied by a sort of opening-book hand gesture meant to convey the idea of a bun. It worked, and the nice men at the kokreç stand directed me downstairs to a small seating area they had in the basement. And he brought my food down, and put it on a tray, and was, er… very friendly. (“Where are you from? Canada! Your are very beautiful woman. My name Farat. This my shop. Shop close 6:00. Maybe I can help you tonight? Show you Sultanhamet? Blue Mosque? Aya Sofia? Have Turkish coffee? I want to help you. Give you my mobile number.” Umm, thanks Farat, you're obviously a man with impeccable tastes, but I really just came for the intestines…)

And here they are:

And, once again: not bad. Not bad at all. Spicy, meaty, tasty. In fact, I’m now pretty convinced that just about anything is edible when it’s been properly stewed, grilled, roasted or otherwise disguised. I could probably eat my own running shoes if they were chopped into unrecognizable bits, doused in something spicy, and stuck in a bun.

And per Rob Hamilton’s request, here’s a self-portrait of me at the kokoreç stand, in between bites of intestines and visits from Farat:

5 Comments:

Gillian said...

Oh that's what that was!! I saw it but did not know what it was. I did, however, try the ayran. A friend had said it was oh so tasty...but I accidentally tried a local version instead of the commercially produced version. I didn't like it and when I saw the vat that it had come out of I was a little worried that I might be sick in the next few days. Luckily I was not.

You certainly are braver than me on the food front. Good on you!!

HTFU Natalie said...

I think I'd rather eat your spiced-up running shoes on a bun!! :-)

Robert said...

The guts on a bun look kinda edible.

Nice self-portrait. How about a pic of the guy who tried to take you home? We are interested in what kind of prospects you are attracting over there.

Have fun in the Holy Land.

rh

Lisa said...

I shouldn't read the "Steve's Weird Posts" before lunch...right now I'm so hungry that this looks delish...

FLF said...

I am in awe... you are my hero! Travel on...

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