Paula Wolfert learns why Turkey's best kebabs are so much more than just grilled meat on a stick
My Turkish food-journalist friend Ayfer Ünsal was the one who sent me on my kebab quest. "Turkey is famous for shish kebab and baklava, and everyone in Turkey knows the best shish kebab and baklava are in the city of Gaziantep," she told me. "And everyone in Gaziantep knows the best shish kebab and baklava are at Burhan Cagdas's little restaurant."
Just how great, I wondered, can shish kebab really be? It's just meat grilled on a skewer. But once I visited Cagdas's unassuming spot, I understood. "My great-grandfather opened this restaurant," he told me. "I still do things the way he did. I'm a traditional guy and this is a traditional kebab house."
Using herik, a special breed of fat-tailed sheep that feed on mountain herbs and grasses, Cagdas makes sensational kebabs. I've been able to replicate the flavor with the best organically raised meat available in the United States, adjusting the seasonings and—in one case—substituting crème fraîche for lamb fat.
Burhan Cagdas's restaurant is Imam Cagdas, 14 Uzun Carsi, Sahinbey, Gaziantep, Turkey; 011-90-342-231-26-78.