Monday, February 08, 2016

döner kebab!

Happy Lunar New Year! It's now the Year of the Monkey!

It took a while to prep everything, but the effort was well worth it. Was my döner kebab anything like the one I'd eaten in Switzerland all those years ago? Well... no. How could it be, really? I'm no expert at making this sandwich—I'm just a man with some vague intuitions about cooking. That said, my own version of döner kebab was pretty damn good.

Here's the story. With pics.

I was relieved to find ground lamb at the High Street Market in Itaewon. I had tried to hit Hannam Market, a place I used to frequent back during my Sookmyung days, but Hannam was closed by the time I got there at a bit before eight o'clock. I cabbed over to Itaewon and saw that High Street was open, so I went in, bought some essentials (wincing at the jacked-up prices), and buggered on out of there.

My first priority was to prep the meat. This meant seasoning and spicing the lamb with salt, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, and cayenne. I also added a bit of olive oil and mixed everything together by hand. I had intended to blitz the meat in my food processor along with some fresh onions and panko bread crumbs, but I forgot the onions and panko. No matter. I turned the ground lamb into something like a paste, then slapped it into one of my small glass casseroles and placed the meat in my oven.

Here's the meat, partway done:

Next, I set about making my tzatziki sauce. Happily, the downstairs grocery in my building had Greek yogurt, which is thicker than normal yogurt. Added in: some garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper, lemon juice, and cucumbers. I ended up adding a bit more lemon juice and black pepper to give some oomph to the flavor.

Here's a photo of all the chopping and slicing I had to do to make the sandwich trimmings—black olives, feta cheese, tomatoes, chili peppers, and homemade chili sauce:

Below, a closer look at the chili sauce. I saw this recipe over at the Livestrong website and decided to try it. It's extremely simple: cayenne, red-chili flakes, and oil. Fry 'em up, let the mixture cool. In my case, I also added paprika and sriracha. The sauce tasted and smelled quite good—a worthy addition to any döner.

The following two photos are of the trimmings again. I was a bit frustrated that my phone camera would darken the already-dark items, like the olives and the chili sauce, unless I held the camera very close to them.

Ah—finally! The meat! It cooked for probably a good hour; most of the luscious fat rendered out of it, but I had other plans for that fat.

I cut the meat into thin slices. This didn't exactly simulate gyro rotisserie meat, but it was close enough for government work.

I poured the rendered fat into my large frying pan and added a half-stick of butter. I threw in a spice combo similar to the one I used when mixing the lamb meat: cumin, curry, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne, paprika, salt, pepper, parsley, and a bit of allspice. I blasted the mixture on high heat until it began to sizzle; at that point, I added the sliced lamb chunks, lowered the heat to medium, and began frying the lamb, letting it darken to a more recognizable gyro-esque color.

I scooped the meat out with a slotted spoon and piled it on a plate with a paper towel to absorb the worst of the drippings.

Here, at last, is a pic of a completed sandwich: my döner kebab.

Everything worked together perfectly. I was ecstatic. For the above sandwich, I did it more Turkish style, i.e., I concentrated on meat, tzatziki, chili sauce, and chili peppers only. I looked around in my fridge for some naan so I could make a proper gyro, but there was none: I must've eaten it all some time ago.

Undeterred, I made a second sandwich, this time with a Greek twist: I added olives, feta, lettuce, and tomatoes to the mix. You see the result below:

This version was also fantastic. I've got plenty of meat, vegetables, and bread left over, so it's with great sadness that I must report that I'll be eating döner for the next few days. Damn my ill fortune.



Elisson said...

Dayum, does that look good. I am impressed.

Now I may have to try making my own Döner Kebab. Too bad the Missus hates lamb. Ah, well... more for me.

Kevin Kim said...

Does she not like the smell? Many Koreans hate lamb for that reason, although I've noticed that the Turkish joints in Itaewon are nevertheless doing a brisk business. Maybe Koreans are slowly being won over...?

There's an Aussie guy on YouTube who uses an electric spit atop a grill to make real rotisserie döner kebab, and it looks fabulous. I've also heard that some people simply bake their lamb in the oven, then take it out periodically and shave off the crispy bits, turning the meat as they do—sort of a manual rotisserie.

Bratfink said...

Where was your cucumber/yogurt sauce?

Kevin Kim said...


You didn't see it? There are several photos of it above, including two photos of it in sandwiches.