Learning Kebap, Urfa-Style

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Down a “pasaj” we found it: Zuzu Tavuk ve Ciğer Salonu. “Clean and cheap,” our hotel manager told us. Delicious just went without saying.

 

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Like most kebap grills in Urfa and this region, patrons sit at one-sided tables, lined up like a lunch counter but on short stools near the floor. Bowls of fresh vegetables are at each table, tomatoes, onions – along with a paring knife and cutting board. We ordered our kebaps – tavuk (chicken) because we don’t do liver (ciğer) – and waited to see what to do. House ayran came without asking and the refills (we think) were free. (We don’t know for sure, because of how this excursion ended.) But gradually the staff came to help us, one at a time. They answered questions, thrilled that I knew at least a basic bit of Turkish so they could piece it all together with me.

 

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Our counter was outside the front window. On the inside were a couple of patrons facing us, trying to sneak a glance at the foreigners without making eye contact. I peered in through the front door and the salon was dim, filled with grill smoke from time to time.

The meat arrived, slightly spicy from the grill, on dürüm, the Turkish version of a tortilla you might say. You can add as much onion, parsley, tomato, spicy pepper, cumin, salt, and syrup-like pomegranate-vinegar sauce as you like. Or some grilled red peppers which we were told were too spicy for us.

 

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Tip is Thai so there was no way she’d back down from that little challenge. They brought one out after failing to convince her it was too hot. She gobbled it up and it seemed all were impressed. I had a little wedge of one and politely chugged two glasses of ayran to dissipate the heat.

 

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But we weren’t sure how to eat the kebap, so our server took matters into his own hands – quite literally. With his fingers he sorted the chunks of meat into a row while I told my anxiety-prone brain to shut the hell up about his dirty nails. He put in a balanced amount of all the ingredients and rolled it all up in the bread, deftly wrapping it in the paper that had come with it. He held it out for me to take and then did the same with Tip’s pausing as she doubled the amount of chilies he had initially put inside.

 

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We learned how well the pomegranate (nam) sauce went with this and let it soak into the tightly rolled meat.

 

Ali assembles Tip's kebap roll.
Ali assembles Tip’s kebap roll.

We made small talk a bit, complimenting the food on its taste, answering questions about where were from, where we were going. Then the waiter surprised me when he asked me what he’d make in America at his job. I didn’t know what to say. I said it depended; most restaurants include tips but then pay less than minimum. So I just figured it like fast food work: 40 hours per week, $8 an hour, no tips, like his own job. He was floored. Not much at all, he exclaimed. Better to stay here in Urfa and work.

 

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Everyone was friendly to the two travelers. Not unusual in Turkey. The day before we had chatted with a baker, bought delicious cookies for roughly $1.50 a pound, and next thing we know, we are heading into the side street to share tea for an hour. Ali, one of the kebap shop staff who seemed to be in charge, rested his hand on my shoulder like an uncle while asking questions. To show off how much the people of Urfa love spicy, Ali took my fork and dug into a plate of roasted pepper flakes (above) and shoveled a heaping amount into his mouth. We all took photos together at the end of the meal.

 

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When I asked for the bill there was some confusion. One guy said 20 (yirmi). I gave a 20-lira bill. Totally reasonable I thought, considering maybe 7 ayrans, the two kebaps, the vegetables. But then there was discussion I couldn’t quite follow. I heard 15 and 13 and then 5 lira came back. Then 3 more coins. Twelve lira only??? I looked up at Ali and he said something more about us being visitors in Urfa. I was pretty sure we had just gotten a taste of Urfa hospitality.

 

Where’s This Kebap Shop??

Inside a “pasaj,” a sort of open-ended hallway through a building, just across from Şanlıurfa Belediyesi (city hall) in Urfa. Here are a map and a photo of the entry:

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Zuzu Tavuk ve Ciğer Salonu, Şanlıurfa, Turkey

0541-977-00-35 (they deliver!)
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Enjoy more posts from Southeastern Turkey! Click here for the Gaziantep trip.

For more articles and photo galleries about Turkey and Turkish culture, see The Mad Traveler home site.

5 thoughts on “Learning Kebap, Urfa-Style

  • June 3, 2014 at 3:43 pm
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    Nice story. I admire your willingness and ability to eat everything (almost) and anywhere. My poor system could not survive, but it would be tempting (except those hot peppers!)

    Reply
    • June 3, 2014 at 4:17 pm
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      believe me, I’ve had a few nightmare food tragedies over the years, so I am taking carefully calculated risks normally (sketchy fresh veggies? hm. sketchy but deep-fried? ok. raw chicken? no way! In Japan? probably OK.) But when he dug in with his dirty hands that was not exactly within my acceptable eats category. Ah well. No harm, no foul… this time. 🙂

      Reply
  • June 3, 2014 at 3:45 pm
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    OH – PS – it seems that Tip was the only female in the place. Is that often the case? 🙂

    Reply
    • June 3, 2014 at 4:14 pm
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      Interesting point – we didn’t even notice. It is a conservative area, so yes, I expect there is a lot less gender mingling than usual. Depends on the place. At night we didn’t see too many unveiled women out, which is not surprising, but we did see families, and the women without head covering. But it sure ain’t Istanbul!

      Reply
  • October 24, 2016 at 11:00 am
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    I go to this place all the time. Now I’m feeling lucky that I’m staying in Urfa :3

    Reply

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