In Istanbul: A Brief Tribute to the Iskender Kebab

Laura Siciliano-Rosen
October 3, 2012

Iskander Kebab from Istanbul

Thin-sliced beef. Tomato sauce. Melted butter. Such is the holy trinity of the Iskender kebab, a.k.a. the döner kebab on crack—and one of the best things we’ve eaten thus far in Istanbul.

Of course I’m exaggerating (not about the crack part, because this is an easily addictive dish). There are two other key components to this kebab: Under the meat is a bed of cut-up flatbread, ensuring none of the sauce goes unsoaked, and off to the side is a pile of thick yogurt, imparting the perfect creamy, cooling balance to every bite. A few tomatoes and blackened green peppers add color to the plate, as well as winking vegetal presence. It’s not all meat and fat!

This kebab has its origins just across the Sea of Marmara in Bursa, which time will not permit us to visit this trip. Instead we followed the advice of the estimable Istanbul Eats and took a shorter ferry ride across the Bosphorus to Kadiköy, where family members of this kebab’s creator have a restaurant, Kebapçi Iskender, selling little else but this dish.

We’d say they’re onto something.

Empty plate where an Iskender kebab once sat

Tags: Turkey dishes Europe