Döner kebab is a traditional Turkish dish made from meat roasted vertically on a spit. It is closely related to Greek gyros and other traditional spit-roasted meats from around the Mediterranean and Middle East. In addition to being abundant street food in Turkey, these kebabs can be found in nations all over the world with large Turkish populations, especially Germany and Great Britain. In these countries, the dish has acquired its own unique flavorings and twists, mingling native and Turkish tastes.
To make döner kebab, meat is filleted and compressed onto a large spit, forming a long cylinder of meat. The spit is oriented vertically, with a heat source on one side, and then it is slowly rotated to cook the meat. As people order, the cook shaves off small pieces of cooked meat, gradually exposing uncooked layers for cooking. The meat is rich and flavorful, as it is cooked slowly and it bastes itself in its own juices.
The meat of choice for döner kebab is lamb, although beef may be used as well. Because Turkey is a Muslim country, pork is not usually an option, although some cooks might offer chicken, fish, or other unusual meats. The meal is traditionally served with bread, such as pita, to hold the meat and soak up the juices, and it is also offered with an assortment of sauces and garnishes, depending on where in the world it is ordered.
At a minimum, two sauces are available with the dish: a yogurt sauce and a hot sauce. Many cooks also prepare tahini and several different versions of yogurt sauce with ingredients like garlic, cucumber, and fresh herbs. The meat may also be served with shredded cabbage or lettuce, tomato, onions, or pickled chilies. Some people also enjoy a fiery glass of Raki with their meal.
Although döner kebab is particularly associated with street food and carry out, it is also sometimes offered in sit down restaurants, in which case it may be presented on a plate with rice and other foods. Some stores also use larger breads, like Indian naan, to wrap their meat, creating a bigger portion, and adventurous cooks even add curry powder and other unusual ingredients to their marinades.
Making the dish at home is not generally practical, since it requires a large amount of meat and a specialized vertical spit. People who want to mimic the flavor might want to try making shish kabobs, which can taste quite similar.