Döner. Oh, the döner! What is it?
I’m walking the streets of Berlin and am feeling quite hungry. Or, perhaps, I am between trains at an underground station. What could there be nearby? Of course, the döner! Or, döner kebab. It is absolutely everywhere here. It seems that one can find döner within one-hundred yards of any location in the city of Berlin. It is served out of little snack bar styled vendors on every street corner, in shopping centers, and even along the corridors of the train stations. The stuff is ubiquitous, loved and delicious.
Now, a newcomers first glimpse towards the service side of one of the thousands of bistros serving all variations of döner will most likely lead to hesitation. Staring at an enormous cone of revolving mystery meat, one can’t help but feel a tinge of apprehension. Indeed, my first thought was the term meat log.
Doner, literally meaning “rotating roast”, is of Turkish origin, a vastly represented population in Germany. Anyone who is unfamiliar with it, has surely enjoyed some closely related food type from around the Middle East and Mediterranean. I heard a travel companion, from New York, state epiphanically “oh, it’s street meat.” Coming from the West Coast of the U.S., Greek gyros come to mind.
The process by which this spiced meat is cooked, calls for filleted slices of meat, cut from chicken, lamb, or beef, and compressed on a rotating spit. When finished, the composite resembles a very large and inverted cone. As the meat is slowly cooked by a hot plate, placed on one side, it will baste itself in its own juices, including whatever blend of spices the cook has chosen. Additional flavor is can be added from the variety of yogurts, chili sauce and dressing that are given an option. As patrons order plates, that range from sandwich-like pita bread pockets to mixtures of salad and rice, thin slices of meat are shaved downward, maintaining the conic shape revealing the less cooked meat below, to included in the meal.
After the initial uncertainty, one quickly falls in love with this filling and convenient treat, joining the masses of Berlinese who, one wonders, might be thoroughly sustained on the stuff.