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What is Lamb Doner?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
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  • Last Modified Date: 27 September 2016
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Lamb doner is a Turkish dish closely related to a large family of spit-roasted meat dishes from the Middle East and Mediterranean. Döner, as it is also called, is a common street food throughout Turkey, and it is also abundant as a take-away food in many European countries, especially Germany, and in New York City, where there is a large Turkish expatriate population. Making lamb doner at home is a bit difficult, as it requires some special equipment and a lot of room.

Traditionally, lamb doner is made by spit-roasting a leg of lamb on a vertical spit. This cooking technique is ideally suited to street food, as the cook simply shaves off outer layers of meat as they cook. In some regions, cooks make lamb doner by spitting slices of lamb, rather than a whole leg of lamb, which allows cooks to combine inferior cuts of meat, since it's harder for consumers to identify the source of the meat.

Seasoning for lamb doner is usually light. When meat is vertically roasted, the fats naturally percolate through the meat, infusing it with flavor and keeping it moist. Sometimes the outer layers will be rubbed in herbs or oil, but since they are shaved off, this step is often skipped. Some cooks place vegetables on top of their doner roasts as they rotate, allowing the juices from the vegetables to flavor and moisten the meat.

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Typically, lamb doner is served wrapped in a piece of flatbread, with consumers selecting from a variety of sauces. A hot sauce is common, along with yogurt-based sauces which may include garlic, herbs, or vegetables. Garnishes like lemon are also very popular in some areas. Vegetable garnishes such as cucumber, shredded lettuce, and tomatoes are not uncommon. In some regions, lamb doner is served on a salad or over rice for a more complete meal.

As a street food, lamb doner is a lot like kebabs, gyros, and a variety of other roasted meats served in stalls all over Europe. The flatbread traditionally served with doner acts as a natural wrap and napkin, making it easy and relatively tidy to eat, and the ingredients are cheap, making a doner stand appealing to entrepreneurs who do not have a lot of capital. Offers of a “doner dinner” which includes salad and rice can be attractive to consumers in a hurry who do not want to deal with putting dinner together at home, and doner lunches tend to be a big hit in business districts.

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sunnySkys
Post 6

I hate to say this, but street food always kind of freaks me out. I always question the cleanliness of the kitchen it was prepared in. And also, as the article said, you never really know what you're going to get. If vendors who serve lamb doner combine inferior cuts of meet since the customers don't know any better, who knows what else they'll do?

I guess I would probably be more likely to eat from a food truck here in the United States than I would be to eat from a street vendor overseas. But the chances of that are even slim. So I guess I may never get to try lamb doner!

Azuza
Post 5

@starrynight - I love lamb also, but I've never gotten to have a lamb doner. They just don't serve it where I live.

Anyway, I lamb doner kind of reminds me of pit beef. I believe pit beef is usually roasted on a spit and served as kind of a takeaway meal. Usually I see pit beef at outdoor events like races and festivals. I'm sure any of these venders could probably make lamb doner with the same equipment if they ever decided to branch out.

starrynight
Post 4

I absolutely love lamb, and I'm not sure why it doesn't seem to be that popular here in the United States. I know my family never made it when I was growing up. The first time I ever had lamb was over at a friend's house. His family was Greek, and lamb is pretty popular in Greek cooking.

Anyway, I always eat lamb if I have the opportunity. So the last time I was in New York City I tried lamb doner, and it was delicious! I know it's not really feasible to make at home, and that's OK with me. I'll just consider lamb doner a special treat I get to have when I visit NYC and use a lamb kabob recipe for at home instead.

ddljohn
Post 3

@turquoise-- When the article mentioned that it's difficult to make doner at home, I thought it was over-exaggerating. But reading your description of it, it sounds like it would be impossible to make it at home in an authentic way. I have a house party planned for next week and I'm having a bunch of Turkish people come over. I wanted to prepare something Turkish that they would enjoy but I'm not sure how I could make doner.

I know that there are some pre-cooked, pre-sliced gyro meat products at stores. Do you know if this is available with Turkish doner too? Or what if I just buy the gyro meat instead? I think those are made

from lamb and beef so I don't think it would be too far off from the Turkish one right?

I suppose I could buy lamb, thinly slice it and barbecue it but than it would be like lamb kebab. I might have to go with that instead.

Any other suggestions for making lamb doner at home though?

turquoise
Post 2

@simrin-- I've been to Turkey too! As well as Germany where a lot of Turkish people live. I agree with you that lamb doner was less common in Turkey but it was pretty common in Turkish restaurants and vendors in Germany. The lamb doner in Germany is closer to the Greek gyro. Maybe they changed it a little bit so that it suits German tastes better.

I also loved the chicken doner in Turkey. It was so cheap but very delicious. Whenever I saw a doner vendor I would be shocked with the amount of meat on that spit. I even saw them making it one time. The restaurant worker took layers and layers of thin meat and kept

stacking them on top of one another on the vertical spit. He would push them down and keep adding more. And then it cooks for hours spinning in front of the fire. It must be why it turns out so good!

The only problem I had with the doners in Turkey was that I was never sure if the lettuce that they put inside is clean or not. I heard that people get sick from having vegetables there if it's not washed well. So I would always have to ask them to leave the lettuce out. It was even drier that way but better safe than sorry.

I think I like the gyro style Turkish lamb doners with yogurt sauce in Germany a lot better.

SteamLouis
Post 1

When I was on vacation in Turkey, I only had lamb doner once I think. I had doner a lot, but it was usually made from beef, not lamb. It's basically the same thing as a gyro except that it is served in Turkish bread which is similar to Italian bread or lavas (large flatbread). The toppings were pretty limited- slivered onions, lettuce salad and hot peppers are the main topping choices.

I never saw anyone put yogurt sauce or any other sauce on their doner in Turkey. It is eaten pretty dry but you always have to have it with a yogurt drink called ayran. It's made with plain yogurt, salt and water.

Doner is one of the best street-foods I've ever had. I might go back for another visit to Turkey just for the beef kabob and doner. They're delicious!

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