Adana kebabı (colloquially known as Kıyma kebabı) is a long, hand-minced meat kebab mounted on a wide iron skewer and grilled on an open mangal filled with burning charcoal.
The culinary item is named after Adana, the fifth largest city of Turkey and was originally known as the “Kıyma kebabı” (lit: minced meat kebab) or Kıyma in Adana-Mersin and the southeastern provinces of Turkey.
Mincing and kneading
According to the Designation of Origin, Adana kebabı is made from the meat of a male lamb that is younger than one year of age. The animal has to be grown in its natural environment and fed with the local flora.
The meat should then be cleansed of its silverskin, nerves and internal fat. After the cleansing, it should be cut into rough shanks and, along with tail fat at a proportion of one to five, be laid to rest for a day.
The next day, the rested meat and fat must be ground by hand, using a crescent-shaped iron cleaver known as the “Zırh”. Only sweet red peppers (also hand chopped with the Zırh) and salt should be added. The Designation of Origin also authorises, “under certain circumstances”, the addition of spicy green capsicum and fresh garlic cloves.
The meat will then be thoroughly kneaded together with the fat, the salt and the additional ingredients until reaching a homogenous consistency.
After reaching homogeneity, the mixture is placed on iron skewers that are 0.5 cm thick, 3 cm wide and anywhere from 90 to 120 cm long. One portion of Adana kebabı is typically 180 grams of meat on one skewer. A “portion-and-half”, impaled on slightly wider skewers can not include less than 270 grams, as per the designation label.
A little water allows the minced meat to adhere better to the skewer, which is the hardest step in the making of this kebab. If not done properly by an Usta, the meat will separate from the skewer during roasting.
The impaled skewers are roasted over flame-less coals of oak wood. When the meat turns dark brown, it is ready. The skewers are frequently turned during this process. The melting fat is collected on flatbread by pressing pieces of flatbread against the meat as it roasts; this also serves to heat the bread.
Serving and eating
The kebab is commonly served on a plate, as a “Porsiyon”, or wrapped in flatbread, as a “Dürüm”.
The kebab is served over the flatbread used to catch the drippings. It is accompanied by roasted tomatoes, green or red peppers and julienned onions with parsley and sumac. Other typical mezes in Adana-Mersin served with the kebab include red pepper ezme with pomegranate molasses, fresh mint and estragon leaves, braised shallot hearts with olive oil and pomegranate molasses, pickled small green chilli peppers, and, around Mersin, green shallot stems with slices of bitter orange, citron, lime and lemon. Many restaurants around Adana will also bring hot hummus with butter topped with pastırma on the side.
The way to eat “Porsiyon” is to skin and crush the charred tomatoes and peppers into a paste, to put them in a piece of flatbread with part of the kebab, topped by a generous pinch of the onion-sumac-parsley mixture, and to wrap the whole thing into a few small thick dürüms.
Ayran and Şalgam are two staple beverages consumed with kebab in daytime. On hot summer evenings, ice-cold Rakı alongside Şalgam is often preferred.
The browned kebab is taken out of the mangal, removed from the skewer and placed on top of a large loaf of flatbread (mostly lavaş or tırnak pidesi), topped by a pinch of julienned onions, small diced tomatoes, some parsley, then sprinkled with a little salt, cumin and sumac and finally wrapped into a long roll. Ayran is more commonly consumed with dürüm compared to the Şalgam.
Many variations of the Kıyma kebabı, all based on hand-chopped lamb meat and tail fat, are found around the Cilician and Mesopotamian parts of the former Ottoman Empire.
Some notable regional examples are:
- Metrelik kebap: A recent specialty that saw the light thanks to some of most famous Usta of Adana. It is nothing but a very long thick Kıyma kebabı that can be 1 to 10 metres, depending on the number of guests on the table. The iron skewers are both long and heavy (some weigh up to 15 kilograms) and specially crafted.
- Beytî: A take on the famous Beyti of Istanbul. Parsley and fresh garlic cloves are chopped alongside the meat and the fat instead capsicum.
- Kebab Tarsûsî: More common in the eponymous city of Tarsus, this Kıyma kebabı includes only minced onion with the meat and the fat.
- Haşhaş kebabı or كباب خشخاش: Very famous in Nizip, Urfa, Birecik and Aleppo, this is a very simple form of Kıyma kebabı, that can at times contain a hint of caul fat and crushed walnuts, making it crispier.
- Simit kebabı (Antep), oruk kebabı (Kilis) or كبّة مشويّة (Halep) is a distant cousin of the Kıyma kebabı and includes, per kilo of meat, one glassful of soaked bulgur, a few shallots, 30 grams of pine nuts and only 100 grams of tail fat. Different herbs and spices such as dried mint flakes, paprika powder, sumac and cumin may be added to the mixture to taste.
- Fıstıklı kebap: A speciality of Antep that has around 150 grams of coarsely ground pistachio kernels per kilo of meat and fat.
- Sebzeli kebap: Another specialty of Antep where red and green peppers as well as onions and parsley are hand-chopped together alongside the meat and the fat.
- Süleymâniye Kebabı or كباب سليمانية: An Iraqi variety, that differs from the classic Adana kebabı in a few ways, notably the fact that no pepper or spice whatsoever is added to the mixture, which is also roasted in a very special mangal that has a powerful blower mounted on one side, which raises the temperature of the charcoal. The result is a quite uncommon but very tasty Kıyma kebabı that has a kind of glazed and crispy outer crust.
- 450 g lamb mince
- 450 g veal mince
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, for brushing on pita's
- 1 tablespoon salted butter, small cubes
- 1 red capsicum, minced
- 1 medium yellow onion, minced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 2 teaspoons black pepper
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons sumac
- 2 medium red onions, sliced very thin
- 1 teaspoon sumac
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
- 1 cup yoghurt
- char-grilled red or green capsicums
- char-grilled tomatoes
- 8 piece pita or naan bread
- Combine the kebab ingredients and knead by hand or in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until mixture turns tacky and starts sticking to the side of the bowl. Place in refrigerator and chill well (overnight if possible).
- Prepare the sumac onions; Mix red onion,sumac,lemon juice, and parsley in small bowl cover and put in fridge.
- To make the kebabs; Using your hands shape mixture into 15 cm long kebabs and about 5 cm wide.
- Place on a hot grill and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side. Kebabs will be done when they feel spongy.
- When done place kebab inside of pita. Top with yoghurt sauce and sumac/onion mixture.
- Serve with charred capsicums and tomatoes.