Döner is a sandwich made from Turkish flatbread filled with some sort of shaved meat, different kinds of vegetables and sauce. Along with Currywurst, Döner is Germany’s most favorite street food today!
While the most popular version is the classic Döner as a filled flatbread sandwich, there are other variants in rolled pita bread such as Dürüm or Yufka. The shaved Döner meat and vegetables can also be served as a proper main course on a plate with rice or French fries.
The rotating spit is usually made with lamb, beef or chicken. Common vegetables are garden lettuce, sliced tomatoes, cucumbers and onions and white and red cabbage. More and more restaurants also add grilled vegetables such as potatoes, peppers and carrots. The sandwich is seasoned with a splash of lemon juice and sauce. The most common ones are garlic, herbs or spicy. Special tip: take all of them at once!
Döner, A Berliner Original
The initial idea of Döner Kebab – meat on a giant skewer spinning slowly beside a fire – originally stems from Turkey. However, the popular sandwich as it is known today was actually invented in Germany by a Turkish immigrant called Kadir Nurman. Kebab – which translates to ‘rotating grill meat’ – used to be a delicacy in Turkey that was served just once a week in the palace and only landed on the plates of noble people.
This only changed when Kadir Nurman came to Germany with numerous other Turkish guest workers. He quickly noticed that Germany was a country of workers where people were often on the run. In 1972 he had the idea to make a sandwich by putting shaved meat from the spit into Turkish flatbread. As simple as this, the Döner was born!
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In the early years, mostly foreign guest workers ate the new snack from Nurman’s stall close to the Berlin Zoo station. Due to its high popularity among Turkish immigrants, the Döner as a sandwich finally also landed in Turkey. There it is still served in the rather original form today. Only after a while and some modifications like adding vegetables and sauces, also Germans discovered and learned to love the sandwich. Since then, the Turko-German sandwich has become one of the most popular fast food dishes of the Germans. It is now available in street food stands all over the country.
Today, there are 16,000 kebab shops in Germany. Berlin is “the capital of the Döner” with more than 1,000 restaurants. According to the Association of Turkish Kebab Manufacturers, there are 250 companies in the German Döner industry. Combined, these deliver 80 per cent of the EU market’s total supply of Döner skewers. Each day, 600 tons of meat are used to prepare the giant Döner spits creating annual sales of around 3.5 billion euros.
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Donner Kebab, Cologne, Germany by Alex Kehr, licensed under CC BY 2.0