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July 25, 2010

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Carving kebab cuisine

THE rich culinary heritage of Turkey can be experienced at the World Expo Shanghai and diners can taste dishes from one of the world's oldest cuisines at the Turkey Pavilion's restaurant.

Traditional dishes date back to the Ottoman Empire and draw influence from Middle Eastern, Central Asian and Balkan cuisines.

In turn, Turkish food has provided inspiration to the cuisines of other regions.

As Turkish food uses aromatic spices, hot chillies and classic Mediterranean ingredients like olive oil and fresh herbs, many people will find common elements of their own cuisine.

Perhaps the best-known of Turkish dishes are its wide variety of kepaps or kebabs and the Turkey Pavilion has chosen to highlight a classic version of this dish at its restaurant.

The pavilion in Zone C serves a traditional Iskender Kebab that has its origins in Turkey's northwestern region.

The meat is cooked Doner Kebab style, on a vertical spit and roasted over a heat source, traditionally charcoal but now also over gas or electric heat.

Doner means "turning" and the meat is slowly rotated so that the cooked meat may be sliced off with a long knife and uncooked portions exposed to the fire.

The vertical position of the meat means it is self-basting, the juice and fat dripping down, which accounts for the rich flavors and tender texture of the meat.

The pavilion has its own Doner Kebab set up and it serves big plates of meat served on pieces of Turkish bread with rice and ezme, a rich traditional tomato sauce.

The big plate costs 150 yuan (US$22.12) and can be shared by two.

The Iskender Kebab is named after a chef from the city of Bursa who created the dish in 1867. As the story goes, Mhmetoglu Iskender Efendi created the plate after he was inspired to take the conventional lamb on a spit and roast it vertically.

The area around Bursa has mount Uludag, whose thyme-covered slopes make it renowned for raising top-quality lamb.

Although Iskender/Bursa-style kebab is now served throughout Turkey, it is still considered best in Bursa because of its selection of meat and attention to the preparation of the dish.

Iskender Kebab is traditionally finished with a drizzle of browned butter and can also be finished with a dollop of yogurt and a sprinkle of fresh parsley.

This is a hearty feast that is best washed down with a bottle of the Turkish beer available at the pavilion.

The rich juices of the beef and butter soak into the bread and the chefs at the Turkey Pavilion have used their local knowledge to cook the meat to perfection.

A good Doner Kebab should have some charring on the outside but still contain rare slices inside as more meat is sliced.

If a snack rather than a big meal is what hardy Expo queuers need, then sweet baklava or strong, sweet Turkish coffee (25 yuan) is also available.

The restaurant also serves Turkish juices and spring water.

Good baklava is a rarity in Shanghai and this version has light flaky pastry and a dense nut center with a sweet syrup coating.

Outside the pavilion the Turkish ice cream stand is also proving a hit, with long lines for an ice cream sold by an ice cream man in traditional clothing.

Around 1,000 ice creams are sold daily.

The restaurant in the pavilion is open from 10am to 8:30pm.


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