Adana kebab (or Adana kebabı) is a spicy minced meat kebab from the south of Turkey that is traditionally made from hand-chopped meat and tail fat from a male lamb.
This kebab may look like just minced meat on a skewer. However it is not. The special ingredient which separates this kebab from other standard minced meat skewers is tail fat, and it is not possible to source in every part of the world.
What is the origin of Adana kebab?
In Turkish and Middle Eastern cuisines, kebabs of all types are very common. Adana kebab, also called kıyma kebabı, is actually named after the fourth largest city in Turkey, the city of Adana, where it first originated.
Adana kebab is usually made out of ground lamb meat and tail fat, though there are many regional variations. Kebabs are fairly common in the area from Mersin in Turkey to Kirkuk in Iraq, and includes Aleppo in Syria. According to many authors, this kebab was born out of a fusion of Turkish and Arab cultures.
Birecik, once an important locality in the Eyalet of Aleppo, is said to be the creator of this very kind of kebab. The version prepared and consumed today in the province of Adana also has a history rooted in the modern Turkish culture, only to receive a “Controlled Designation of Origin” in February 2005, after subsequent legal trials.
Kıyma kebabı is still prepared in its historical location. According to the Patent Registrar, an original Adana kebabı is made only by a vendor who has successfully passed an inspection conducted on the spot by the Adana Chamber of Commerce. Similar dishes are prepared in neighboring zones of Turkey, Syria and Iraq, where the meat is hand-ground with the addition of tail fat and occasionally a non-spicy capsicum (pepper).
In Istanbul, and other Turkish communities outside of Adana and Aleppo, a kıyma kebabı is either an Adana kebabı (the spicy variant) or an Urfa kebabı (the non-spicy one). The original Adana kebabı was not spicy at all, and Urfa kebabı did not exist, even in Urfa, where the local variation of Kıyma kebabı is called Haşhaş kebabı.
How to make Adana kebab
In the original preparation, adana kebab 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 silver skin, nerves and internal fat of the lamb have to be removed and the lamb cleaned. The meat should then be cut into pieces along with the tail fat and be laid to rest for a day.
The meat and fat must be ground by hand, using a crescent-shaped iron cleaver known as the zırh. The purpose of using this special knife is to combine cubes of lamb meat with tail fat. The action of using the zırh knife and combining the ingredients is called zırhlama. This is the most important part of making a delicious Adana kebab.
Only sweet red peppers (also hand chopped with the zırh) and salt should be added. The Designation of Origin also authorizes, “under certain circumstances”, the addition of spicy green capsicum and fresh garlic cloves. In modern day recipes sumac spice is added to the meat.
After chopping to a minced consistency, the meat then has to be thoroughly kneaded together with the fat, the salt and any additional ingredients until reaching a homogeneous consistency. Ideally allowing the meat to rest overnight will produce a deeper flavor.
For Adana kebab, a special type of broad skewers of pure iron that was specially crafted for it, must be used. 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 flameless 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.
Adana kebab is commonly served on a plate, as a porsiyon (serving), 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 tarragon leaves, braised shallot hearts with olive oil and pomegranate molasses, pickled small green chili peppers, and, around Mersin, green shallot stems with slices of bitter orange, citron, lime and lemon.
- 20 oz. boneless mutton shoulder (or lamb shoulder)
- 3 tablespoons biber salçası (sweet pepper paste)
- 1 teaspoon acı biber salçası (hot pepper paste)
- 5 oz. sheep's tail fat
- 1 onion , chopped
- 1 clove garlic , chopped
- 3 tablespoons chopped flat parsley
- Food processor
- 8 flat metal skewers
- Leave the meat to rest for 24 hours in the refrigerator. Let the sheep tail fat also rest.
- Grind the sheep tail fat with a food processor.
- Place the cold mutton shoulder on a cutting board, and finely chop it with a knife, adding the tail fat gradually.
- Season with salt and add the biber salçası (sweet pepper paste), the acı biber salçası (hot pepper paste), onion, garlic, parsley and knead for 5 minutes.
- Cover the meat with plastic wrap and let it rest at room temperature for 2 hours by kneading it 3 or 4 times during this resting time.
- Preheat a charcoal barbecue (preferably) or an electric or gas barbecue.
- Divide the meat into 8 equal portions and thread each portion onto a flat metal skewer.
- Around the skewer, form meat rods about 6 inches (15 cm) long and 1 inch (3 cm) wide.
- Grill for 15 to 20 minutes on both sides, until the meat is elastic to the touch, flipping them often.
- Serve with rice and/or French fries, sumac red onion salad, tomato and cucumber salad with peppermint, and roasted green peppers.
It is also possible to grill the kebab in a conventional oven under the broiler at 390 F (200°C).