The Journey of the Döner Kebab: From Turkish Street Food to Berlin’s Iconic Culinary Icon

The owner of the Turkish kebab shop was aggressive, with his sword up and down, and he was decisive in killing. A kebab arrives in minutes: a hot, crispy Turkish-style flatbread filled with juicy, browned slices of meat, served with salad greens, red cabbage, tomatoes, and onions , served with hot sauce, mustard, yogurt sauce or garlic sauce, a bite is solid and satisfying.

  This is my third time in Berlin. On my first day, I rushed to the nearest kepab shop and ordered a Döner Kepab (Turkish roti) to go. The price of the small shop is as beautiful as in memory, 4.5 euros for a large portion; the boss’s actions are as fierce as ever, with a knife up and down, killing and cutting decisively. And so a kebab arrives in minutes: a hot, crispy Turkish-style flatbread filled with juicy, browned slices of meat, served with salad greens, red cabbage, tomatoes and onions , served with hot sauce, mustard, yogurt sauce or garlic sauce, a bite is solid and satisfying. At that moment, the taste buds are the first to know what it means to be “at home”.
  When I was studying in Germany at university, I was a frequent visitor to the Turkish kebab shop. The reason is very simple. For a few steel coins, you can get a simple meal that can stand the test of the Chinese stomach. The amount is large, and there are vegetables and meat. It can also save the hard work of buying vegetables, cooking, and washing dishes. The kebab is also a favorite of almost all the students on campus. In every corner of the campus, on the benches, on the lawn, and in the corridors, young people are often seen holding barbecued meat pies in one hand and mate tea in the other, chatting, laughing and cursing. The smell of Turkish barbecue almost lingered in my entire study abroad career.

Is it traditional Turkish cuisine or authentic German?

  Many people often ask, is kebab an authentic German dish or a traditional Turkish dish? Both viewpoints have their supporters, and the debate is endless. A more “moderate” statement is that it is a beautiful product of the fusion and collision of German and Turkish cultures. Its cooking method originated from the Asia Minor peninsula, but it really flourished after being improved in Germany, and finally became a “national business card” of Germany.
  The marinated beef and mutton are made into barbecue pillars and grilled. This cooking method has a long history and rich practical experience in Turkey, Greece and other countries. As early as 1836, the old Prussian general Moltke recorded in his diary when he was working in the Ottoman Empire, “We had a lunch with a Turkish flavor. The roasted lamb on a fermented bread roll is really a delicacy.” During the historical evolution, chefs from all over Turkey have continuously improved and innovated the cooking method of barbecue, from horizontal grilling to vertical grilling, from serving with rice to serving with flatbread, with more and more ingredients and different cooking methods. It is getting closer to the practice of Döner cakes in the streets and alleys of Berlin today. But in general, barbecue is still a “special dish” in Turkish restaurants, and it has not “walked down the temple”. The popularity of Turkish kebabs all over Europe has to start from its trip to Germany.
  In the 1950s and 1960s, the economy of the Federal Republic of Germany developed rapidly, creating an “economic miracle”. In response to the growing labor shortage, Germany signed a labor recruitment agreement with Turkey. Since then, hundreds of thousands of Turkish workers have been called to Germany to enter factories, mines, and farmland to do high-intensity physical work. At that time, the staff canteens in German factories did not provide food that suited their eating habits, and the fast-paced work did not allow workers enough time to sit down and enjoy delicious food. Some caring people quickly found business opportunities in the problems. Before long, kebabs were born. At first, the store simply put the barbecue into the scones, and then gradually added salads and sauces, and the taste and nutrition became richer and more balanced. The process of making kebabs is quite convenient. One person, one knife, and one kebab pole are enough. How fast the machine in the factory turns is how fast the Turkish master can swing the knife. Workers pay a few coins and can get food within a few minutes, or eat while walking, or entrust a dog to eat and chat with friends during lunch break, so as to replenish their energy between heavy work. This new type of snack quickly became a hit. It was first popular among Turkish and Arab workers, and then the local Germans were also captured by it. A large number of barbecue snack bars have sprung up all over Germany. In order to cater to the taste of Germans, the material of barbecue has gradually been improved to beef and chicken which Germans prefer to eat.
Who is the father of kebabs? Where is the land of kebabs?

  There is a saying in Germany, “Success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan” (Der Erfolg hat vieleVäter, der MisserfolgisteinWaisenkind). It is true that the debate over who is the father of Turkish kebabs and where is the hometown of kebabs has never stopped. In summary, there are mainly two different versions: “North” and “South”: “Northern” believes that about 40 years ago,
  Turkey Laborer Kadir Nullman sold the first Döner in Berlin. According to Nuerman’s description, after coming to Germany, he keenly observed the strong demand for fast food in the local area, and then he thought of the unique barbecue method in his hometown, so he combined the bread with the barbecue slices, and the Turkish barbecue pie turned out , and his restaurant near the Berlin Zoo became very popular. Two years later, many Turkish workers came to his snack bar to work and study, and then opened their own kebab shop, and this delicacy gradually spread widely in Berlin. Nuerman carefully kept a file, which contains a large number of photos of him making barbecue decades ago and advertising clippings that were placed in newspapers at that time, which became a strong proof of his “self-identification”. In 2011, the European Turkish Kebab Manufacturers Association (ATDID) presented Nuerman with a Lifetime Achievement Award. The saying that “Nurman is the father of kebabs and Berlin is the hometown of kebabs” is also more common.
  The “Southern Pai” insists that Turkish chef Neft Salim brought kebabs to southern Germany as early as 1969. Salim was born in Bursa, a city in western Turkey. This historic city is known as the birthplace of earth-style Döner. Before his family moved to Germany, Salim worked as an assistant cook in a famous local Turkish barbecue restaurant, where he mastered traditional barbecue techniques. After coming to Germany, Salim successively worked and lived in the small towns of Göppingen, Reutlingen, and Pfulingen in southern Germany, cooking barbecue for private parties. In 1969, Salim and his father participated in the Reutlingen City Festival together, and set up Germany’s first barbecue stall at the festival market. At that time, it was impossible to buy barbecue equipment for barbecue in Germany. Salim’s father even drove thousands of miles back to Turkey to buy equipment for this purpose. Salim said he realized he had started selling Döner much earlier when he came across Bild’s story about Nuerman’s invention of kebabs, arguing that “Nurman The evidence provided by Mann is not clear, and he also worked in Stuttgart in his early years and had a ‘Swabian experience’, so Swabia is the real hometown of kebabs”.

  Over the past few decades, times have changed, and the light and shadow of history have continued to flow. Who is the “successful father” and where is his hometown? “Contest” has become more and more a dispute between North and South tastes, regional culture, association interests, media traffic, and personal honor, and it has become more and more complicated and confusing. It is a bit of a pity that neither Nuerman nor Salim were able to use patent protection to obtain huge wealth or live a wealthy life by becoming a “first mover”. This may be their misfortune. But it is precisely because of this that thousands of barbecue restaurants can emerge freely and develop their own different and colorful cooking styles without hindrance.
  Today, the German kebab manufacturing industry has grown into a giant industry with a huge output value. According to statistics, German barbecue column manufacturers and retail snack bars generate about 3.5 billion euros in annual sales, providing more than 110,000 jobs in Germany; there are more than 250 barbecue column manufacturing companies in Germany, consuming nearly 600 tons of meat every day , its product supply covers the whole of Europe, accounting for nearly 80% of the EU market.
Berlin – the capital of kebabs

  In the 1970s, the oil crisis swept the world, and the German economy fell into the quagmire of stagflation. Under the general environment, factories and enterprises have cut jobs one after another. As a result, a large number of Turkish workers have lost their jobs. They are caught in a predicament where they cannot be extended after their work visas expire and are expelled by the authorities. Many Turkish laborers who were unwilling to leave Germany were forced to “do business”, and the popular barbecue snack bar with low technical barriers has become the choice of many entrepreneurs. This trend is particularly pronounced in areas of Berlin with a large immigrant population.
  In 1981, Heinrich Rummer, then Berlin City Councilor and Minister of the Interior, introduced the “Rumer Decree”. The decree stipulates that all workers who cannot support themselves may be deported back to their country. Under such pressure, a large number of workers chose to open snack bars as a “countermeasure” to deal with the decree, and new kebab restaurants have sprung up in Berlin. At that time, Berlin was at the forefront of the Cold War, with a dense population and complex and diverse backgrounds. Students, foreigners, immigrant workers, artists, anti-war activists, left-wing activists, and intelligence personnel gathered here. open. The relaxed cultural atmosphere promotes the people’s higher acceptance of foreign food; under the economic crisis, this cheap, convenient and delicious food is also more popular among the people. This gastronomy industry is growing rapidly in Berlin. According to statistics, there are currently about 16,000 Turkish kebab restaurants in Germany, of which Berlin alone has more than 1,000, which is the most in the whole of Germany, which also makes Berlin a well-deserved “kebab capital”.
  Along with the development and growth of the industry is a group of people, a culture and a history.
  Kebabs have changed and are changing the lives of many. Over the past few decades, many immigrants have written their own “German Stories” and “German Legends” on this basis. Many people have established their own brands, opened branches, started from scratch, and gained a firm foothold in foreign countries. . Many barbecue restaurants have developed into family businesses and chain enterprises, with their own heirloom cuisine, and even become a must-see city card in the local area. Now and in the future, more and more people are also experiencing “German daily life” and “German reality” here. Many immigrants make a living by this, eat this for a living, and strive to find themselves beside the hot oven and the rolling crowd s position.
  Kebabs also round out Berlin’s “poor but sexy” cultural image. When thinking of Berlin, people think of not only the Brandenburg Gate, the TV Tower, young people, wine bottles in the park, graffiti and the Berlin Wall, but also the figure of the Turkish uncle busy by the barbecue pillar. It adds a different flavor to the city and brings a little exotic fireworks to the metropolis of Berlin.
  As a result, a small barbecue pie is no longer as simple as a dish. It is a culture, a way of life for a large group of people, and a small condensed history of immigration in modern Germany. Author Max Fischer once wrote, “We invite labor, and what comes is fresh people”. The laborers not only brought labor, but also cultural traditions and lifestyles of their hometowns. In times of depression, a piece of meatloaf is a helpless choice for people; in times of prosperity, it is a bright color in the bustling city. The collision and blending of the cultures of the two countries can produce such a wonderful and beautiful cultural chemical reaction.

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