Turkish Food of the Week #6: Testi Kebab (Pottery Kebab)
This week’s Turkish food comes to you from the Central Anatolian region of Turkey. I happily discovered this delicious vegetarian version of the regional dish during my vacation in Göreme, Cappadocia.
When we hear the word, kebab, we typically think of döner (pronounced: doh-nair) kebab, the “rotating kebab” (many Americans know this as its Greek counterpart, gyro) or şiş (pronounced: sheesh) kebab, when meat is placed on a şiş, or skewer. However, there are many other varieties of kebab, depending on the region and the way it is prepared. The main thing that all kinds of kebab have in common is that the meat and/or vegetables are cooked over or near flames.
All around Göreme and other towns in the Cappadocia region, I saw restaurants advertising testi kebab, or pottery kebab. Curious about how it would compare to various clay pot vegetable dishes that I tried in Chinese restaurants in the States, I searched the town for a vegetarian version of the dish. Unfortunately, despite growing tourism in Cappadocia, not every restaurant offered a vegetarian version, but I was eventually able to find a place near my hostel that had it called, Cappadocian Cuisine.
The original version of testi kebab consists of small chunks of meat, usually beef or lamb, cooked with vegetables inside a clay pot. In my vegetarian version, they substituted French fries for meat. The vegetables and/ or meat are slow-cooked and form a stew-like consistency. When it’s done cooking, it comes out inside the clay pot with the lid still sealed shut.
Now here’s the fun part!
When your testi kebab is ready to be served, the seal must be broken! I suppose you could just do it yourself, but I let the server do it for me at the restaurant. She picked up a spoon and forcefully banged it against the top of the clay pot until it cracked and fell off to the side. The next step was to mix it with rice and wait for it to cool down.
The “veggie” testi kebab reminded me of vegetable stew, but the clay pot gave it a unique, savory, earthy flavor. According to my hostel friends, the meat version was just as delicious. For a mere 15-18 TL (about $6.72-$8.07 at the time of writing), testi kebab is a tasty, filling regional dish you must have in Cappadocia!