Photographer:Fotograaf: Loraine Bodewes
I’m on the road a lot, which doesn’t really square with healthy eating habits. Fast food at train stations is often not very good for you, but I always tell myself there is one snack that’s a complete and relatively healthy meal: doner kebab with a cup of ayran. The former consists of raw vegetables, grilled meat with the fat melted out, and flat bread. The latter is a healthy yoghurt drink without sugar. I love it, but the question is whether there is such a thing as quality differences in standardized fast food like doner kebab.
Maastricht has many doner places. My plan was to do a Maastricht doner kebab tour with a Turkish student and a Turkish-German student. The doner kebab as Europe knows it was invented in Berlin, after all: Kadir Nurman made the first one in 1973. His innovation was to add raw vegetables to the original meat-only kebab sandwiches from Turkey. Going on a kebab tour with students from these backgrounds would have allowed us to compare the Maastricht vendors’ products with the originals sold in Germany, as well as the proto-kebab from Turkey.
Due to a few scheduling mishaps, the Turkish-German student didn’t materialize. Instead, I do the tour with Nazli Dediz Besikci, who arrived from Istanbul this summer. She came to Maastricht to study Biomedical Sciences. Although the contrast between these two cities in terms of size, culture, and diversity is extreme, Nazli likes Maastricht. Its small size and the lack of an overly vibrant city life helps her focus on her studies. She also enjoys the programme and the regularity offered by the problem-based learning system. Her first exams will be later this week; she feels confident and anxious about them at the same time.
We first go to Musti, the doner takeaway in front of the train station. I’ve gone there many times, partly because of their excellent location. And I like their product, although it doesn’t differ all that much from the doner sold by other vendors. We can choose chicken or veal, and they have the vegetables that are common in Dutch doner: iceberg lettuce, tomato, cucumber, onions, and peppers. This is Nazli’s first time eating kebab in the Netherlands. She tells me that kebab in Istanbul contains more or less the same vegetables.
When we try the sandwiches, she notices four big differences with Istanbul kebab, which is smaller, contains fries, has less meat, and doesn’t come with garlic sauce. Also, the meat in Istanbul is crispier, fattier and roasted for longer. Musti’s doner, in conclusion, is OK, but very much like what you can get anywhere in the Netherlands.
Our next stop is Yildiz Plaza in the Orleansstraat. Yildiz is a Turkish food market best known for its meat. Their stellar reputation in this respect is well deserved. They sell a wide range of excellent halal meat at very reasonable prices. Their veal and beef in particular are superb, made from cattle called Belgische Blauwe, specifically bred for their meat. They roam free at farms in the Kempen region, just across the border from Limburg, and are selected and butchered by Yildiz.
I heard Yildiz prepare their rotisserie meat from the meat they sell in the shop, which turns out to be true. When we enter the shop, we immediately spot the difference with the factory-prepared rotisserie meats that are common in kebab joints. Doner kebab at Yildiz is made from beef, and the rotisserie at the entrance of the shop holds big slabs of it. They’ve put slices of pure fat on top of the rotisserie, which are steadily melting over the meat to keep it juicy.
The staff are obviously proud of their product, and they serve it with pleasure – but only until 8 pm, as they want to maintain a healthy family life. Nazli and I are very happy too. According to her, this kebab compares very well with what she has tasted in Istanbul, although there she’d be eating the grilled meat with a plate of rice rather than in a wrap. As for me, this is by far the best doner kebab I’ve ever eaten in the Netherlands. It’s also a bit more expensive – €7 where it would usually cost €5 – but it’s worth it. The meat has much more taste and it’s spicy in just the right way. We ask the staff about the seasoning of the meat, but that’s a big secret. They’re only willing to share that it contains pepper and salt, and that they let the meat marinate in yoghurt for a while before attaching it to the rotisserie.
Nazli and I had planned to visit a few more kebab places after Yildiz, but this one was so good that we decide to cut the tour short. It won’t get any better than this.
In this series Professor Piet Eichholtz (Professor of Finance at the School of Business and Economics) trawls the streets of Maastricht in search of good food with a student or colleague and reports on his findings here.