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The world's best street food: sigh, where's the Berlin döner?
I'll start with the döner, or kebab. Please bear with me.
I spend an unusually large amount of time thinking about döners – far more time than I actually spend eating them.
But that's just a factor of health, really. Given my druthers, I'd eat a döner once a day, like that person you know who unabashedly says the same about McDonald's, because the stuff tastes so good.
Döners taste even better, and given their reliance on a lot of salad and fresh ingredients, not to mention on thin slices of meat, one feels rather more healthy for having chosen a döner instead of something at a fast food joint.
That's kidding myself, I know. No matter. The döner is the world's best sandwich (sorry to those Philly cheese steak and North Carolina pulled-pork fans out there) and I think up at the top of anything you can buy from a so-called street vendor.
I've spent the last few years on a somewhat determined search for the best döner. I've eaten them in New York, in London, in the Balkans, just about anywhere I can. Sadly, though, I haven't tried a döner in its homeland, Turkey – yet.
Döner kebabs are a Turkish mainstay of meat that is piled and cooked vertically on a spit. A real döner is made from lamb meat, but mutton and chicken are also common. After that, the basic ingredients are simple: tomatoes, onions, some shredded cabbage, maybe a cucumber – all topped off with a yogurt, hot or herb sauce.
Kebabs have a couple of close cousins: shawarma, common in the Middle East, and gyros, common in Greece and throughout the Mediterranean. But the meat is often a little different, and both do not make use of thick, toasted Turkish bread, which the best döners employ.
The best I've found, so far, are in Berlin. And the truly great döner stands – I'm thinking up a list for a future post – take the basic sandwich and raise it to different levels, sometimes throwing in fried vegetables, goat cheese, a little lemon. The döner is versatile. The döner is interpretive. The döner is love.
The döner is also ignored.
Concierge.com has thrown together an intriguing list of the best street food in the world and the city that serves it best.
The list (in no particularly order):
- Banh mi (Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam)
- Tacos (San Miguel de Allende, Mexico)
- Tripe sandwiches (Florence, Italy)
- Green papaya salad (Bangkok, Thailand)
- Currywurst (Berlin, Germany)
- Any Asian food stand in Singapore
- Bhel puri (Mumbai, India)
- Frites (Brussels, Belgium)
- Arepas (Cartagena, Colombia)
- Jerk pork and chicken (Ocho Rios, Jamaica)
- Sheep's head (Marrakesh, Morocco)
The döner is not the only street snack to get the shaft in the list. What about fish 'n' chips in Brighton? The galette in Paris? The lobster roll in any Route 1 clam shack? Burek anywhere in the Balkans?
Anyway, I'm confident had the Concierge editors expanded the list to 15, instead of the requisite odd number publications seem to think readers love, my beloved Berlin döner would have made the cut.
Currywurst isn't bad. I just wouldn't eat it when sober.