Well, content for the old blog is a bit thin these days. With funds slowly dwindling (not really, but we are being careful) eating out either happens:
a) on the cheap
b) when we're drunk; or
c) a & b combined.
Good thing we're in Berlin, where rents and food are cheap!
If anyone reading knows Mr von S in real life, they would know of his love for KFC a.k.a. the dirty bird, a.k.a. the Colonel. Sometimes his love for KFC competes with his love for me, especially if I've done something mean, like make fun of how much time he spends on the Internet, his one blond eyebrow or how skinny he is (I love you baby!!)
Anyway, we were sitting together one afternoon, trying to think of where the nearest fast food outlet was located (we may have been hungover) and I commented that I couldn't even think of where the nearest KFC was. It turns out KFC, like most of Berlin's fast food outlets, is located in the middle* of the city, Alexanderplatz bahnhof. There you can find McDonalds and KFC. But what's squished between both of those stores? A currywurst restaurant and two bakeries, and just a little further down the line, a döner stand.
We came to the conclusion that Berlin lacks the big-name fast food restaurants because frankly, it's hard to compete in a city that worships at the altar of currywurst and döner every Sunday (albeit a little bit earlier than standard church-going hours. Try 3am).
According to Wikipedia döner, like currywurst, originated in Berlin, “The German-style döner kebab was supposedly invented by a Turkish immigrant in Berlin in the 1970s, and became a popular German take-away food during the 1990s.”
So what is it that makes up this German-style döner? Well, specifics change from stand to stand, but generally the German-style döner is this: turkish bread, warmed and pressed in a sandwich grill, meat from the spit, which may be lamb, beef or chicken (did you know that döner kebab actually means rotating meat?) salad of some variety – may be lettuce, tomato, cucumber, onion, and a choice of three sauces: scharfe (hot) knoblauch (garlic) and kraute (herbed mayo-type sauce). Varieties on the standard include the addition of fried vegetables, feta cheese, a spritz of lemon or even french fries.
Contemplating my döner
Vegetarians reading need not feel excluded. Given that Turkey is an Islamic country, a portion of the population are also practising vegetarians, and thus tofu kebabs, falafel kebabs, or even just a normal kebab sans meat are often available on menus.
Given that döner is available to both vegetarians and omnivores, it's no surprise that the döner industry in Germany is booming. According to Tarkan Tasyumruk, president of the Association of Turkish Döner Producers in Europe (yes, it's a real association!), in 2010 more than 400 tonnes of döner kebab meat was produced every day, and annual sales of döner in Germany amount to EUR2.5 billion.
I mentioned earlier that food in Berlin is cheap. Taking into account that the average döner ranges in price from EUR2.50 – EUR3.50, that's an incredible amount of döner being consumed in a country stereotypically pegged as being wurst and kraut eaters. Well, make that wurst, kraut and döner eaters!
Just as everyone has their opinion on who does the best kebabs in Berlin (Mustafa's Gemüse Kebap on Mehringdamm for me) everyone has an opinion on which is better: Döner Kebab or Döner Dürüm? I've weighed up pros and cons of the two main types of döner available in Berlin below.
Probably what people from Australia and New Zealand would call a kebab – meat from the spit, wrapped in flat bread and dripping with garlic sauce. Oh, and salad too!
According to some, the dürüm has its advantage as a better 'traveller' – being all snuggly rolled up, there is less chance of spillage when consuming. Dürüm also contains more filling, as the flat bread is considerably larger that its Turkish-bread rival.
However, if one is to have more, one is to pay more. Generally, a dürüm is approximately 50 cents more expensive than a döner, and sometimes, no matter how tightly wrapped, if you're a battler when you eat, there is no saving you nor that precious piece of extra crispy meat from hitting the floor.
The perfect travel-snack: dürüm
Fresh turkish bread, toasted and then loaded up with goodies. I think of the döner kebab as the original; after all, when ordering in Germany, one simply asks for a döner, and this is what you get.
Advantages of the döner include being able to select which section to bite from i.e. ooh, I see you there, extra tasty portion of meat *chomp* and affordability. If you're a texture person, like me, the döner is the way to go – freshly toasted bread? Heck yes!
Disadvantage (really, there's only one) - ridiculously messy to eat, even for neat eaters such as myself.
As I said earlier, everyone has their preference. For me, the winner will always be the döner – the original, and the best. The combination of freshly toasted bread, being able to pick out bits of meat and fried vegetables, and the ability to show off my neat eating skills? Well, it's obvious!
So friends, what's your opinion: döner or dürüm? And for interests' sake – where's your favourite kebab shop, and what makes it special?
xx Fifi von Strudel
* it feels like Berlin doesn't really have a centre, a real heart, but I'd say it's somewhere in Mitte. Berlin lacks high rises and other cues which indicate a central business district. For me, the closest city centre feeling is in Mitte, near the Brandenburg Gate, near Friedrichstrasse U-bahn.