What is Cağ Kebab?

Although there is a popular definition that it is a sideways version of döner, cağ kebab means Erzurum (a city in Turkey), and cağ kebab is one of the first dishes that come to mind when Erzurum is mentioned.

It is rumored that the origin of cağ kebab is Oltu, Erzurum. But this is a marketing misconception. The origin of the authentic cağ kebab is Kosor, Erzurum. (I will talk about it in the following sections of the article) However, cağ kebab is a meat dish and kebab that is eaten in Artvin, especially in the districts close to Erzurum. Another name for it is “Smuggler Kebab”.

Lamb meat is especially preferred in its preparation, but mutton is also used where lamb is unavailable. The lamb meat is blended with onion, black pepper, and salt and passed through a doner rod. Then, these marinated meat piles are cooked lying over an intense wood fire. The name Cağ is the name given to the skewers in those regions. So shish kebab = cağ kebab. The meat cooked in the wood fire is cut into these skewers, cağs, with the help of a doner knife and served on the plate threaded onto these skewers.

When people who want to eat cağ kebab go to the restaurant, they decide how many cağ/skewers they want to eat. Unless they are told to stop, the waiter will continue to leave the lamb meat on your plate. It is usually served with various side dishes and the must-have onion. There must be hot lavash; even the cağ kebab must be pulled into that lavash, and onion must be added and sent to the stomach.

What is Tatari?

Experts and connoisseurs order cağ kebab as “Tatari“. Tatari is the name given to a presentation and cooking style in the cağ kebab literature. In this presentation, the bottom side of the meat is slightly less cooked. It is not reheated. (It is close to raw.) It is not for those who like their meat overcooked. Therefore, for those who want it cooked, the back parts of the meat are cooked again after being pulled into the cağa. However, people who eat tatari once and love it will always order tatari for their next cağ orders.

Although Erzurum province has a geographical indication for cağ kebab, according to many food writers and experts, the best cağ kebab in Turkey is in Ardanuç, Artvin. It would be more accurate to say that “Cağ Kebab” is a dish that has emerged throughout the Coruh River delta. It is also said to have been made in Kosor (now called Akşar), a village in the Şenkaya district of Erzurum, for 200 years. The owner and master of Şehzade Cağ Kebap in Istanbul, Özcan Yıldırım’s deceased master from Kosor, is a hundred-odd years old. In other words, the oldest known place of origin of cağ kebab is Kosor. It is probably not a coincidence that there is also a cağ kebab restaurant named “Kosor Cağ Kebap in Kars. Kosor people do not call the “Tatari” people Tatari, but directly “Kosor”. They claim that Tatari has no direct meaning and that it is the fault of Ankara-based cağ kebab makers that Oltu has come to the forefront of the cağ kebab scene.

We cannot forget the flavor of the cağ kebab we ate in Artvin. Some say the best place in Istanbul is “Şehzade Cağ Kebap” in Eminönü, while others say “Edo Cağ Kebap” in Gebze Truck Garage. In Erzurum, the oldest cağ kebab shops are Gel-Gör and Koç Cağ kebap. Apart from that, cağ kebab is one of the best and original interpretations of kebab in Turkey.

In any case, the success of a cağ kebab is directly proportional to the meat’s quality and the restaurant’s version. The meat should be served as soon as it is cooked.

Bon appetite!

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