Vegetarian Döner Kebab
Guten Tag, Freunde! If you checked out my recap post about our trip to Germany, you may remember that my favorite food that I had there was less German than it was Turkish. The Turkish döner kebab has become an integral part of German culture, and is one of the most popular forms of street food in the country. A spicier version of a gyro, this stuffed and filling Mediterranean sandwich is a quick and easy dinner for any busy weeknight!
Many döner contain meat, and that meat is often a combination of beef and lamb. Like many Mediterranean meats, this is cooked on a vertical spit and shaved off into your sandwich. You get a nice, crunchy outside that gives way to a tender and juicy inside when you roast the meat this way. However, most of us don’t have a vertical spit handy at home. Most of the döner recipes that I looked up online suggested replicating this by adding spices to your ground raw meat of choice, baking it in a loaf tin to cook it, and then slicing the loaf and roasting the pieces for a few minutes under the broiler to get a crunchy, slightly charred exterior.
I, however, decided to forego the meat entirely in this recipe, as my husband is currently vegetarian. I didn’t want to add to my workload by making two separate dinners, and Mediterranean food is so easy to make vegetarian anyways. Instead of the beef and lamb, I opted for some nice spiced falafel balls. What’s more, I cheated and used store-bought falafel because I was going for optimum ease factor here, people. While I usually champion trying to make as many things from scratch as possible, as the great Ina Garten famously and memably said, “store bought is fine.”
For those unaware, falafel is made of ground chickpeas, similar to hummus. The difference is that these don’t have a thinning agent like tahini added, and they are fried after being formed into balls, which gives them a nice fluffy texture inside a crisp shell. They go great with the cooling yogurt sauce that I’ve made with this recipe, which adds some balancing creaminess to the relative dryness of the falafel. The yogurt sauce also balances the heat that comes from the chili sauce, which for the purpose of ease is simply sriracha (again, we’re going for low effort. I’m already asking you to find pita bread, which according to my local Kroger is damn near impossible). It all comes together with the refreshing crunch of fresh veggies to make a light, yet completely filling meal. Trust me, no sides required, though I do recommend plenty of forks and napkins for spillage. Remember this dish originated as a messy late-night street food, and I am in no way responsible for any falafel balls that end up on the floor!
I hope when you make this, you think not only of what it must be like to walk the streets of Berlin late at night, drunk and craving something spicy; but also how cool it is that an immigrant food has made such a large impact on the culture of the host country. Much like tacos in America, döner has made its way into the hearts and stomachs of many Germans – and now, hopefully, into your kitchen as well. Until next time, happy eating!