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Nov 24
Tuesday
Features, Out of Istanbul
The Lambassador from the East

Özcan Yildirim, center, with a shepherd and sheep dogs in the high-altitude meadows above Kosor, photo by Roxanne Darrow

Şehzade Erzurum Cağ Kebabı is one of our favorite places in Istanbul for a satisfying, lamby meal. You could easily walk past its handful of outdoor tables, tucked into a bustling pedestrian-only shopping street in the Sirkeci neighborhood. But if you stay, proprietor and head grill master Özcan Yıldırım will make you an unforgettable dish. Cağ kebab flips the ubiquitous döner concept on its side: Think layered lamb, lamb tail fat, garlic and spices, roasted on a horizontal spit, in front of a blazing wood fire. As the giant lamb cylinder’s outer edges caramelize, the grill master deftly slides an offset skewer into each glistening morsel, slashes the tender pink meat free from the mothership and repeats this process until your skewer is loaded up with perfect bites of lamb.

You are urged to eat straight from the skewer, but if you are feeling more refined, wrap fresh lavaş bread around the kebab and slide off the lamb, then add spicy fresh tomato ezme salad and buffalo milk yogurt to complement the smoky meat. As the hot, garlicky lamb fat hits your tongue, a primordial urge rises up from your civilized belly and you feverishly devour skewer after skewer until you hold up your hand in bittersweet surrender, and the grill master diverts the next round to another expectant customer.

Read the rest of the story at Culinary Backstreets.

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