Turkey turns heads with application to grant doner kebabs special protection

Turkey turns heads with application to grant doner kebabs special protection
Turkey has filed an application to grant doner kebabs with the EU’s special protection label, dividing opinion on social media.
2 min read
25 April, 2024
If accepted, doner kebabs would join other popular European favourites such as Neapolitan pizza and Spanish jamon serrano [Getty]

Turkey has turned heads after filing an application to the EU on Thursday requesting that the country's popular dish, doner kebabs, be granted a special protection label on Thursday.

If accepted, doner kebabs would join other European favourites like Neapolitan pizza and Spanish jamon serrano.

Doner kebabs, a classic meat dish, consist of thinly sliced cutlets from beef, lamb, or chicken, rotating on a stainless steel skewer over a fire, cooking the meat as it revolves vertically around its axis.

Before being placed on the skewer, the meat is marinated in a mixture of yoghurt, pepper, tomato puree, herbs, spices and salt.

Turkey aims to register the name "doner" in Europe to ensure it is used only by producers adhering to the registered production methods and product specifications.

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If successful, only large slabs of beef or lamb "horizontally sliced into cutlets with a thickness of 3-5mm" would officially be labelled as doner.

The term 'doner' comes from the Turkish verb 'donmek', which is 'to rotate' or 'to turn' in English, and is a dish that has spread to different cities around the world since the start of the 1800s.

According to the document submitted by Turkey to the EU, the vertical cooking of doner dates back to 1546 and has become a cultural symbol of Turkish immigration to Europe, particularly to Germany.

Doner was first produced by Turkish worker Kadir Nurman in Berlin in 1972 and since then has spread across Germany and other European countries, according to the Association of Turkish Doner Producers in Europe.

Is doner Turkish?

The application has split opinions, with some hailing the move as a positive step, while others questioned the origin of the dish.

Many social media users shared the reported earliest known photo of the doner kebab from the Ottoman Empire, reiterating that it has always been a Turkish dish.

However, others disagreed.

"Germany should submit a counterclaim," one person responded on X.

Others questioned what this would mean for Germany, as the doner economy in Europe is estimated to be worth around 3.5 billion Euros.

"This could be tough for Berlin’s economy: Turkey wants to have kebabs protected as a regional speciality, like Champagne and Parma ham," another said.