The Slovenia Times

The Kebab is Here to Stay



The kebab stand with its trademark spit and small round tables bustling with happy kebab consumers is becoming a common sight in Ljubljana. If one were to search for a kebab a couple of years ago, Kebapci on Trubarjeva ulica was the only place one could be found. This first kebab stand opened about 5 years ago and has experienced great success. In the past year, kebab stands have blossomed like flowers after rain and are now the fast food of choice for many Slovenians, giving long-time favourites, like burek and pleskavica, a run for their money. The Slovenia Times headed off to Kebapci, Ljubljana's 'original' kebab stand, among others, to find out more about this new fad. A kebab is basically meat grilled on a skewer; the meat is cut off in small pieces and placed between toasted bread, along with vegetables and yogurt sauce. One version of this is particularly popular in the US, the shish kebab, which consists of small pieces of meat threaded on a stick. Historically, these dishes developed in Turkey and spread to the Middle East and the Balkans. Kebab is said to have originated due to a scarcity in fuel, since small pieces of meet cook quickly, though some also attribute the dish to military ingenuity, where soldiers grilled pieces of meat on their swords. The Slovenian kebab is no different to kebabs found elsewhere. Kebabs in the Middle East are made using different meat, but are still regarded as fast food. In Slovenia, most of the meat used for kebabs is either local or imported from other EU countries. Kebab chefs from Turkey and Egypt divulged the secret to a good kebab. A 'real' kebab is made of veal and lamb meat, although the tavuk (chicken) kebab is particularly popular with younger customers. One chef claimed that meat is the most important ingredient, another that spices are what set kebabs apart from other fast food. Fresh vegetables - lettuce, onions, cucumbers, cabbage, tomatoes - are also key ingredients. Who eats kebabs most often? "Everyone!" say the chefs. This seems to be quite true, as fast food has rapidly moved from being the domain of young people to include more and more adults looking for a quick bite. All the chefs agree, however, that male customers greatly outnumber females, although more and more of these can be seen happily munching on their chicken and vegi kebabs, popular alternatives to the traditional doner kebab. It is safe to say that students form a large majority of those eating kebabs, due in part, no doubt, to the inexpensive meal tokens offered by many kebab stands. No wonder then that the chefs working the late night shift are the most busy, as young customers pour in looking for midnight snacks. A scan through Ljubljana's kebab stands shows that not all kebabs are created equal. When asked about the differences in quality, customers said that the ethnic origin of chefs not only contributed to the authenticity of the kebab, but also to the taste. Many customers said they would willingly pay more for a kebab if they knew the chefs were more skilled at a certain location (the average price for a kebab is around SIT 700). One customer quipped that "no Joze or Jure can make a good kebab, but that the 'real' thing can only be made by an authentic chef." This may come as bad news to many of the new kebab stands in Slovenia's capital hoping to lure price-conscious customers through free drinks and discounts. On the whole, it seems that more and more Slovenians are not just becoming used to this new strand of fast food, but have already become seasoned connoisseurs. Four years ago, people used to come into Kebapci asking what exactly a kebab was, says one chef; now they come in ordering old favourites. Most of those working in the kebab business are sure that it was demand that fuelled the opening of so many new kebab stands in Slovenia. After all, it is not only Slovenians but also the growing tourist population that have come to enjoy them. It can easily be concluded that Slovenians have integrated the kebab into their lifestyles, especially as almost all the customers observed were seen sipping cold Lasko and Union beers along with their kebabs.


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