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Uludağ Kebapçısı September 27, 2009

Posted by Steven Bartus in Turkish Cuisine.
Tags: ,

Uludag  006

İskender kebab is one of the most popular dishes in Turkey.  Ask a random Turk on the street about his favorite food and the answer will invariably be this combination of thinly sliced lamb basted with tomato sauce over pieces of pide, generously topped with melted butter and a side of yogurt.

İskender originated in Bursa, a city in northwestern Turkey, and is still made by the family of Yavuz İskenderoğlu, the butcher who created the eponymous dish in 1867.  Having sampled the original in its birthplace last year, I can confirm that iskender lives up to its reputation as one of the tastiest dishes in Turkish cuisine.  While it’s worth making the trip to Bursa, there is no shortage of iskender options in Ankara.  However, one must be discerning in his choice in order to taste an accurate rendition of the original.

In my experience, iskender has the potential to be the most precarious of Turkish dishes.  If any one of the ingredients is out of proportion, the harmony of the flavors is disturbed and the food is rendered unremarkable in its taste.  In such cases, the diner will be left sorely disappointed and bewildered by the ubiquitous admiration heaped upon this dish by legions of Turks.

In Ankara, one place stands above the rest as the most authentic producer of iskender.  Established in 1956 as a small, four-table restaurant in the Ulus neighborhood of the city, Uludağ Kebapçısı draws in locals and tourists alike for what is widely considered to be the best iskender outside of Bursa.  Since its inception, Uludağ has expanded into six branches in Ankara and İstanbul, but still retains the quality and consistency that made it famous.

Upon first glance at the Uludağ menu, one might be confused by the lack of anything called “iskender“.  This is because the title is trademarked by the progenitor in Bursa.  Uludağ’s version takes the name of the establishment, Uludağ kebab, and pays near perfect homage to the original.  The ingredients are fresh and properly proportioned, achieving the correct union of meat, tomato, butter and yogurt.  I recommend that you begin your meal with the çoban salatası (shepard’s salad), a refreshing mixture of tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers and parsley, topped with lemon juice and olive oil.  It provides a nice contrast to the heavy flavors of the iskender.  For your drink, the ayran is a delicious complement to the dish.

Uludağ Kebapçısı is not a cheap place.  One portion of Uludağ kebab is priced at 15TL ($10 at $1.48TL/$), and the waiter kindly recommended that men (and, I assume, those women with larger appetites) order the 1.5 portion, which costs 21TL.  This is about two to four times what you will pay on the streets of Kızılay. But those seeking the best iskender in the city will certainly find the premium to be a worthy investment.

Uludağ has locations in Ulus, Çayyolu, Armada A.V.M., Panora A.V.M. and Antares A.V.M. as well as in Florya in İstanbul. In an informal poll of my Turkish colleagues and friends, the Armada branch (Google Maps) is considered to be the best, but this is certainly a subject for debate.


1. Old School - January 3, 2010

I find only surface resemblance between what one is served at Iskender in Bursa and at Uludağ in Ankara.

1) The meat in Bursa was sliced much more thickly.
2) The sauce in Bursa had chunks of tomato in it; the stuff at Uludag (Just like everywhere else was simply diluted tomato paste (“salça”).
3) The “pide” in Bursa was warm, thin, and crispy, unlike the thick (and usually cold) “pide” at “Iskendercis” in Ankara.
4) I found the meat at Uludağ just as tasteless as the meat at any cheap Iskender joint in Ankara.
5) I have yet to find good Iskender anywhere–at any price–in Ankara.

2. Meşhur Adıyaman Çiğ Köftecisi « Eating Ankara - April 2, 2010

[…] 2010 Posted by Steven Bartus in Turkish Cuisine. Tags: çiğ köfte trackback Çiğ köfte, like iskender, is another staple of Turkish cuisine that can be rather underwhelming when poorly prepared. […]

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