One sandwich filling that’s a mainstay of New York City is the kebab, and the one at Chelsea’s Memo Shish Kebab is a thing of beauty.
Kebabs have been around for millennia, with many laying claim to the exact origin of the meat on a stick cooked over a fire. Some say it first occurred in Persia; arranged on skewers, these kebabs were composed of tiny morsels, which could be cooked using a minimum of fuel in a desert setting. They were similar in size to the satays currently enjoyed in Southeast Asia, and the suyas of northern Nigeria, which come coated with crushed peanuts.
Georgia also claims the origin of the kebab; known as shashlik, it spread across Central Asia and the Russian empire in the 19th century. These kebabs tended to be made with larger chunks of meat. So are the kebabs of Turkey, which claims to be the home of the kebab, and the Ottoman Empire certainly popularized them around the Mediterranean.
Turkey certainly boasts the most variations on the kebab, though India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh rival it in profusion of choices. Many kebabs, of course, don’t come on sticks; the lamb shank can be regarded as a kebab, for example. Similar to Middle Eastern shawarma and Greek gyro, doner kebabs were probably invented in Germany by a Turk. But my favorite Turkish kebab is lamb adana.
This is a kebab made of minced meat often mixed with onion, peppers, and lamb fat. When grilled over flame, as it is at Memo Shish Kebab, it cooks up crisp and fragrant with a partially blackened surface, which means oodles of flavor. Memo Shish Kebab, open 24 hours on Chelsea’s wild corner of Sixth Avenue and 23rd Street, is a branch of a longstanding favorite on Kings Highway in Brooklyn.
The adana kebab sandwich at Memo can be made on a pocket pita, on Turkish bread, or as a wrap. I like it best on Turkish bread ($9.50), which is something like focaccia. This bread is preferable because it is springy and fresh tasting compared to the other two. Inside the sandwich, in addition to the hefty grilled kebab, is shredded lettuce, purple cabbage, raw onion, and tomato, plus a yogurt sauce and a vinegary and incendiary hot sauce. Sprinkle them on the sandwich periodically as you plow onward.
See the entire run of Sandwich of the Week columns.