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Jul 26, 2004 09:41 PM

what is donair

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please help thanks

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    1. m
      Michael Stacey

      Ahh.... the Donair!

      Donair is just one of a number of dishes served around the world that are part of a family that I, for lack of a better word, have termed, unnappetizingly perhaps, "meatlogs". This is because these regional foods (e.g. gyros, doner kebab, donairs and shwarma etc...) are all served sliced of a large rotating "log" of meat that spins vertically on an electric spit surrounded by electric heaters. The meat is sliced off of the outside of the log using various knives, swords and electric shaving contraptions and is then served in a pita or similar flatbread with a variety of sauces, depending on where you are and what variety you are consuming. Their origin is, as far as my research goes, specifically unknown, but various stories point to Greece or Turkey as the original home.

      On the various varieties:

      Gyros: never had them in canada but in Greece, they are pronounced "Hee-ros" and were available in chicken and (I think) pork most of the time, they were served in a lightly fried, thick pita with tzatziki sauce, sometimes with thick cut french fries rolled into the pita.

      Doner Kebab: again, I've seen them advertised in canada and never sampled them, but in Switzerland this meant veal with both a yogurt sauce and a chili sauce, and lettuce and tomatoes, sandwiched in a bread that is considerably thicker than a pita. I've also heard that this is what they're usually called in Germany but I've never tried one there.

      Shwarma: Only tried one once, on the street in paris and it was chicken with chili sauce, to tell the truth, I was pretty drunk and it was a few years ago. My only impression was that I hadn't ordered properly, because it didn't taste like the legendary shwarmas described by friends in Ottawa. Shwarma is, from what I've heard, the local favourite "meat log" in Ottawa. I've also heard that it is the version available in Israel as well.

      Donair: This what the post was really about, so here goes. As far as I know, this spelling refers specifically, though not exclusively, to the "Halifax Style Donair". These are really only available in Halifax, although a friend of mine sampled one in Kingston, but he said it wasn't the same. I've never found Halifax Donair in Toronto, where the spelling was used, they were referring to something slightly different. The Halifax Donair is unique and ubiquitous in Halifax. It is a spicy beef meatloaf (on the log) sliced and lightly fried and placed in a lightly fried pita, it is then covered in onions, tomatoes and Donair Sauce, before being wrapped in tin foil and consumed. Donair sauce is a mixture of condensed milk and garlic, it is incredibly runny and gooey and it is disgustingly good as a topping for Donair meat (which Haligonians consume in a variety of ways, including Donair burgers) and pizza (Donair shops are always also pizza parlours and a donair pizza made with the meat is often available). Donairs are the grossest of "meat log" specialties. The meat is usually a dark brown and has an odour that can be off putting, for this reason Donairs are consumed, at least by neophyte upper Canadians, most frequently after 2 am and several beers. Under these conditions, they are a delight unparalleled in the gastronomic field. There's nothing quite like trying to eat an enourmous pile of meat, barely contained in its pita wrapper, as its delicious and staining sauce drips down your drunken and oblivious face.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Michael Stacey
        Andy McIntosh

        > ...the "Halifax Style Donair". These are really only > available in Halifax... I've never found Halifax > Donair in Toronto... The Halifax Donair is unique > and ubiquitous in Halifax.

        A couple quibbles...
        1) The "Halifax Donair" is common to the Maritimes and Newfoundland, and is a common fast food. Chains such as Greco Pizza, Pizza Delight, and King of Donair are commonplace.
        2) You CAN find donairs in Toronto! Greco Pizza has expanded its Greco Express franchise into Ontario, and there's 8 locations in the GTA (2 in Brampton for you Newfies)! Yum!

        The preferred side dish for donairs are Garlic fingers (think of a 9" pizza garlic bread-style, cut into strips), with donair dipping sauce. Another delicious Maritime innovation!

      2. Donair is the Anglicized form of the Turkish doner (sorry for the lack of umlats over the 'o'). In Turkey, this is a very popular way of skewering and slow roasting lamb (though here in N/Amer beef is more commonly used).

        Large flat slabs of lamb are marinated with onions, oregano, cumin, and other spices. The slabs of meat are then piled up on top of one another, and a skewer is pushed through the pile. The skewer is then placed vertically on a special spit roaster, and as the outer regions of the meat are cooked, the chef will run a knife down the length of the skewer to 'shave' off the cooked meat. The small pieces that are shaved off are then collected and are used in sandwiches with cacik (tzaziki), domates (tomatoes), and salatalik (cucumber), or served with rice and pide (pita) with tomato sauce and spiced butter drizzled over top.

        The concept is the same as the Arabic shawarma, but the term 'donair' is very specifically derived from the Turkish word for this style of cooking.

        Another poster mentioned the use of ground meat. This is not traditionally referred to as 'doner.' Skewers of ground meat are called kofte (again, sorry for the lack of umlats over the 'o') kebabs, and are generally not slow broiled like doner, but grilled because the kofte are much smaller in size (they are essentially skewered and grilled meatballs). Kofte are served in a variety of ways, depending on where in Turkey the person is from.

        Another poster also mentioned that doner is available in Switzerland and Germany, and this is because of the high proportion of Turkish immigrants in that region (Germany has the largest Turkish population outside of Turkey -- I once heard that Turks made up about 14% of Germany's population!). And definitely some of the best doner I've had is in Germany (some are even better than the ones I had in Istanbul!).

        If you're looking for doner in Toronto, Istanbul Kebab House (181 Dundas Street West, just east of University Ave.) serves a relatively authentic one (the only complaint I have about this place is the use of Arabic pita instead of the Turkish pide). I've tried some of the other Turkish dishes here with very mixed results. Their doner is by far their best offering.

        1. Yea, Doner Kebab in Germany.. good memories. I miss the 2 am Turkish pizza snack after a night out!

          2 Replies
          1. re: garp7

            Ah, yes... lahamacun. A perfect snack after a long night of partying. :)

            You can get a decent lahamacun here in Toronto at Pizza Memo. There are three locations: St Clair West (west of Bathurst), Bloor West (just east of Bathurst), and College West (just west of Spadina).

            In Germany, they serve lahamacun the 'fast food' way, which is rolled up with salad inside. At Pizza Memo, they serve it the more traditional way, sliced, on a plate, with some sliced tomatoes and a lemon wedge on the side.

            Arz's Bakery on Lawrence Ave (west of Warden) sells fresh and frozen lahamacun, if you're inclined to take it home for enjoyment a bit later.

            Ah, Turkish food... I wish there was more of the good stuff in this city.

            1. re: Juniper

              Ah, you are right, I recall them rolled up and stuffed with lettuce... never really thought of being any different.

              Thanks for the tips, I'll have to give them a shot!

              Although Germany doesn't have the variety of fast food offered here, there are a couple of things in addition to the lahamacun I still miss greatly, including a Gyros baguette, freshly fried bratwurst with a tiny bun, fresh minced fish burgers with a crunchy bun, and of course, a big steaming doner kebab from a stand. Darn, it's not even noon, and I'm drooling already,.