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İskender/Bursa Döner Kebap

Last Updated on May 27, 2024

İskender (or BursaKebap is named for the chef who created the dish and the city of Bursa where he created it. This mouthwatering dish consists of a bed of soft bread followed by layers of thinly-sliced seasoned meat (doner kebab/kebap) which is topped with tomato sauce, a generous scoop of yogurt, and sizzling butter poured on top, straight from the skillet.

I think it’s worth visiting Bursa just to eat authentic Iskender Kebab, one of the most celebrated dishes in Turkish cuisine.

History of Iskender Kebab

As the story goes, Mehmetoğlu İskender Efendi created the first plate of İskender kebap in Bursa in 1867.

İskender Usta (“Chef Alexander”) chose lamb raised on the thyme-covered slopes of Mount Uludağ (which rises south of Bursa, which is south of Istanbul and the Sea of Marmara). He roasted the meat as self-basting döner kebap on a vertical grill, cut off thin slices as it was done, spread the slices atop a bed of diced flat pide bread, then topped the meat and bread with savory tomato sauce and browned butter.

With a dollop of yogurt on the side and a sprinkle of parsley on top, the dish was served to his appreciative clientele.

The fame of İskender Usta and his dish spread throughout Bursa, and Turkey, and the world.

Where to Eat Iskender Kebab in Bursa

Over the years other restaurants opened in Bursa and began serving the dish, each claiming culinary descent from the master himself and bearing names such as İskenderoğlu (“Son of Iskender”).

Although İskender/Bursa-style kebap is now served throughout Turkey in many restaurants, the best is still made in Bursa where various restaurants compete for discerning clientele. There is a particular care taken with the selection of the meat and the preparation of the dish in Bursa that is not found everywhere else.

İskender Efendi Konağı

This is by far my favorite place to have Iskender kebab (map). Tucked inside the greenery of the Botanic Park, this historic restaurant invites visitors inside with the smell of roasting meat and the sound of sizzling butter. The restaurant was originally opened in 1867 in a different location, but has been recreated as the original model. Diners can go upstairs in the historic wooden restaurant and take a journey back in time. Ornate paneling, antique items, and a view of the lush dining area add to the ambiance of the delicious Iskender kebab they serve. Read their menu to learn more about their connection to the history of Iskender in Bursa.

Though the price here was more than other restaurants, the quality of the doner meat, pita bread, and melted butter were also much better. We recommend ordering a bottle of their şıra, a Turkish non-alcoholic drink made from slightly fermented grape juice. If you still have room left for dessert, they serve Mustafakemalpaşa Peynir Tatlısı, a type of cheese dessert made of semolina flour and served with walnuts and cream. Another classic, kestane şekeri, or candied chestnuts, are also served here.

Address: Soğanlı, Soğanlı Botanik Parkı No:1, 16140 Osmangazi̇/Bursa (parking available on site)

Kebapçı İskender

This restaurant is centrally located (map) just 2 minutes from Ulu Cami & Koza Han/Kapali Carsi. The shop itself is very small which means there is often a line out the door; however, once you sit down the food comes almost immediately. The meat has more of a grilled taste, and a little more olive oil and salt compared to other restaurants I tried. If you aren't in a rush and want a hearty plate of Iskender after a long morning of sightseeing, this is a tasty option.

Address: Orhanbey, Atatürk Cd. No:60, 16010 Osmangazi̇/Bursa

How to Order Iskender Kebab

İskender kebap is traditionally ordered by the porsyon (portion). You order bir porsyon (one portion) for a normal meal, bir-buçuk porsyon (one-and-a-half portions) if you’re pretty hungry, and a duble porsyon (“double portion,” two portions) if you’re famished and haven’t had Iskender kebap in months.

Most İskender kebap restaurants in Bursa do not serve alcoholic beverages. The preferred beverages are water, mineral water or ayran,the yogurt-and-water drink (which is what I prefer to sip while eating İskender kebap.)

Other Delicacies in Bursa

While you’re in Bursa, try the traditional candied chestnuts (kestane şekeri) 

delicious peaches (şeftali) and excellent fruit juices (meyva suları) as well.

 

-by Tom Brosnahan, updated by Kimberly Price

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