Çöp Şiş Kebap, Aegean Turkey

The Aegean region was where I lived when I first moved to Turkey in 1967. (Here’s the full story.)

I was learning Turkish then, and didn’t know what to make of this famous regional dish: çöp şiş (“CHIRP” sheesh).

Şiş (sheesh) I knew, as in şiş kebap (SHEESH keh-bahp), chunks of lamb put on a skewer (sis) and roasted (kebap). Everybody knows about “shish kabob.”

But çöp is the word for…trash! Did Aegean locals actually eat…Trash Kebap?

As I learned more Turkish, I understood. Çöp is actually the word for “chaff,” the wheat stalk that is blown away in winnowing. It’s the part you don’t need from your wheat harvest. In other words, it’s “trash.”

So when the consumer lifestyle came to Turkey with its bounty of refuse, the old word for chaff was re-used—recycled!—to mean trash. So it was not really “Trash Kebap” but “Chaff Kebap.”

So…what is it? Three or four little chunks of lamb and a chunk of fat on a split wood skewer (the “chaff”), quick roasted and served with a spicy green pepper.

First prepared as a snack or street food, it has ascended to the status of a main course—at least in the Aegean region south of Izmir, where you’ll see restaurant signs advertising it everywhere.


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