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What is a kebab?

A kebab is a general term for small chunks of meat (most commonly lamb and beef, though any meat will do, as will fish, vegetables or fruit) threaded on skewers and barbecued, broiled or grilled.

The word kebab was originally Arabic or Persian, and referred to fried meat. But the phrase shish kebab was said to have been invented by medieval Turkish soldiers who pierced meat with their swords and grilled it over an open flame. (In the age-old rivalry between the Greeks and the Turks, some scholars claim the Greeks ate them first.) Today the shish kebab remains a staple of Turkish cuisine, although kebabs are popular in Middle Eastern and South and Central Asian cuisines.

Turkish döner kebabs, similar to gyros and shawarma, are made from shavings of lamb or chicken that roasts on an upright rotating spit. Döner kebab pita bread sandwiches -- often unfortunately stuffed with French fries -- are popular take-out food throughout Europe. The Brits like to eat them after clubbing and French teenagers are increasingly skipping the balanced meals of the school cafeteria to slip out for a kebab lunch.

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