Kokoreç

Kokoreç is a type of offal that is known as popular street food in Turkey. Rather than planning and intentionally going to a Kokoreç restaurant, it is a type of food that you can suddenly want to eat after a night out, and get to the closest Kokoreç restaurant.

There is a high chance of you to see restaurants that sell Kokoreç frequently while wandering around the streets of Turkey, depending on where you are, of course. If you have no problem eating offal, and you are open to new tastes, then trying Kokoreç is strongly recommended while you are in Turkey.

See also: Traditional Cuisine of Turkey (Region by Region) 

See also: Döner Kebab

See also: Sujuk: Traditional Turkish Dry Fermented Sausage

What is Kokoreç?

Kokoreç is a type of food made from chitterlings blended with various spices. It is typically served as a wrap, and other ingredients such as tomatoes or pickled peppers can be added to Kokoreç. Even though Kokoreç can be made from various animal intestines, lamb is the most preferred animal to make lamb as the taste of Kokoreç is best when made with lamb.

Etymology, Origin, and the History of Kokoreç

Even though there is no certain evidence for when Kokoreç was first invented, yet the closest estimation is that it became popular in the 1960s, in Greece. It is known that Kokoreç is almost as old as the fire, and was eaten in the Middle Age as well.

Evidence shows that Turks living in Middle Asia were eating Kokoreç widely, according to the found inscriptions. After the invention of this dish, it was started to be sold as street food, near to the Silk Road. Everyone loved Kokoreç so much that, statesmen and emperors were frequently visiting the Silk Road, to get Kokoreç. Such that, it has been said that Selim I. could never travel without having a Kokoreç cook with him.

As Kokoreç became popular in Greece, one can easily think that the origin of the word “Kokoreç” is also in Greece, but there is some mind confusing evidence in terms of the etymology of Kokoreç. Some say that the origin of the word Kokoreç is indeed from the Greek word “kokorotsi”, some sources claim that the origin of the word is from the Albanian word “kokerroz” or a word from the Aromanian language which is “kukuretsu”.

Regardless of what language Kokoreç was derived from, all of those words mean the same thing, which is “corncob”, and today, the origin of the word Kokoreç is accepted to be Greek. Kokoreç did not have a presence in Turkey until the 1970s, so it can be said that it is not that old dish. However, today Kokoreç is a popular dish in Turkey, which has lots of lovers.

How Kokoreç is made? 

There is a high chance that you were startled a little bit as you heard of the ingredients of Kokoreç. Hopefully, the making process of Kokoreç might make you have better peace of mind about Kokoreç. My recommendation is that, do not judge Kokoreç without trying it first.

The first step of preparing Kokoreç is the cleaning of the intestines. People who have knowledge about Kokoreç cleans the intestines until they are crystal clear. Even though the cleaning process is a little bit hard, it is a must to make a healthy Kokoreç. After Kokoreç is cleared with water, the next step is to clean the intestines once again with tail fat. 

The cleaning process is not over here yet, as one needs to put the intestines in vinegar water and wait a little bit. Vinegar water is a great bacteria fighter, and this 3-stepped cleaning process is more than enough to clean all the dirt from the intestines.

The next step after cleaning is to prepare the inside part of the Kokoreç to the Kokoreç skewer. After the intestines are all nice and clean, the inner part and the outer part of Kokoreç need to be prepared. The inner part of the Kokoreç is made from the chitterlings, which are blended with spices, and onions. The spices to put to Kokoreç can depend on the taste, but the most preferred ones are red pepper powder, powdered chili peppers, and thyme.

After the inner part of the Kokoreç is nicely lined to the Kokoreç skewer, then it is time for the outer part of Kokoreç. The outer part of the Kokoreç is made by winding other pieces of intestines to the chitterlings that were lined up to the Kokoreç skewer. 

An important detail of the winding process is that the intestines should wrap the inside part multiple times. If the outer part of the Kokoreç is thin, it would not be tasty. Another step in the winding process is to add some fat pieces in between to the intestines.

After all of those steps, Kokoreç on the skewer is now ready to be cooked. There are special barbecues designed for cooking Kokoreç, as it should cook horizontally. Kokoreç cooks on the barbecue by turning around itself. After it is cooked and ready to be eaten, it must be sliced in the shape of cubes and served with bread, typically as a wrap, yet it can be also served on a plate by itself. Afiyet Olsun!

Kokoreç in Turkish Cuisine

Kokoreç’s place in Turkish cuisine is sort of complicated, as it has lots of lovers and as many haters. Understandably, Kokoreç is a kind of dish that cannot be loved by everyone.

As I mentioned earlier, Kokoreç is not the kind of food that you typically plan to go out and eat. Instead, it is a part of the nighttime cravings, especially after consuming alcohol. So, most of the Kokoreç restaurants are open until late at night. Of course, Kokoreç is eaten as a lunch or dinner as well. Yet, it is typically a result of craving, just like at nighttime.

The most popular drink to consume with Kokoreç is ayran. Ayran is a traditional Turkish drink, which is made from yogurt and salt. Some find it interesting to drink something salty, yet ayran goes very well with Kokoreç. The spicy, dense taste of Kokoreç balances very well with ayran.

Şalgam is another option to drink with Kokoreç. Yet, as Kokoreç itself is very spicy and burns your mouth, drinking bitter şalgam is not recommended. Besides, you can always stay in your comfort zone in terms of drinks while eating Kokoreç.

Kokoreç Variations in Other Cuisines

As I mentioned earlier, Kokoreç first became popular in Greece. So, it is inevitable for Kokoreç to be a part of Greece cuisine as well. The preparation and the serving of Kokoreç in Greece are pretty much the same in Turkey.

It is as easy as in Turkey to find Kokoreç in Greece. You can encounter various Kokoreç restaurants as you walk around in Greece streets. Different from the Kokoreç culture in Turkey, Kokoreç is a part of the Easter in Greece (what I mean here is that Kokoreç is not a part of any special occasions in Turkey, Easter is not celebrated in Turkey anyway). Kokoreç is eaten to celebrate Easter in Greece.

Additionally, you can find Kokoreç in Greece taverns as well. It is almost impossible to find Kokoreç in Turkish taverns, instead, it is more like street food in Turkey. There are different variations of Kokoreç in Greece, which can be made in a pan instead of a Kokoreç skewer.

Frequently asked questions about Kokoreç

Kokoreç is a dish that has a high chance for make you think twice before trying it. If you are a person that is easily influenced by what you hear, trying Kokoreç might be something you will not ever do. But, it is highly recommended to break your prejudices to Kokoreç and try it, even if it is just a bite. The following are some of the most frequently asked questions about Kokoreç that might help you to eat Kokoreç with peace of mind.

Is Kokoreç clean?

Kokoreç passes through a detailed cleaning process before being served. If you are still not comfortable with it, you can try homemade Kokoreç. It would be best to ask for someone who knows what to do for you. But, if you want a little adventure, you can try to cook yourself as well.

Is Kokoreç tasty?

There are polar opposite opinions about Kokoreç. Whereas some refer to Kokoreç as the best dish one can ever taste in their lifetime, some say that it is a dish that you need to die before trying. The thoughts are endless when it comes to Kokoreç, so you cannot know without trying.

Is Kokoreç healthy?

There are various health benefits of Kokoreç such as being more nutritious than meat, being good for intestine activities, fastening the metabolism thanks to the spices in it, and giving you a serotonin boost. But it is not all health and goodness when it comes to Kokoreç. Keep in mind that it is still a food that is fatty and high in cholesterol. Besides, be extra careful if you are thinking to eat Kokoreç with heart disease.

İsmail Çamönü

Hi! I am Ismail. I am a digital nomad from Turkey. I lived in many cities around Turkey during my life and I am passionate about traveling. At Nomad's Guide to Turkey, I share travel tips for nomads, expats, and tourists who would like to visit Turkey.

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