Who are the Kebab Kings?

One ceremony we always look out for at this time of year is the British Kebab Awards. It’s becoming something of an institution – much as the kebab shops that pop up in every town and city have become in the past thirty years or so. Over 1200 guests are invited to the awards ceremony this year – the fourth since its initial appearance in 2013. As usual, the audience will be made up of MPs, local business people, and plenty of dignitaries, all keen to offer their support for the industry. With this in mind, here are some fun facts about the kebab – and the awards ceremony – to get you into the spirit of things.

Crystal Awards
British Kebab Awards


The kebab and elegance

There are plenty of nominations for this year’s awards ceremony. With fourteen categories up for grabs, and ten nominations for each of them, plenty of businesses will be hoping for success. Now, most of these kebab shops and restaurants aren’t your typical high street fare. For most people, the kebab shop is something to be avoided unless under the influence of at least £50-worth of booze. However, these particular kebab houses are all a little different, offering a lot more style and elegance than you might think. Back in the olden days, when the kebab was something of a novelty to these shores, it was thought to be rather exotic. For example, in the Bond movie From Russia With Love, everyone’s favourite spy visits a very plush restaurant. His meal of choice? A lamb doner.

The healthy choice

The doner kebab, of course, is not the most healthy meal you can enjoy – it contains your entire day’s calorie count. But, pick something else from the menu and you can expect a much healthier meal. Shish kebabs, either chicken or lamb, are grilled, so much healthier than a burger. And, with all the salad you pack in, there’s plenty of nutrition in there, too. Just make sure you avoid the garlic mayonnaise, as it’s full of naughty fats. Also, check with your local kebab seller to see what they put in the chilli sauce. If there’s too much sugar in there, it can ruin the healthy eating experience.

A brief history

The kebab as we know it first came about hundreds of years ago in the Middle East. It is thought Turkish soldiers started the craze by putting meat on their swords and cooking it over a fire. And, it has been a mainstay in Persian, Turkish and Eastern Mediterranean cooking ever since. But, the UK’s obsession with kebabs might have started a lot earlier than you think. An excavation in 2011 in St Martin’s Courtyard in Covent Garden revealed some interesting evidence. Archaeologists found remnants of spiced meat there from Saxon times – over 1,000 years ago. Was this Britain’s very first kebab shop?

Value to the Economy

Well, Britain’s first official kebab shop opened in Stoke Newington in 1966 – and the industry has come a long, long way since then. The next time you head home after a night out, think for a second about how you might be benefitting the UK economy. Thanks to the humble kebab shop, Britain benefits to the tune of well over £2 billion. That’s a lot of doner meat, plenty of chopped salad, and more chilli sauce to fill several hundred Olympic-sized swimming pools.

Not so cheap

Of course, the kebab is famous for being an affordable dish for drunk revellers to eat on the way home. You would expect to pay around a fiver for the pleasure – it has been that way for years, and long may it continue. But, in 2011, British chef Andy Bates created something a little more glamorous for the kebab world – and the price came in at a whopping £750. The ingredients? Milk-fed lamb from the Pyrenees, Coeur de Beef tomatoes, barrel aged feta cheese, and a fascinating pitta with saffron. Not only that, but the chilli sauce was made from Scotch Bonnet chillies and an infusion of Krug Grande Cuvee champagne.

Big fans

The kebab has legions of fans, of course. But, some might be a little more surprising than others. Renowned foodies such as Heston Blumenthal and Yotam Ottolenghi all sing the praises of the Middle Eastern fast food dish. And, one of the UK’s biggest supporters of kebabs is MP Keith Vaz. He eats a doner with salad, tomatoes and hummus every fortnight with a religious fervor. Which, presumably, is why he is a regular guest at the British Kebab Awards every single year.

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