Herald Scotland: Call for the PM-backed kebab to become a British national dish - as the number of Scots outlets soars
26 February 2016
IT'S the post-pub favourite which some say is a poor dietery choice but is now being claimed as a British institution with politicians including the Prime Minister queuing up to be associated with it.
It has emerged that such is the growth of the kebab, the numbers of outlets is coming close to equalling the total number of chippies and curry houses put together.
And Ibrahim Dogus, the founder and director of the Centre for Turkey Studies and Development (CTSD), the first non-party political forum and think tank focusing exclusively on Turkey and the UK believes that the kebab must now be considered as a British national dish alongside fish and chips and chicken tikka masala.
The industry says there are now over 20,000 kebab outlets in the UK, while there are 10,500 fish and chips shops and 12,000 curry restaurants.
Research has revealed that the UK kebab industry now contributes £2.8 billion to the British economy, £500m more than four years ago.
And in Scotland wholesalers say that the number of shops selling kebabs has risen six-fold in the past ten years - as shops clamour to fulfil the country's appetite for the pitta pocket - fuelled by a budget-conscious nation.
The growth of the greasy grilled meat dish emerged as Britain's prima doners prepared to do battle to be crowned British Kebab Awards 2017 winners today (Sunday).
The fifth annual awards ceremony includes a competition for the best Scottish kebab.
The Nawroz Restaurant Edinburgh named the best kebab house in Scotland last year, is up for honours again this year.
The spicy processed meat snack has come a long way since research by the UK's Food Standards Agency in 2006 found that 18.5 per cent of doner takeaways posed a "significant" threat to public health, and 0.8 per cent posed an "imminent" threat.
Then, trading standards officers found doners with up to 22% fat, and up to 12g of salt - that's two heaped teaspoons, double the recommended daily intake.
Today 1,200 guests including more than 300 MPs, Lords, baronesses and councillors, and 800 businesses and community representatives will attend the VIP-studded ceremony.
Theresa May is among the luminaries who have embraced the kebab and looked to have their names associated with the industry awards.
She said: "The awards are a tremendous opportunity to celebrate the thriving British kebab industry, which continues to make an important contribution to the UK's food and drink economy.
"High streets across the UK benefit from having a successful kebab restaurant on them."
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn also lent his support saying: "From takeaway to fine dining, kebabs are a firm favourite and an established part of our national cuisine."
In the UK, kebabs �fist appeared in the 1940s, following the arrival of immigrants from Turkish, Cypriot and Kurdish communities, in search of a new life.
The UK's first kebab shop, Istanbul Restaurant in Soho, opened during the Second World War.
But it was not until 1966 that the famous doner kebab - cooked on a vertical spit - first appeared with the opening of the Hodja Nasreddin Kebab House by Çetin Bukey and Kojay Hüseyin in North London's Newington Green.
Now it is not just Turks, Cypriots, Kurds or Greeks who make kebabs and they are now to be found in most takeaways from the traditional chippy to the local Indian. Now every day 1.3m kebabs are sold across Britain with around 2,500 tonnes of lamb and chicken doner sold a week.
Mr Dogus, who is founder of the British Kebab Awards, says the kebab has become "a truly British institution".
"The fierce competition between kebab houses that exists in Scottish cities is a great indicator of how popular this cuisine has become after a period of rapid growth," he said.
"The kebab industry is spreading ever further into every corner of Britain. With 1.3m kebabs sold in the UK every day it must be a considered as one of Britain's national dishes.
"The fact that kebabs, particularly doner, are now available in so many of Scotland's traditional British fish and chip shops is also a huge compliment and testimony to the Scots' love of the kebab."
Ercan Kaya, who runs the Turkish Double Doner wholesaler in Glasgow who delivers meat predominantly in Scotland said he now sells around 15 tonnes of doner a week now, three times more than five years ago.
And while ten years ago he would have had a potential customer base of 500, it is now grown to 3000.
"Before fish and chip shops sold just fish and chips, and started to sell pizzas and now it is kebabs," he said.
"Traditionally doner kebab was sold in kebab shops only but now other takeaways are getting on the bandwagon. In the Shettleston area there were two or three takeaways shops ten years ago which sold kebabs and now there is 15, maybe more."
He says the kebab's popularity is down to people "tightening their belts" after the 2008 financial meltdown.
"Maybe before they would go to restaurants, but I think now people would prefer to leave restaurants to special occasions," he said.