Chocolate baklava! That’s what someone brought this morning to the Citizens Police Academy and he mentioned that there was a large Turkish community in El Paso, including a community center called RainDrop. I was intrigued and resolved to find a Turkish place to eat in El Paso ASAP!
I devoured the baklava, it wasn’t as chocolately as one would think, but has a delicate, slightly bitter, flavor that grounded the over the top sugary sweetness that baklava has.
I normally don’t eat more than one bite since it’s SO SWEET and drenched with syrup, but the chocolate flavor juxtaposed was what made it much more palatable. The creaminess of the pistachio nuts and of course flaky layers made it a delightful mouthful.
I was obsessed with singers like Tarkan and Mustafa Sandal back in my college days so I naturally gravitated to the food as well. My best friends in college were Greek, Turkish and my boyfriend was Persian and eating with all 3 was like WW3. All would claim ownership over simple famous dishes like stuffed grape leaves (dolmas/dolmades).
Turkish food shares a lot of similarities with Greek, Persian, and Lebanese food, especially the emphasis on fresh ingredients. You’ll find though that if you closely taste them, they’re very district.
I’ve found that the level of spices are different in each cuisine as well as the use of animal fats (Turkish, Lebanese) vs more seafood centric and olive oil (Greek/Persian). Also no pork in Turkish and non Christian Lebanese cuisines.
Greeks really like to use oregano and thyme.
Turks tend more toward allspice and bay.
Turks/Persian uses sumac.
Lebanese/Persian, toward thyme cardamom.
Lebanese/Arabic culture uses a spice mixture called zaa-tar.
These are only tendencies, though. All three groups use all the spices, just more or less than the others.
All three are heavily influenced by Ottoman cuisine, though and have more similarities than differences.
I’ve been wanting to try out Kebab Forever and since it was 7 mins away from the Police Academy down off Mesa, I went there for a late lunch.
I was greeted right away and could sit anywhere, they have a condensed menu and the server immediately got me ice water. The space was clean and spacious, with a tiny area near the register selling Turkish novelties and snacks. The area was decorated with lamps and model sized replicas of famous monuments in Turkey. The music and television shows are Turkey centric, showing off the culture.
A lot of UTEP students were dining in as well getting take out and I can understand why. What an incredible value, especially in these inflationary times. I ordered a Turkish coffee ($2.50) and Doner kabob wrap which came with salad, fries, or rice ($8.99). It all came hot and freshly made.
The wrap was almost exploding, it was so stuffed and generous sized. The pita bread was warm but it made for messy eating especially since the Tzatziki sauce was served on the side. I can appreciate and understand why since it won’t make the wrap soggy and you control the flavor but it was difficult since the foil would have to be unwrapped as you ate and things kept spilling out. The salad was fresh and since we’re in El Paso, there was a 2nd green salsa-like sauce that was spicy!
They asked me if I wanted sugar with my Turkish coffee and I said yes because I’m not a masochist.
I prefer to add sugar to make its powerful flavor a bit more palatable. Since the sugar is added while the coffee is being cooked, you have to ask for it when you place your order.
First time I had Turkish coffee, I was asked “az şekerli (ahz sheh-kehr-lee)” which will get you a little sugar, “orta şekerli (ohr-tah sheh-kehr-lee)” a medium scoop, or ” just şekerli (sheh-kehr-lee)” which translates to “tons of sugar please–I hate the taste of real coffee.”
All in all, I really enjoy and appreciate the little mini trip to Turkey that Kebab Forever afforded. I love how many different cultures are in El Paso, it just takes a bit of hunting to find them.
Güle güle gidin and until next time!
KEBAB FOREVER TURKISH and MEDITERRANEAN GRILL “ Halal food”
3233 N Mesa St #201, El Paso, TX 79902