I’ve never understood why immigrants in any country get such a bad rap. Most anti-immigrationists share the mentality that immigrants “need to learn the language!” or that they “took our jobs!” or that they “need to adjust to our way of life!” Yet, you never hear these naysayers yelling, “Take your food back to where you came from!”
And why is that? Because it’s a beautiful thing these settlers have introduced to the host country, a small window into what could otherwise be an unknown culture. I’m of the other extreme: I’d love a world where there are no political boundaries, people could come and go as they please, immigration wouldn’t be such a debated topic – alas, we’d enjoy borderless, beautiful immigrant food consumption.
Here in Germany the largest immigrant group is the Turkish, who first began immigrating to the country about 50 years ago and have continued to grow in population ever since. Lucky for the Germans, they’ve introduced one of the country’s most beautiful and sensuous foods: the döner kebab (Wikipedia’s translation: “rotating roast”). While the German döner movement began in Berlin, which is said to host over 1,300 Döner stands alone, it soon spread across all of Germany and can be found in even in the smallest of villages. Consider this: In the entire US, there are approximately 14,000 McDonald’s; in Germany there are over 15,000 döner establishments. To put it into even more perspective: Germany is just slightly smaller than the state of Montana. That translates to a whole lotta döner.
To understand how the döner became so popular in Germany, you have to understand the country’s fast food environment. Imbiss refers to the type of stand or restaurant where Germans would originally fulfill their fast food needs, the staples of which are things like schnitzel, French fries, and sausage. When the first wave of Turkish immigrants came to the country during the 1960’s, these ingenious forefathers of the German döner wasted no time in utilizing the established network of imbissi to spread the good word of their food to the Germans. While it may have first seemed an ersatz schnitzel to the Germans, the döner would eventually revolutionize and overtake German fast food.
Here in Bonn there is no shortage of döner imbissi. You have your usual suspects anchored around the train station, your standard providers smack in the center of the city, and there are those that pepper the outskirts of town. I’m a fan of finding the proverbial hidden gems, so I decided to go slightly outside of the center to the Südstadt, or south part of town, to a very unassuming, most likely unknown take-out place called Dino Imbiss, where pizza, schnitzel, salad and of course döner abound.
Bonn is not a big city by any means, but the journey did require a fifteen-minute tram ride, unthinkable for most Bonn residents seeking kebab. Situated on a quiet street with cafés, bakeries, drug stores, butchers and even a Korean grocery store, Dino looks rather uninviting from the outside. But the döner aficionado must at times forgo any notion of ambiance or atmosphere and simply dive into the experience of the food. Although Dino is no exception with its austere interior, the customer is greeted by a large counter of vibrant vegetables, sauces, delicious side dishes and other assorted foods, a very warm welcome for any hungry mouth.
When it comes to döner, you have your standard sandwich in a pita-like pocket and the döner dürum, which is served in more of a tortilla-like shell. I opted for the lesser-ordered dürum, and my choice was justified when I saw the dough of my dürum being freshly rolled out to be baked directly before being filled with deliciousness. This is the exception in Bonn when it comes to döner stands – most places here do not freshly make the shell, and I was ecstatic to find out there actually exists such a place in this town.
I opted for the traditional filling: spit-roasted lamb. Chicken, a response to varying taste buds, is a fairly recent development, not likely to be found inside the döner in Turkey. Along with the meat came my choice of “salad,” which consisted of tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce and onions. Lastly, I chose garlic-yogurt sauce and a brush of Dino’s paste-like hot sauce to top it all off. The tenderness of the lamb meat, the crunchiness of the salad, the tastes of garlic and spice and the freshness of the just-baked wrap provided each bite with a perfect balance – not the best Döner I’ve ever had, but rolled up in that baby was 50 years of history, perfected into a €3.5 treat.
To all the immigrants in the world, let this be known: In the country of Tyler, I declare all of you welcome!
Bonner Talweg 37