Defining a Kebab House
No table service, orders placed and then shouted out by patron on completion - typically customer then specifies salad and sauces, cuisine available is primarily grilled meat and bread - although curries, pizza, chips and mezze are often available, canned drinks and water are only refreshment, seating limited and optional. Payment usually made on leaving or on ordering, at the counter. A sub-category of note is whether Kebab Houses are North Indian/Pakistani or Middle Eastern – although this is more a matter of flavourings and styles of food than concept or establishment. Middle Eastern Kebab Houses will not sell curry, though they may have other rice based or stew-like dishes. If all an establishment has is an elephant's foot at the back we're not going to bother - there are too many places selling doner and they're too similar to visit them all or be able to really differentiate between them.
This is what you want to see - marinading meat raedy to be cooked.
A pretty unexciting picture of a lamb tikka kebab on naan from a Pakistani cafe - the lamb tikka is the black and red stuff under all the salad and yoghurt sauce. The slightly glistening yellowy stuff is mango sauce/chutney. Not much sign of chilli from this establishment.
Lamb on Chapatti
These kebabs are similar, with both being lumps/cubes of meat cooked on a skewer. The Tikka kebab (Pakistani/Indian) is marinated in yoghurt and spices.The Shish kebab (Middle Easter) has a far less noticeable marinade (if any). - Typically chicken or lamb.
Chicken Tikka on Chapatti
Minced Lamb formed into a sausage shape on a skewer. Kobeda (Middle Eastern) is usually the bigger and less spicy of the two. There is a variation of seekh where chicken mince is used rather than lamb, often referred to as a reshmi kebab (which means 'silken' - not chicken), these are often pre-cooked and reheated. These chicken seekhs or reshmis are much rarer.
Slices of (or compacted) meat roasted on a spit. 'Doner' normally indicates a machine made lump. However, chicken 'Doner' is slices of real chicken meat rather than compacted mince. We've used 'Shawarma' to denote actual slices of lamb on a large skewer - although the actual difference between the two is that Doner is the Turkish word and Shawarma is the Arabic word for the same thing. Genuine 'Shawarma' kebabs are only found in Middle Eastern establishments.
Chicken Shawarma on Naan
Two chicken doners (shawarmas) form the same place - notice the one on the left is darker and in larger chunks - it was cut freshly form the skewer. The one on the right was cut from the end of the skewer, is not brown and was left in the warmer to dry out. Get them fresh!
Burger shaped items made with spiced lamb mince, indian/pakistani only. The shami is also mixed with lentils, making it lighter and usually fried in an egg wash. The chapli is more meaty - usually made of beef - and often flavoured with whole or cracked coriander seeds. These kebabs are both usually pre-cooked and reheated to order, they are more often a starter type item.
Often slightly more expensive places. The meat and bread are sometimes served separately. There are fewer sauces and the salads are more elaborate. No chapattis available. The flavours are subtler than Pakistani/Indian kebabs. Some of these places specialise in 'mezze' style dishes, including tabouleh, falafel, hummus, etc. They usually have Shawarrma kebabs available, but these are often served on packet, rather than fresh bread.
Pakistani/ North Indian:
Spicier meat in bigger chunks (tikka). More sauces and less fussy salad - and all served on the bread. Chapatis available. Overall a simpler dish, and less like a full meal than the other style. These kebabs are also cheaper. Most will also sell curries and starter type dishes.