Ali Nazik Kebab is a Turkish classic that marries a tender lamb stew with a smoked eggplant puree and garlicky yoghurt mixture. And then drizzles a spiced, melted, butter all over it. It’s good. It’s realllllyyyy good!
I won’t lie to you, bestie. I was sceptical the first time I tried this dish. It was in 2019. I was visiting Istanbul by myself, and I had asked a local photographer to show me some great photos spots (spoiler: he did). After we were done, I offered to buy him lunch as a thank you, and we sat down in a small little restaurant in a back-alley of Karakoy district, where he ordered this dish for me.
Now, if you’ve read my About Me page, you’ll know that I loathe eggplants – Aubergine is the name of my greatest enemy. My first instinct was to ask for something else but, I’m a natural people-pleaser. And I didn’t want to seem rude or offend him in any way. After all, this person had been so lovely, and shown me so many great spots. I found myself with no choice but to smile and say, “Sure! That sounds delicious.”
It was not merely delicious.
It. Was. Transcendent.
(So much so that I ended up getting him to ask the restaurant chef to walk me through how to make it. And then, I spoke to the chef at the hotel I was staying at, and asked him to walk me through it. And then, I spoke…you get the picture. I became a little obsessed with it. And if you try it, I expect you will to.)
What is Ali Nazik Kebab?
Ali Nazik Kebab is a Turkish dish consisting of lamb and smoked, pureed eggplant, mixed with yoghurt, originating from Gaziantep. Typically (like in this version), the dish is topped with stewed lamb chunks. Another popular version is topped with minced meat. The dish is also called Ali Nazik tarifi.
Translated literally, nazik means ‘polite’, while ‘Ali’ is a first name. Thus, the literal translation of the dish is “polite Ali.”
Also – once you’re done here, check out my Ali Nazik Kebab video on YouTube!
3 Origins of Alinazik Kebab
There are a few different stories regarding the exact origins of Alinazik. While most accounts are in agreement that the dish originates from Gaziantep, the stories differ when it comes to how it got its name, or who invented it. As to which one is true…well, your guess is as good as mine.
A gentle hand
The most poetic version dates back to the 16th century when an Ottoman sultan, Yuvaz Sultan Selim, happened to try this dish while visiting Antep (which is now Gaziantap…”gazi-Antep” – make sense, right?). The sultan enjoyed the recipe so much that he asked whose “gentle hand” could make such a dish. The words for gentle hand are “eli nazik”.
Some believe that the name is the evolution of “ala nazik”, which in Ottoman-era Turkish, means “beautiful food.”
This is the version that was told me to while I was visiting Istanbul. By this account, there once was a chef from Gaziantep named Ali Nazik. He enjoyed the many lamb dishes of Southern Turkey, but he wanted to create a dish where he didn’t need to cut any meat – something he could simply eat with a spoon or with one hand. And thus, he created lamb chunks in a flavourful eggplant and yoghurt sauce. And the dish has been credited to him ever since.
Ingredients for Ali Nazik Kebab
The main ingredients in this recipe are:
- Lamb – flavourful chunks are the star of this dish.
- Eggplant (…or if you grew up in Europe, like I did, aubergine)
- Yoghurt – mixed with the eggplant to create the base for the cooked lamb pieces.
- Labneh – this is another type of yoghurt, popular in the Middle East.
- If you can, use delicious tender chunks of lamb that would be suitable for grilling.
- The eggplants were traditionally smoked over coal fires. However, not many of us have that option available (I certainly don’t!). One of my local guides in Istanbul explained that many Turkish locals use a small burner called a Kozmatik – so grab one of those, if you can!
- Pre-smoked eggplant is a real thing. So, if you want to skip the smoking step, you can buy yourself a jar, and use that instead.
There are a few easy variations you can make to this recipe:
- Swap out the lamb chunks for minced meat.
- If lamb is hard to obtain, it’s perfectly fine to swap it with beef (don’t go for super lean though).
- If you prefer a vegetarian version, you can replace the lamb chunks with a spiced tofu, or with grilled vegetables.
Alinazik Kebab is typically served alongside rice pilaf, or lavaash bread. Honestly, it’s great with most breads – if you’re into a bit of fusion, pair it with parathas. Grilled vegetables also make for a great pairing.
How to store Ali Nazik Kebab
This recipe can be refrigerated for 1-2 days in an airtight container. However, I’d make two small suggestions:
- Store the lamb and the eggplant mixture in separate containers.
- Consider mixing in around ¼ cup of lemon juice to the smoked eggplant. This will help to preserve a bit more of its colour.
More Middle Eastern recipes
The link below is an affiliate link. This means that if you choose to purchase using it, I will receive a small commission (at no additional cost to you). These small commissions help keep Chocolates & Chai going. Thank you.
Outside of a kozmatik (if you can get hold of one), there isn’t any special equipment that you’d need for this recipe. I would recommend having a good frying pan though.
If you like what I’m doing here, and you want to help, why not go ahead and become a Patron? You can support Chocolates & Chai for as little as the price of a cup of coffee!
And that’s it! What did you think, bestie? Will you be trying Ali Nazik Kebab? This is definitely one of my favourite recent discoveries. If you’ve made it, or tried it in the past, let me know what you thought in the comments below!Print