Ali Nazik Is One Of Turkey's Best-loved Kebabs

Turkish Kofta on an enamel plate with dill yogurt dressing
The Picture Pantry/Violeta Pasat / Getty Images
Ratings (9)
  • Total: 50 mins
  • Prep: 20 mins
  • Cook: 30 mins
  • Yield: 4 servings

Are you a kebab connoisseur? Then add this classic Turkish kebab dish from the southeastern city of Gaziantep to your favorites list. ‘Ali Nazik’ kebab is one of Turkish cuisine’s 10 best kebab dishes and it’s a good example of Turkish regional cuisine from this area.

What Is ‘Ali Nazik’?

So what makes ‘Ali Nazik’ so special? This succulent classic begins with tender chunks of lamb. But it doesn’t stop there. The stewed lamb is presented on top of a bed of hot mash made with fire-roasted eggplant that’s been whipped together with strained yogurt, similar to Greek yogurt. Once the meat is in place, the top is drizzled with spiced, melted butter and served with slivers of hot, flat bread called ‘pide’ (pee-DEH’). Need I say more?

This dish is at its best when you use chunks of tender lamb good enough for grilling. If good lamb is hard to find, or you’re on a budget, you can also make a more economical version of ‘ali nazi’ using ground beef or a mixture of ground beef and lamb.

There are two different stories as to how this delicious dish got its name. The first dates back to the 16th century during the reign of Yavuz Sultan Selim. On a trip to ‘Antep,’ short for Gaziantep, he was greeted with an elaborate ceremony and an array of local delicacies. One of these was a delicious hot eggplant and yogurt mash topped with perfectly grilled lamb. He liked the dish so much, he uttered the words “who’s ‘gentle hand’ (Eli nazi) made this?" The name, ‘ali nazis,’ has stuck ever since.

A second take on the story is that the name was adopted from the old Ottoman Turkish language, where ‘ala’ meant ‘beautiful’ and ‘nazik’ meant ‘food.’ Over the centuries, this turned to ‘ali nazi’ which is easier to pronounce. In modern Turkish, ‘nazik’ means ‘polite,’ thus the meaning ‘polite Ali.’

However this dish got its name, you’ll be sure to enjoy it, just as the sultan did centuries ago. Especially if you adore eggplant.  

Ingredients

  • For the Eggplant Mash:
  • 4 medium Japanese eggplants
  • 1 cup yogurt (plain, full fat strained, or Greek)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • For the Meat Topping:
  • 1/2 pound lamb (suitable for grilling, or a scant 1/2 pound ground beef)
  • 1 tomato
  • 1 sweet green pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper paste (or tomato paste)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 or 3 tablespoons water
  • Garnish: chopped parsley

Steps to Make It

  1. The best way to roast your eggplant is over a coal fire or on a gas grill. Wash them, they pierce each one in several places with a thin skewer or toothpick. Lay them on the grill and leave them to roast. As the flesh inside softens, the eggplants will collapse. Turn them evenly to cook on all sides.

  2. Cut the tomato and pepper in quarters and lay the pieces on the grill next to the eggplants.Turn them as they brown.

  3. Chop the lamb into small, bite-sized chunks about the size of kidney beans. In a skillet, melt two tablespoons of the butter. Add the lamb and saute until tender. Let them release their juice.

  4. As the lamb cooks, add the vegetable oil, pepper paste and salt and pepper. Cover the pan and reduce the heat to low. Let the lamb simmer gently until very tender. You may need to add a few teaspoons of water if needed.

  5. Your eggplants should be soft by now. Remove them from the grill. While they’re still hot, run a knife down the length of each eggplant to open it up. Use a spoon to scoop out the warm, soft flesh.

  6. In a bowl, mix the plain yogurt, salt, and pepper. To serve your ‘ali nazi,’ cover the bottom of a platter with the eggplant and yogurt mash while it’s still warm. Spoon the meat over the top and drizzle the oil and pan juices over it.

  7. You can add more melted butter if you wish. Garnish the plate with the grilled pepper and tomato pieces. Sprinkle the top with a pinch of chopped, fresh parsley.