Archive for the ‘50 Kebab Challenge’ Category

The Year in Kebabs: Reflections on the 2013 Challenge, 2014 Prep   11 comments

kebabs 2013

I weaseled into the 2012 Challenge (100 Yellow Beers in 100 Places) because it involved beer and then, quite drunk at the end of that year, decided to mock the 2013 Challenge (50 Burgers in 50 Places) because it didn’t involve beer. I also wanted to mock the other participants because, as fat Americans tend to do, they threw themselves into the gorging challenge with the gusto Brits plunge into drinking contests.  [Is it any wonder I’m trading up from the blue to the red covered passport?]

However, as burgers are particularly shitty in England (the few that aren’t are far too pricey to justify) I requested a substitute dining experience: the kebab. I have been hooked on the spitted elephant leg of spiced meat (I hope it’s meat, anyway) ever since my post-doc years in Amsterdam — in Holland, look for a ‘shoarma’ place to get a decent kebab: they usually aren’t to far from the coffee shop you wake up in.

I was aware that even my unhealthy lifestyle might be challenged by attacking this task too eagerly — to eat 50 of the dreadful things in 50 different places in a year — so I set a pace of one per week (with the option for a bonus kebab here and there) to ensure I finished well on the distant side of the goal line. A kpw (see one of the posts for an explanation) shouldn’t be too hard, should it? But, the pace was toxic and I have been looking forward to a break from this effort for months, now, and may not have another ‘bab before summer now that it’s over. I still enjoy them and have a good database started of who serves a decent one but enough is enough.

So, it may come as a surprise that I am continuing the street-foodie effort into 2014 not so much as part of “Wiley and Brownie’s Annual Challenge” but more due to my own OCD issues. Therefore, 2014 will be the year of Fish and Chips, with special efforts made to visit any with amusing names (such as A Salt and Batter-y, Frying Nemo, or the Codfather). Cod, haddock, pollock, what-have-you as long as it used to swim before it got battered and deep fried…at least one every seven days (minimum 52, probably closer to 100), no repeat venues, a brief report here and add the place to a Fish and Chips map (like the Kebab map that started with the 2013 Challenge, below):

The map so far

The map so far

Oxford area (near enough to work)

Oxford area (near enough to work)

Swindon (near enough the house)

Swindon (near enough the house)

2013 Kebab List:

# Name Town County Date
1  ZamZam  Swindon  Wiltshire 01 January 2013
2  Kebab Kid  Oxford  Oxfordshire 08 January 2013
3  Westway Chippy  Oxford  Oxfordshire 14 January 2013
4  Falafel House  Oxford  Oxfordshire 17 January 2013
5  Bread Basket  Swindon  Wiltshire 22 January 2013
DNC: chicken  One Minute Food House  Faringdon  Oxfordshire 25 January 2013
6  Branos Express  Oxford  Oxfordshire 28 January 2013
7  Marmaris Kebabs  Swindon  Wiltshire 02 February 2013
8  Keskins  Chippenham  Wiltshire 08 February 2013
9  Old Town Kebab House  Swindon  Wiltshire 16 February 2013
10  Bodrum Kebab House  Oxford  Oxfordshire 27 February 2013
11  Calne Charcoal Grill  Calne  Wiltshire 02 March 2013
12  The Kebab House  Devizes  Wiltshire 03 March 2013
13  King’s Best Barbeque  Swindon  Wiltshire 12 March 2013
14  Gorsehill Grill  Swindon  Wiltshire 16 March 2013
15  Caner’s Kebab Stand  Swindon  Wiltshire 25 March 2013
16  Meli Greek Cafe  Oxford  Oxfordshire 04 April 2013
17  Bodrum Fish Bar  Oxford  Oxfordshire 10 April 2013
18  The Rainbow Takeaway  Faringdon  Oxfordshire 18 April 2013
19  Cirencester Best Kebab  Cirencester  Gloucestershire 24 April 2013
20  Magic Kebab House  Swindon  Wiltshire 30 April 2013
21  Best Food 2000  Faringdon  Oxfordshire 08 May 2013
22  Yummy’s Kebab  Swindon  Wiltshire 18 May 2013
23  Sammy’s Kebab  Cricklade  Wiltshire 25 May 2013
24  Flames Kebab  Trowbridge  Wiltshire 30 May 2013
25  Hassan Kebab Van  Oxford  Oxfordshire 05 June 2013
26  Sammy’s Kebab and Burger  Swindon  Wiltshire 08 June 2013
27  Oscar Grill  Royal Wootton Bassett  Wiltshire 15 June 2013
28  The Brothers Kebab House  Swindon  Wiltshire 19 June 2013
29  Istanbul Kebab House  Didcot  Oxfordshire 26 June 2013
30 Flavour Café Kidlington  Oxfordshire 04 July 2013
31 Nemrut Southsea Hampshire 06 July 2013
32 Newroz Swindon Wiltshire 13 July 2013
33 our garden (homemade) Swindon Wiltshire 16 July 2013
34 Pewsey Pizza and Kebab Pewsey Wiltshire 20 July 2013
35 Poseiden Oxford  Oxfordshire 01 August 2013
36 LB Lebanese Cuisine Oxford  Oxfordshire 07 August 2013
37 Southmoor Kebab Stand Southmoor  Oxfordshire 13 August 2013
38 Fat Friar Batheaston Somerset 21 August 2013
39 Pizza and Kebab Hut Oxford  Oxfordshire 30 August 2013
40 Best Burritoz Swindon Wiltshire 06 September 2013
41 Curry Cottage Swindon Wiltshire 10 September 2013
42 Diamond Kebab Gloucester Gloucestershire 20 September 2013
43 Ruchi Swindon Wiltshire 24 September 2013
44 Reg’s Kebab Chippenham Wiltshire 04 October 2013
45 Moredon Charcoal Grill Swindon Wiltshire 09 October 2013
46 Botley Road Kebab Stand Oxford Oxfordshire 16 October 2013
47 Chick-O-Land Devizes Wiltshire 20 October 2013
48 Highworth Kebab Grill Highworth Wiltshire 30 October 2013
49 Baran Kentish Town London 02 November 2013
50 Kebab Point Hemel Hempstead Hertfordshire 08 November 2013
51 Jimmy’s Kebab Stand Swindon Wiltshire 16 November 2013
52 Ahmed’s Kebab Van Oxford Oxfordshire 26 November 2013
53 Fairford Kebab and Pizza Fairford Gloucestershire 30 November 2013
54 Ali’s Kebab Van Oxford Oxfordshire 05 December 2013
55 Kebab and Pizza House Marlborough Wiltshire 14 December 2013
56 Korky’s Takeaway Swindon Wiltshire 24 December 2013
57 Posh Nosh Oxford Oxfordshire 28 December 2013

kebabs 2013 graph

Posh Nosh, Oxford (kpw* for week 53)   2 comments

[*kpw = kebab per week for 2013, as noted in an earlier post and the 57th entry for the 2013 Challenge and, note…I shall explain the 53 week year below.]

posh nosh oxford kebab

This is how the 2013 Challenge Ends, not with a whimper but with a crappy döner and chips.  It’s not as greasy as the photo looks but the chilli sauce is bland (good structure but no flavour) and the meat was incredibly salty.  For £4.50 I would have liked some of the veg, too, but that’s probably why the other stands were crowded and this one wasn’t.  Happy New Year, though.  Taking a break from the kebab for a while….

posh nosh oxford

===================================================

†Brief Explanation of the 53 Week Year just completed

      “Kebab Per Week” was a bit of a misnomer from the start as I counted the week from Saturday-to-Saturday inclusive, an eight day week that overlaps with the ones before and after so that, technically, I could have two kebabs as many as 15 days apart and still have one per week.  The longest spacing was 10 days, though, and I went over ‘bab quota a few times.
 
     The other issue is that the first and last weeks of 2013 had five and four days, respectively, by that definition, so the year had 51 ‘full’ weeks sandwiched by two short ones.  This way my liberal definition of a week was tempered by a Sharia count of the number of weeks.

Korky’s, Swindon (kpw* for week 52)   1 comment

[*kpw = kebab per week for 2013, as noted in an earlier post and the 56th entry for the 2013 Challenge]

korky's takeaway swindon kebab

The year is winding down and walking home from the bus station after a short day at work I took the opportunity to hit the last of the Town Centre kebaberies, Korky’s Takeaway on Fleet Street.  It was early for them and the pre-Christmas drinking crowds had not yet descended so the guy didn’t much notice I was there while I inspected the sad, damp piles of wilted salads and onions.  This is atypical even in shitty kebab shops, so I didn’t expect much of the sandwich (and shouldn’t according to the inspection report, either)..

Wrong.  It was quite nice.  Gamey, like lamb but more so like mutton, the texture was surprisingly more like meat than chewy connective tissue.  The flavour was that of freshly barbecued slices albeit straight from the steam table.  The chilli sauce was respectably spicy and the tomatoes and chillis (the only veg that didn’t disgust in appearance) were brilliant.  Even the pita from a bargain-sized bag was alright.  [Full disclosure: I had not eaten anything since biscotti at 6 in the morning.]

Cold out, I was ready to head off to a rendezvous at the Beehive but first took my choice of booths to listen to Christmas Carols on the tele while my host returned to his smart phone.  Merry Christmas, everyone.

korky's takeaway swindon

Kebab and Pizza House, Marlborough, Wiltshire (kpw* for week 51)   1 comment

[*kpw = kebab per week for 2013, as noted in an earlier post and the 55th entry for the 2013 Challenge]

kebab and pizza house malborough small

At the end of a winter loop run along ridges above the River Kennet, I was cold and hungry and lucky to find a kebab stand open (the Kebab and Pizza House which I last visited a few years ago).  Well, I SAY lucky but two hours later I a still chugging iced tea and water trying to lower the salinity of my blood.  But, it was tasty, if not especially good for the blood pressure: the pungent flavours of mutton and, I’m guessing, rotting beef at least indicated meat was a major component and the sauce and veg were good.  Not really worth rushing out to Marlborough for unless you are suffering from hyponatremia.

kebab and pizza house malborough

Ali’s Kebab Van, Oxford (kpw* for week 50)   Leave a comment

[*kpw = kebab per week for 2013, as noted in an earlier post and the 54th entry for the 2013 Challenge]

ali's kebab van kebab at royal oak

Across from the Royal Oak on Woodstock Road I was lucky enough to find Ali’s Kebab Van (the link leads to an article about Ali’s relationship with an Oxford college that is quite droll).  It is easily the smallest of the vans I have yet tried and the one with the most retro look.  Friendly guys and very good food although the older fellow forgot the vinegar on the chips (which were, nonetheless, sublime — fluffy within and crisp and sweet on the surfaces).  The chilli sauce cleared my sinuses obstructed by the cold and the pub, the meat was moist but not oily and tasted of proper lamb.  One of the best near the lab.

ali's kebab van oxford

Fairford Kebab and Pizza, Fairford, Gloucestershire (kpw* for week 49)   1 comment

[*kpw = kebab per week for 2013, as noted in an earlier post and the 53rd entry for the 2013 Challenge]

fairford kebab and chips

I’m always knocked out by Fairford with its medieval layout and ancient buildings (albeit surrounded by modern estates due to the USAF presence at RAF Fairford a mile or so to the south).  It isn’t exactly the sort of place I expected to find a good kebab or bad chips but I was in turn pleasantly surprised and sorely disappointed with my snack from the Fairford Kebab and Pizza house.  The meat was a delight and didn’t sit very heavy (neither fatty nor salty) and the chilli sauce was functional-to-quite-good.  The chips were not nearly so good, though, with about a third of their thickness a polymerised crust of oil from the initial blanching dip in the fryer.  Oh, well, it was cheap and it took the edge off before the run back to Lechlade.

fairford kebab

Ahmed’s Kebab Van, Oxford (kpw* for week 48)   Leave a comment

[*kpw = kebab per week for 2013, as noted in an earlier post and the 52nd entry for the 2013 Challenge]

ahmed's kebab stand oxford kebab

Wow. When you commit to a long-term project you can grow weary of its demands. With luck, you will be reminded of what made it so compelling in the first place…I had just such a spot of luck tonight with my stop at Ahmed’s Kebab Van.

The chips were just barely caramelized and golden crisp and had to be deadly or at least stroke inducing (as in brain hemorrhage albeit a masturbatory stroke wouldn’t be out of order–yes, THAT good). The meat, not especially pretty, was abundant and just charred enough on the edges to give it a real barbecue flavour and the veg was crisp and wonderful.

Best bit had to be the chilli sauce (which is saying a bit since I already spewed over the chips). Smoky, with the texture of freshly pestled Mexican salsa and enough heat to rate high even outside this bland nation I would go back just for a bottle of it if I thought they would sell it to me. Awesome. Just…plain…awesome.

ahmed's kebab stand oxford

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