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History of Kokorec and The Best Places to Eat It

When talking about street food in Izmir, kokorec is the first thing that comes to mind which even was not known until the 1960s. In this blog, I will introduce the history of kokorec and suggest the best places to eat it.

How is kokorec made?

It is made from the sweetbread of a baby lamb. The small intestine is used for the outer part of kokorec while the large intestine is used for the inner part. It is not commonly made at home because it requires many difficult processes. Especially the cleaning process should be done professionally.

In the Balkans and Greek cuisine, they use lamb offal such as liver, heart, lungs, kidneys, etc. But in Türkiye, we only use the small intestine, large intestine, and sweetbread to prepare kokorec.

Where does kokorec come from?

Some resources claim that the philosophers were eating from the vendors who were making kokorec near the Silk Road and even the major commanders like Alexander the Great (“Büyük İskender” in Turkish) wanted to taste it.

What's more is that kokorec sellers were the first ones to enter the city after the conquest of Istanbul. However, these claims do not have any proof. In truth, the actual origin is not known.

For the curious readers: Word Origin and History

Word origin of kokorec:

According to some resources, the word “kokorec” was derived from a word for traditional Greek dish "kokoretsi" * which means “corn cob”.

In Albanian, “kukurec” is used for a part of offal.

History of kokorec:

Kokorec was widely eaten by Orthodox in Greece and Balkans, especially for the Easter Feast. And it is believed that the dish gained its popularity in Istanbul thanks to the Balkan immigrants during the Ottoman Empire. However, the dish has had historical roots in Ottoman cuisine for hundreds of years.

According to an article[1] ,the cookbook named "Housewife"[2]belonging to the Ottoman period, is the oldest source that we can determine that the recipe for kokorec is made under the name of kokorec. Moreover, in the first published cookbook in Ottoman Empire[3],1844, the recepies were similar to today's kokorec recepies.

In addition, in the “Dîvânu Lugâti't-Türk” from Mahmut of Kashgar, a mention to a food named “yörgemeç” also indicates that there were meals similar to kokorec in 1070s, too.

However, in the story “Lokanta Esrarı” written by Ömer Seyfettin (1884-1920), there is an episode of the first encounter with kokorec in the restaurant “Abeille d'or” which was owned by an Athenian Greek. There, it is possible to deduce that kokorec was not common among Turkish people before 1920s before Balkan immigrants brought it and made it popular.

This delicious flavour came to Izmir in 1960s. Interestingly, it was not well-known and eaten in Izmir before late 60s in Izmir. You can ask it to the elderly members of your families. It then became a popular street taste and started to symbolise the common taste of citizens of Izmir. Today, there are countless kokorec restaurants.

And here is the most crucial part: Where to eat kokorec?

[1] [2] “Ev Kadını”, Ayşe Fahriye, first edition 1894. [3] Melceü't-Tabbâhin, Mehmed Kâmil,1844. * “κοκορέτσι” in Greek

Top 3 places to eat kokorec in Izmir:

1- Asım Ustaa small place with sincerity that offers a big taste

Asım Usta has many steady customers who prefer to eat their kokorec here because it is very clean and they have a unique and very popular type of kokorec named “atom kokorec”.

Adress: Rafet Paşa, Burak Reis Cd. No:226A, 35500 Bornova/Izmir

2- Akın Usta- presents the harmony of spices with kokorec to its customers.

This is the best place wherespice and kokorec have ever met. There are both open and close areas to have your meal. Together with its design and cleanliness, the open area provides a fresh atmosphere to enjoy having your kokorec.

Adress: 29 Ekim, 180. Sk. 2/1 A, 35660 Menemen/Izmir

3- Niyazi Ustaa new dimension for kokorec

A passionate man serves you the new perspective of kokorec. Well-cooked and grilled kokorec gives you the amazing taste. I strongly recommend you to stop by this place and try its kokorec.

Adress: Yeşilova, 4023. Sk. No:11, 35080 Bornova/Izmir

There are many places in Izmir to eat delicious kokorec but these 3 are the best places to try it. I want to end with a controversial topic:

Which drink do you think goes best with kokorec?

  • Ayran

  • Turnip Juice

  • Coke

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