Join Culinary Backstreets

Sign up with email

or

Already a member? Log in.

Log in to Culinary Backstreets

Trouble logging in?

Not a member? Sign up!

Southeastern Turkey’s culinary mecca of Gaziantep is best known for its baklava and kebabs. But lately we’ve been thinking that it’s soup that may actually be the city’s real crowning glory. Not just any old soup, mind you, but beyran çorbası, a stupendously delicious lamb-based broth that is usually slurped down for breakfast in Gaziantep.

Although this soup is probably best drunk at its source, we’ve recently come across a spot in Istanbul that serves up a very fine bowl of beyran – and not just for breakfast. Located in the bustling Aksaray neighborhood, Ehli Kebap is a grill house whose advertised specialty is skewered liver in the style of Diyarbakır, a city a few hours to the east of Gaziantep. But tucked into the restaurant’s corner is a soup master with some serious Gaziantep chops who has his own cooking station – gaily festooned with strings of dried red peppers – devoted to making beyran.

Each serving of soup is made to order, cooked up inside its own metal bowl, the usta creating it like a kind of hot and soupy ice cream sundae. First up is a schmear of suet, the shortening-like fat found around the kidney of a sheep, to give the soup some silkiness. Piled on top of that is a mound of white rice and strands of lamb meat that has been slow-cooked for hours, until it is utterly tender, which together give the soup its heft. To ratchet up the taste, the usta then adds a dollop of minced garlic to the bowl and tops the whole thing with liberal sprinkles of light and dark red-pepper flakes. The bowl is then put on a blazing gas burner and a ladleful of broth of an unfathomable depth of flavor is added to it, the whole thing coming to a quick boil. By the time the beyran soup arrives at the table, it has achieved a lovely rusty red color, looking – and even tasting – something like a Turkish version of a Louisiana gumbo.

As this once humble strip of kebab joints has become popular, particularly with Arab tourists, each restaurant has tried to outdo the other with increasingly wild renovations. Though the spirit of some places is now obscured by gleaming gold leaf tile mosaics, and the usual kitchen rants we love to eavesdrop on are muffled by the trickle of marble fountains, the beyran çorbası at Ehli remains as good as it has always been. One slurp still has the power to transport us right back to this soup’s Anatolian roots in Gaziantep.

This review was originally published on Istanbul Eats on June 27, 2011, and has been updated to reflect Ehli Kebap’s reopening after temporarily closing due to recent renovations.

  • Dürümcü Mehmet’in Yeri Dürümcü Mehmet’in Yeri (0)
    Istanbul’s Aksaray neighborhood harbors an unfortunate reputation derived from its seedy […] Posted in Istanbul
  • Can Ocakbaşı Can Ocakbaşı (0)
    Istanbul’s Aksaray district is a difficult place to get to know. It's probably the most […] Posted in Istanbul
  • Grills and Thrills (2)
    If there are an estimated 17 million souls in Istanbul, then there are at least that […] Posted in Istanbul

Related stories

October 13, 2015

Dürümcü Mehmet’in Yeri: The Sharing Economy

Istanbul | By Paul Benjamin Osterlund
By Paul Benjamin Osterlund
IstanbulIstanbul’s Aksaray neighborhood harbors an unfortunate reputation derived from its seedy nightclubs and the heavy presence of illegal brothels, which turn profits from sex trafficking. But as the city continues to transform at dizzying speeds, Aksaray’s status as an underbelly has begun to be overshadowed by that of a diverse, exciting culinary destination. Streetside Syrian…
Dig into Aksaray on our Kebab Krawl!
May 24, 2016

Can Ocakbaşı: Closer to the Hearth

Istanbul | By Ansel Mullins
By Ansel Mullins
IstanbulIstanbul’s Aksaray district is a difficult place to get to know. It's probably the most diverse district in all of Turkey and with a very high turnover rate. Those Georgian ladies you saw dragging an overstuffed plaid duffel down Buyuk Langa Caddesi yesterday? They might be halfway to Batumi by now. The Syrian family by…
March 6, 2014

Grills and Thrills: Istanbul's Top 5 Kebab Restaurants

Istanbul | By Istanbul Eats
By Istanbul Eats
IstanbulIf there are an estimated 17 million souls in Istanbul, then there are at least that many opinions on the best kebab house in town. There are stodgy oak-paneled rooms with country-club appeal, where well-dressed businessmen marvel at heaping plates of delicious grilled meat. And there are 24/7 hole-in-the-walls, where lines form out the door…