One late lazy evening, when vacationing in Turkey, my husband got up, rounded up all the family members and with determination proclaimed, “We are going to eat şirdan (shirdan)”. Being open to tasting a new culinary delight, I was filled with anticipation as we drove around deserted streets of night Adana, a city located in the southeast of Turkey. We perused the city for a while, as if looking for a place the address of which we forgot, until on the sidewalk of one of the streets we saw a small kiosk, the roof and walls of which were made of plastic sheets, with a sign Kemal’s Şirdan printed in red over yellow background. Kemal, a typical-looking Turk with salt and pepper hair, stubble on his face and mischievous wink in his smile, was sitting behind a small table, was inviting us to join two other men who were already devouring something and not paying any attention to our arrival.
We sat down. Our hands were sprayed with some lemony spray that smelled like cologne, but which, I was told, was made of lemon essence mixed with alcohol – think, homemade hand sanitizer. Then our host took the lid off a thermos-like container which kept his signature dish hot, and using tongs, plopped something that looked like a body part on a piece of brown wrapping paper for each one of us. I observed how others ate and imitated. Each patron to this very intimate eatery removed the string that kept the stuffing inside during cooking and helped themselves to seasoning, which was arranged on the table in large glass bowls and which included coarsely ground salt mixed with cumin, red pepper flakes, and pickled peppers. I did what everyone else did and took a bite. The taste was heavenly!
Now, as far as appearance is concerned, I must tell you that şirdan looks like a ... um... well... a penis. That might make the idea of eating it sound repulsive. The good news is that it is made out of a part of sheep’s intestine which first must be cleaned out really well, and then stuffed with seasoned rice and meat, sewn up, and boiled. The idea might still be repulsive to some, but the truth is that it tastes delectable! It melts in your mouth and keeps you craving for more. Unless you start looking at it and the thought of it being an animal’s internal organ makes you want to gag… It’s all the matter of perception, after all!
I discovered that şirdan(shirdan) is not common in other parts of Turkey, and is predominantly an Adana dish. My brother-in-law boasts: “we don’t waste any part of the animal, we eat everything”, and I am sure glad that it is so!
After I discovered şirdan, I tried it at several different places around the city – twice inside small restaurants, and several times outside, on the street, which for me was more romantic. Perhaps, the freshness of April night in Adana added more romance to this experience, which I am looking forward to reliving as soon as I have a chance to step on Adana soil again!
Here are some videos about Turkish food that might make you extremely hungry:
Turkish Culinary Guide
Gözleme: Turkish street food
Turkish Foods & Kitchen, Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations