Damn that’s good sheep intestine

by Michael

We’re always on the lookout for local delicacies, preferably ones that are tasty, quick and cheap. After leaving the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul a heady aroma of charcoal smoke, cooking meat and spices wafted over us.

We headed for the source and found a sandwich shop selling kokorec. We had no idea what that was but it sure smelled good. Eager customers huddled around a cook who was carving a round cylinder of meat about half the length of a baseball bat.  As the meat spun around on the rotisserie it was basted by its own melting fat which dripped onto the red-hot charcoal fire, creating the wonderful aroma.

kolorec zulfu Istanbul

As each person placed the order the counterman tossed a crusty baguette to the cook who stuck it on the spit so it would get toasty. He’d then chop up some meat and red roasted peppers, scoop it on the bread, toss on a mix of oregano, paprika and crushed hot peppers and hand it back to the counterman, who wrapped it in butcher paper and handed it to the by now delirious customer.

When it was our turn to be delirious we eagerly ripped into the sandwich, barely remembering to peel back the paper first. I’ve read descriptions of flavors exploding on taste buds but, other than the time my brother convinced me to eat a whole clove when I was ten, I had never experienced that sensation.


Well this sandwich exploded. The combination of the meat, the fat, the charcoal smoke and spices created  an eruption of flavors I’ve never experienced. I said to Larissa that it might have been the best sandwich I’ve ever had and we should consider opening a sandwich shop with them back in Philly. She was too busy chewing to notice another one of my harebrained schemes.

Afterwards we wondered what we had just eaten. Given the part of the world we were in we assumed it was lamb, we were almost right.


The next night we were out for a Turkish coffee with our friends Merve and Yaprak and relayed the story of our wonderful sandwich find. Yaprak made a tubular motion across her stomach and said “You ate kokorec. It’s sheep intestine. The long one.”


“Don’t worry, they clean it out first,” she replied.

That made me feel better. To make kokorec the cook takes all the parts of the animal that aren’t good for much else—offal, organs, lungs, kidneys, well, you get the idea—and wraps them in the intestine to hold them together over the fire. Come to think of it, it’s probably not much different from sausage.

Whatever was in that intestine, and I try not to think about it too hard, it was one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever eaten. If our travels take us back to Istanbul I’m sure we’ll be lining up again for a tasty serving of kokorec.

What’s your favorite sandwich?

Speaking of sheep, click the link for a video of our tasting lamb tongue in New Zealand.

Josephine April 13, 2012 at 10:09 am

So I guess you never had ‘stighiole’? My grandfather (Nonno Vanni, your grandfather’s brother) was a master on making these intestine wrapped delicacies and grilling them to perfection….ohhh I can just smell them now! If you end up in Palermo you will also find these. Would be interesting to hear if they taste the same.

Us April 13, 2012 at 11:53 am

Sounds good to us.

Jeff Fields April 13, 2012 at 11:58 am

Hey Guys,

We are in Luang Prabang for the New Year now and just had a water buffalo sausage sandwich that “exploded”. We will head to Istanbul later this summer (we live in Bulgaria) and will be sure to try Kokorec!

Us April 13, 2012 at 12:16 pm

We’d like to see some pics of that water buffalo sandwich. BTW, Larissa’s parents lived in Sofia some years ago for business. They’re not part of the Schengen Agreement so maybe it’s a potential destination for us.

donna April 13, 2012 at 7:51 pm

My favorite sandwich? A REAL good Philly cheesesteak! Not too adventurous, but sometimes hard to find. Lovin your trip!

Us April 14, 2012 at 12:12 pm

We had a good cheesesteak in Cambodia but for some reason in other parts of the world they think peppers go in it.

Doz & Amanda April 22, 2012 at 6:01 am

Sounds delicious but a bit like a donar kebab to me 🙂 At least you knew which bit of the sheep you were eating!

Can’t beat a good old cheese and pickle sarnie washed down with a cuppa tea 🙂

Us April 22, 2012 at 11:48 am

Does it have to be Branston pickles?

Doz & Amanda April 23, 2012 at 3:52 am

Oh yes! 🙂

Claudette April 27, 2012 at 12:02 pm

The Sandwich looks yummy! I remembered eating beef shawarma as well!

Us April 29, 2012 at 11:57 am

We loved the shawarmas in Israel too.

Nomadic Matt May 1, 2012 at 4:15 am

More adventurous eaters than I!

Us May 1, 2012 at 4:23 am

Are you trying some unusual stuff in Japan?

Nick Petruzzella May 1, 2012 at 10:24 am

Ugh, tasty Mike. I think I will stick with tacos and lamb burgers finished with nero d’avola.

Us May 1, 2012 at 11:47 am

You know the meat in them is probably not much different than what we had.

The Time-Crunched Traveler (Ellen) May 8, 2012 at 11:57 pm

Wow! Can’t say this makes me hungry for sheep intestine, but I’m really craving middle eastern street food now!

Larissa August 20, 2012 at 4:19 pm

Try it, you’ll love it!

Kit March 25, 2013 at 9:14 am

Sounds *exactly* like sausage to me and fresh, hot, and grilled?
Can’t imagine anything tastier!

Michael March 25, 2013 at 9:33 am

Hi Kit,

You’re right. Some people are grossed out by it but it pretty much is sausage. It’s all in how it’s made.

Santiago May 8, 2014 at 11:05 am

I’ve just come back from istambul and loved the kokorec. I’m from Argentina so I’m used to est everything from cows, lambs or pork, but i loved this!

Tina August 1, 2014 at 4:01 am

Well I’ve had that part before a few times, but it was so chewy and had an unappetizing flavour- but this looks fantastic!!! Maybe it needs spices and fantastic bread for me to be converted. Banh mi’s are my favourite- with pate and shredded meat with the strange addition of Laughing Cow cheese, tons of pickled veggies, herbs, and plenty of sauces douce ng everything in a perfect, crispy baguette. Drooolllll

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