Food plays a central role in Kurdish culture, says Mehmet Alkan, co-owner of Edessa restaurant in Nashville.
“Food brings our people together,” Mehmet says. “We traditionally cook at home and when people come to visit, they will be offered food. If you visit someone, you will eat. It doesn’t matter if you’re hungry or not. You won’t be able to leave until you have eaten some of their food.”
Mehmet works to make Edessa restaurant embody that welcoming culture for Kurdish and non-Kurdish visitors. Nashville has 15,000 Kurdish residents, making it the largest Kurdish community in the U.S.
“Many of our menu items are well known and things the Kurdish community has grown up eating,” Mehmet explains. “For those who are not familiar, we have pictures on the menu so they can see what the dishes look like and provide a detailed description, as well.”
“One item I’d encourage everyone to try is the Adana Kebab,” Mehmet says. “It’s very famous and goes back to the seventh century, so it has a rich history. It is easy to make and is healthy if you make it correctly. It is made of ground lamb and beef, and should have a fat content of no more than 15%.”
The Edessa Restaurant Adana Kebab
5 lbs. Ground Lamb Leg and Beef Ribs (60% lamb, 30% beef, 10% lamb fat)
1 Onion (regular size)
1 ½ tbs. Salt
1 tbs Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
1 tbs Paprika
4 oz. Olive oil
To start: you will need a mixture of ground lamb and beef ribs with a fat content of 15%. To this, you will need to add 1.5% salt by weight, along with spices. Salt does more than season the meat, it also dissolves the muscle protein called myosin. And it helps the meat remain juicy.
Prepare the kebabs: Peel and grate an onion. Add all ingredients for the kebabs to a bowl. Use your hands to combine everything, being careful not to over-mix. Shape the meat onto skewers.
Cook and serve: Grill the kebabs over medium-high heat or in a 450-degree oven.
Serve with grilled tomato-pepper and salad.
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