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Kebab: a History, and Finding the Best Kebab In London

Updated: Jul 4

Kebabs are one of the UK’s most loved foods. They are the first dish that comes to mind when you want to indulge in something after a night. There are more than 20,000 kebab shops in the UK, so if you looking for the perfect kebab in London, you first need to understand its history and how it has become so popular in this country. There is a great story behind this, so let’s delve into this before we let you know more about how to find the best kebab in London.

Kebab in London

Finding the Best Kebab in London or Any Provincial High Street


Developing a Taste for Kebabs

It will come as no surprise that meat and bread have always been the main components of the British diet.  As our palates have developed and global influences have had a dramatic effect on British cuisine, sandwiches consisting of just meat and bread were no longer going to cut it.

When the kebab arrived in the UK, it was a revelation. They used lamb and exotic spices, with sliced white bread being replaced with sesame-topped roti, and were an exciting addition to the traditional British diet. This ensured consumers could still enjoy the basics of their traditional comfort food, but with new and exciting flavour combinations that post-war Britain was not accustomed to.

Brits have welcomed the kebab with open arms, and are now a staple of the UK high street, remaining a popular post-pub option across the country to this day.


The Transformation of Kebabs: Fitting the British Palate

The kebabs served in the UK are pretty different from their traditional Turkish heritage. Talented chefs and bossmen have altered the recipe to perfectly cater to the British palate.

When kebabs were first served in the UK in the 1940s, they were nothing like what they are today. The Roomali roti served back then has now been replaced with flatbread or even flour wrap, and sauces and salads that better suit the British palate such as ketchup and iceberg lettuce are more commonplace.

The kebabs served here are different from those served in Turkey, the Levant or northern India, but the British take on the kebab has made a place for itself in British society. With small tweaks and changes, it has become one of the UK's most loved dishes and is among the best comfort foods for people up and down the country. 


Different Types of Kebabs


The Classic One: Shish Kebab

Shish kebab derives from Mediterranean cuisine, and despite being what comes to mind for Americans when they think about kebabs, is one of many different varieties of the dish. While it traditionally consists of skewered lamb, you can also find other variants such as chicken or fish. It is served along with vegetables, which are usually grilled separately. If you’re new to kebabs, you may want to begin your journey with shish kebabs as a good gateway into the cuisine.


The Traditional One: Adana Kebab

Adana is a kebab that originates from southern Turkey. The Adana kebab is made using minced lamb or beef and spiced red pepper, garlic, cumin, etc. Originating from a fusion of Turkish and Arab cultures, this traditional dish can trace its roots back hundreds of years, and its iconic cooking process over an open flame makes it instantly recognisable all over the world.


The Popular One: Doner Kebab

Doner kebab also originates from Turkey and is notable for its cooking method, being grilled on a slow rotating spit. Thin meat shavings are then served on pita bread with yoghurt sauce and vegetables. This is probably the most famous and most loved kebab on earth, with the iconic Doner shape illuminated in neon in shop windows from British high streets to Turkish markets.


The Universal One: Chicken Kebab

In the Middle East and South Asia, chicken kebabs are more popular than anything else, and are considerably healthier than other types available. These kebabs are also one of the simplest to cook, with a simple marinade of different spices such as paprika and garlic being used, before being grilled or roasted.


The Unique One: Fish kebab

People in Iran enjoy fish kebabs. These kebabs are highly popular in the Persian Gulf area, where fish is obviously readily available. Restaurants in Iran use whitefish from the Caspian Sea, along with peppers and a variety of marinades to help enhance the flavours. Whilst fish kebabs are not as popular in the UK, they are still widely available and are well worth a try.


Meatless Kebabs: Bringing Vegetarians and Vegans On Board


Vegan Kebabs: Not Just for Vegans

Today, vegans have a wider variety of dishes to choose from than ever before, and vegan dishes are so good that even hardcore non-vegetarians from all around the world enjoy eating vegan. Vegan kebabs are no different, with plant-based takes on kebab classics being in some cases better than more traditional options. If you’re looking to expand your repertoire of vegan dishes, then kebabs should be top of your list.


Catering to a Plant-Based Lifestyle

With around 1% of the total population in the UK eating a plant-based diet, and more joining their ranks every year, more and more people are trying to eat consciously. Along with this, many young adults are making an effort to try to eat as reducetarians, consuming less meat where possible. With kebab restaurants offering their usual delicious conventional kebabs alongside plant-based options, there is more opportunity than ever before for these people to enjoy the food they love.


No Compromise on Taste

While you may think that meatless kebabs will not fill a whole in the same way that meat kebabs do, this couldn’t be less true. You can have a satisfying meal even when you choose these meatless kebabs. But how can they taste good without the crucial ingredient of meat? Well, the flavours you are really enjoying in your kebabs are not just from the meat, but also from the expert blend of lots of herbs, spices, and sauces.


Kebabs have been around in the UK since the 1940s, but over the years have changed into what we know today. The British consumer has a long and sometimes difficult history of moulding international cuisines to their tastes. From chicken balls in sweat and sour sauce to tikka masala, we love food from all over the world, but always on our own terms. Kebabs are no different, with cooking techniques and ingredients being changed over the years to suit our very particular pallets.

There are a wide variety of kebabs available in the UK. From the classic Doner to the adventurous fish kebab. If you’re new to the kebab game though, the absolute best place to start would be with a Chicken Shish or a Lamb Doner, or if you’re one of those out there looking to reduce or cut out meat from their diet, the vegan Spice Roast Aubergine Sabich or the Paneer kebab are the ones for you. The best place to start is Le Bab, the undisputed best kebab shop in London.

Whether you’re a kebab regular or a first-timer, our experienced chefs will ensure you will have the best kebab you’ll ever have.



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