Liver kebab, which was described as the poor man's kebab in southeastern Anatolia until 20 years ago, has turned into a favorite for locals and visitors.
Having thousands of historical and cultural assets, the southeastern Anatolia receives a great deal of interest from visitors due to its rich cuisine, which combines elements from different cultures. Liver kebab, which is among the delicacies, has settled in first place on menus in restaurants as a result of the great interest it has seen in recent years.
Called the poor man's kebab by the locals in the past since it was mostly eaten by the poor, liver kebab has become a favorite flavor due to rapid population growth, urbanization and changes in consumption habits. Demand also increased especially after people learned from television and newspapers that liver has abundant vitamins and minerals.
This kebab dish, which was only sold by a couple of people on a portable bench in the past, has recently become the favorite dish of both locals and visitors, which led to the opening of liver restaurants all over the region, especially in Diyarbakır, Şanlıurfa, Gaziantep, Mardin and Batman provinces. While more than 10,000 people work in these restaurants, the owners, who have increased their income thanks to customers' interest in liver kebab, are quite happy.
The chefs who light the barbecue at the crack of dawn start to serve liver kebab to customers who come for breakfast. It is also eaten for lunch and dinner and is served until midnight. Approximately 15 tons of liver is eaten as kebabs per day.
During Ramadan, most people eat this dish at iftar and sahur. Now, luxury restaurants have included liver kebab on their menus upon request from customers.
Having difficulties finding liver in the region from time to time due to the increase in demand, kebab shops meet their needs with liver brought from Balıkesir and Konya.
Mehmet Cengiz, 68, a liver restaurant manager in the historical district of Sur, Diyarbakır, said he has been selling liver kebab for 48 years.
Recalling that in the past only four or five people used to sell liver kebab on portable benches, Cengiz said those who had low incomes used to eat it secretly so that no one would see them. "Due to the lack of demand, the liver would be thrown away most of the time," Cengiz said. "At those times, we were selling it at half price of a meat kebab. Now there is a lot of demand. There are now more than 1,000 restaurants in the region."
Manager Vedat Günaydın said that he has been doing his job, which he took over from his father, for 38 years.
Günaydın said customers did not want liver kebab in the past, and it was thrown away most of the time. "In Diyarbakır, there were very few sellers of liver kebab. Because there was no demand, the livers were thrown into the garbage; nobody would eat them. As demand increased, the price was equal to grilled meat," he said. "Liver kebab has become the favorite dish in the region. People who have recently come to visit the region often eat liver kebab. Liver kebab is almost identified with our region."
Explaining that they opened the second branch in Diyarbakır on intense demand, Günaydın said that these enterprises have made a great contribution to employment in the region, adding that 70 employees work in their two branches. "Each of these restaurants work like a factory. Approximately 20,000 people are working in over 1,000 liver restaurants in the region. We look like small businesses, but we have a large contribution to employment," Günaydın said.
Halim Eliş, 70, who has been a kebab restaurant owner for 48 years, said that he sold it on the counter until about 25 years ago and opened a business upon the increase in customers.
Recalling that liver kebab and grilled meat varieties used to be sold at half the price, Eliş said the poor used to eat it while it is now the rich, informing that portions of liver kebab cost about TL 15 to TL 30 ($4 to $8) in Diyarbakır. "At that time, only six or seven people were selling it in Diyarbakır. Now it is sold in over 1,000 places in the region. Those who visit Diyarbakır mostly like to eat liver kebab," Eliş said.
Muzaffer Kamçı, 32, who likes liver kebab for breakfast, said that he enjoys it very much. "When locals wake up in the morning, they think of liver kebab. We cannot give it up. We will continue eating liver kebab no matter how high the price. I will continue to eat it even if a portion costs TL 30," Kamçı said.
Elif Bakır, who works as a teacher, said she likes to eat liver kebab with the interns at lunch break. "I love eating liver kebab. We have it for breakfast from time to time, but it is sold for every meal of the day. I have it at least once a week."
Salih Batmaz, 58, also said that they did not like eating liver during their youth. "There was no demand for liver. As demand increased, nice restaurants opened. In the past, those with little money used to eat it, while it is now preferred by those with a lot of money."
Yıldız Timurtekin, 18, said that the region's youths love liver kebab, pointing out that they would rather eat liver kebab than hamburgers.