I got an invite from a strange but sweet sounding restaurant called Tantuni the other day.
‘We’re a newly opened Turkish fast-food restaurant… Our concept is a traditional Southern Turkey street food cuisine called Tantuni. The restaurant is named after this dish also… I can assure you that the Tantuni rolls are quite tasty and addictive since we brought the chefs from the main source, South Turkey… The taste has been approved by the Turkish community here and they claim it tastes just like how it’s meant to taste in Turkey.’
Yes, you’ve guessed it right. I’m obsessed with street-food and I was on my way to Tantuni.
What is Tantuni? It is a traditional Turkish street-food originating from the city of Mersin, situated on the Mediterranean coast of Southern Turkey (more on Mersin). Contrary to popular belief, Tantuni Rolls in Turkey are more popular than the Döner Kebabs. Traditionally, thinly diced Beef is cooked with Turkish spices in special Tantuni pans (above right) and then served in special durum wrap rolls called Lavaş/Lavash (above left).
The story of Tantuni: Tantuni sellers are found on every street corner in many Turkish cities – including Istanbul. The speciality of the Tantuni rolls are well kept secrets of the Tantuni Chefs. The Tantuni Chefs, as they are proudly called, have their own secret techniques of making Tantunis (some boil the meat a bit more or fry their meat a little bit less or have their own proportions of spices). So the taste of Tantuni differs from one Tantuni shop to the other. The pans where Tantunis are cooked are also special. The central part of the huge pan indents downwards. The oil is put here and the diced meat is added in little amounts as they are brought forward from the bigger pile that surrounds the rim of the Tantuni pan. And as the spices are added, the sound that the entire act makes – Tan/Tun, Tan/Tun… this probably lends the name to the dish. And finally, a lot of spices are added. All I can say is, this has to be the crucial act in making the Tantunis so addictive!
Is a milder version of Tantuni being served here? Two friends Cem and Can ended up opening up a Tantuni shop themselves when their search for Tantuni failed in Dubai and claims this to be the only Tantuni shop in Dubai! I wanted my Tantuni to be really spicy… and yes, the Tantuni Chef made mine really spicy. Don’t worry, the spice factor depends upon how you want your Tantuni to be! As Cem said, it will depend completely upon each diner. However, the taste of the Tantunis served here are authentic (as authentic as it can be given that the taste of Tantunis differs from one shop to the other depending upon the specific Tantuni Chef) and cooked probably in the manner that Cem and Can like their Tantuni Rolls to be. According to the Tantuni Chefs, the Tantuni pans are an important factor in making good Tantunis.
With all the important factors been taken care of, and the two Tantuni Chefs as well as the special Tantuni pans flying down all the way from Turkey, Tantuni, the restaurant, is all set to wrap and roll!
The making of Tantuni: Previously boiled meat (traditionally, beef is used but the restaurant also serves Chicken Tantuni) is cooked in Sunflower Oil along with the spices – Paprika, Sumac, Red Chilli Powder and Salt. Hot water is added to this from time to time, resulting in a a voluptuous smoke erupting from the pan. In addition to controlling the temperature of the meat, this also creates some steam in which the Lavaş, the bread that is used to wrap up the meat, is softened. The Tantuni Chef then places the cooked meat in the bread, puts some onions which have been softened with Sumac and Parsley, tomatoes and a dash of more spice and wraps up the roll and plops the Tantuni Roll on the serving plate. The roll which is surprisingly very soft, is now ready to take up any shape that you want to make with it. All this is done in about an animated action-packed episode of 3 minutes flat!
A pictorial version of the 3 minute sequence…
In that 3-minutes sequence, these are the places where I would like to add some pause buttons (for special effect!): When the Tantuni Chef softens the Lavaş bread with the juice of the meat (below left); when he adds water in the cooked meat and an enormous smoke erupts with a sizzle (below right).
And finally, when the Tantuni Chef slaps the Lavaş bread swaying it from side to side on to the cooked meat at a lightening speed… what a fast-paced action, almost from a Danny Boyle movie! Swish-Swash, Swish-Swash (below)!
In Turkey, Tantuni rolls are served either with the Ayran (below left) or the Şalgam Suyu (below right). Ayran is the Turkish version of Laban – a cold beverage of Yogurt mixed with cold water and salt. In Turkey, Ayran is so popular that it is regarded as a separate category from other soft drinks and International fast-food chains like McDonald’s and Burger King include Ayran on their menu (read here)!
Şalgam means ‘turnip’ (interestingly in Hindi language too), although the drink Şalgam is made with the juice of pickled Red Carrot, salted and spiced, flavoured with aromatic turnip (çelem) that have been fermented in barrels with the addition of ground bulgur (read here). The Şalgam drink that was served to me in the restaurant was bottled though and had a strong taste of Beetroot and spices. I liked Şalgam better than the Ayran. It was slightly tangy and spicy. Both the chilled beverages have a cooling effect that perfectly complements the Tantuni Rolls!
Cem insisted that I should try the special Chilli Pickle that comes complimentary with the Rolls… I’ve survived to write the tale and the proof that I did bite into the pickled Chilli is also documented here (above right)! The Tantuni Combo here comes either with the Ezme Salad which is a Tomato and Onion salad mixed with spices and Pomegranate sauce. Or the Bostan Salad (above right) which is a rare Turkish delicacy where chopped Tomatoes, Cucumbers and Onions are served in Şalgam juice.
The art of eating Tantuni Rolls: Once the Tantuni rolls are served, unwrap the roll, squeeze some lemon and sprinkle some hot Pepper, Cumin Powder (above left), some Sumac (above right) and wrap it up again. You can shape up the rolls into whichever way you like it and gorge and gobble on them. I quite loved my fellow Fooderati friend, FooDee’s Tantuni wrap as well as the slideshow that accompanies her post on Tantuni. Other fellow bloggers, The Real Geordie Armani and Coffee, Cakes And Running have also written about their Tantuni experience.
Tantuni shops in Turkey don’t serve sweets probably because one cannot confine Turkish Sweets into one or two varieties – a fact that I’m realising gradually as I’m reading the book – Sherbet and Spice: The Complete Story of Turkish Sweets and Desserts by Mary Işin (sent to me for reviewing… hopefully a post in the future very soon!). So in a way, I am glad that my Bengali tooth’s hankering for something sweet at the end of every meal was pampered a bit by the two Turkish sweets Tantuni offers – the famous Baklava and the Şekerpare (above right).
Though I’ve tasted Baklava many times before, Cem insisted that I haven’t tasted the original Turkish Baklava in Dubai! I opted for Şekerpare – one of the most delectable and popular desserts in the Turkish cuisine. Şekerpare is prepared by baking soft balls of pastry and dipping them in thick lemony sugar syrup. I could taste some coconut flavour in this Şekerpare. I did pour some extra Sugar syrup on top of my Şekerpare – otherwise it felt a bit dry for me (any excuse to add more sugar!) Both the Baklava and the Şekerpare were home-made and I was told that they tasted the way they would taste, if a Turkish Mama was to prepare them at home!
Turkish fast-food; Parking available
Opening Hours: 10:00 am – 10:00 pm daily (plans are there to extend the timings)
Location: Ground Floor, Lake Terrace Tower, Cluster D, Jumeirah Lakes Towers (JLT)
Prices: Between Dhs 23 (for a Single Tantuni Roll Combo) to Dhs 40 (for a Double Tantuni Roll Combo)
Tel: +971 4 454 2329; Or, you can visit their Facebook Page and follow them on Twitter.
Though traditionally Tantunis are cooked with beef, here Chicken Tantuni Rolls are also available. Tantunis may also be served in sandwich breads if you so desire (above; Image courtesy: the restaurant). In Turkey, Tantunis are also served in sandwich breads but 80% of Turkish people prefer the Lavaş rolls.
The restaurant is located on the ground floor of one of the highrises of Jumeirah Lake Towers (JLT), the beautiful landscaping took me by surprise as did the addictive taste of Tantuni Rolls. The JLT area is probably going to be the next foodie haven very soon and a number of restaurants have started lining up the boulevards, surrounded by the emerald green waters of the JLT lakes. My own prophecy – Ahem!
Everybody knows Turkish Döner Kebabs but Cem and Can wants to introduce Tantuni rolls to Dubai… The restaurant is not even a month old. Just 3 days onto Twitter (!), do share some Tantuni love (Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, share the post etc). 20 lucky readers of my blog also gets a chance to taste some extra Tantunis by way of ‘Buy 1 Tantuni Combo and Get 1 Tantuni Combo FREE’ – courtesy Tantuni!
There are many more ways in which you can earn your points – share the post on Facebook, tweet about the post, refer a friend (which does earn you an extra bonus point but do ask your friends to mention your name). I would also love to hear what you think about my blog in the About Me page (a new additional point there this time).
Originally, a poor man’s food, Tantunis have now become the most popular street food in Turkey today where there are Tantuni shops selling only Tantunis. Cem and Can want to make their Tantuni shop in Dubai exactly that. They want to carve a niche for themselves with minor modifications to cater to Dubai’s palate, such as serving Tantuni in Combos along with a choice of salad, a dessert (yes, a sweet sign-off is a must!) and a drink.
And before I sign-off, I must tell you that I took away another Tantuni roll for myself (if you are wondering whether I am perennially hungry? Yes, I am – the super-greedy me – eeks!) and also for the Z-Sisters for their lunch after their school pickup!
Unblogging it all… Ishita
Disclaimer: I was hosted by the restaurant for my Tantuni tasting only and not for my personal take-away. I hope you enjoy reading the posts with lots of visuals, some of which have been taken from our personal albums just to make your reading experience more pleasurable. You can see more pictures of my travel and food journey here.