You’ve got to get up pretty early in the morning to catch Ali Haydar. Around 6 am should do it. If you wait till 8, you might find he has sold out of his speciality and gone home. This speciality is lamb liver kebaps —another breakfast tradition of southeastern Anatolia that baffles visitors from Istanbul.
Ali opens his little kebap shop, just down the hill from Gaziantep Castle, immediately after the dawn prayer, which means around 5 am in the summer and around 6 am in the winter. Gradually the customers arrive to sit on the tiny stools outside the shop. Some sit at an angle that suggests they are on the way home from a night of drinking. Others are straight-backed and alert, suggesting they are just out of the nearby mosque and on their way to work.
Inside the shop, Ali, in a light-blue butcher’s jacket, risks setting fire to his moustache as he uses a sheet of cardboard to fan the coals of his charcoal grill. He closely watches his skewers and, at the moment the exterior turns crunchy while the inside stays pink, he lifts them away from the coals and wipes them into a mitten of flatbread. When all his livers (and his hearts, lungs and kidneys) have been cooked and consumed by customers, he heads home. In the afternoon he visits the offal market (distinguished by a large sign announcing ‘Cleaned Heads’) and collects the ingredients to be prepared overnight for the next morning’s feast.