VU Döner Boelenlaan

Good day, Döner Fans. I hope you’ve all had a lovely Valentine’s Day. Recently, while on business at the Vrije Universiteit (Free University) here in Amsterdam, I was lucky enough to partake of a very passable döner. What was Dr Döner doing at the Vrije Universiteit, I hear you ask? What would a respectable academic such as himself be doing at Amsterdam’s second-best university? Well as it happens, Dr Döner was giving a talk for prospective postgraduate students interested in beginning a PhD in Kebab Studies (my own career background). I will be honest with you, I was not that impressed with the talent on offer. But I shall consider their thesis proposals nonetheless. Anyway, all of this is beside the point, because it was after this business was concluded that an accomplice and I headed out to the kebab stall we had seen on our way over. For those of you unfamiliar with the VU, this stall is located on a little square next to Boelenlaan tram stop. It’s easy to find.

The ravenous hordes gather around their wounded prey.

We fought our way through a veritable horde of hungry döner-munchers to place our orders. A döner cost 3,50€ so we ordered one each. Given the size of the crowd, the service was efficient and business-like, and the two gentlemen inside the kebab van set briskly to work. I was pleased to see them using traditional Turkish pide bread for their döners, rather than the mass-produced buns you sometimes find in less salubrious establishments. They also had a large pile of tempting lahmacun stacked up on display, so you could tell that they were serious about their food. The only slightly off-putting element was the colour and texture of the rotating log of ‘lamb’ döner at the back of the van, which was a particularly greasy shade of grey. To be honest, it did not look a lot like meat. But we ordered it anyway.

The kebab, illuminated by the soft light of a lamp post.

We ate our döners while marching in the direction of Amsterdam Zuid station. The evening was cold. The walk took us through a district of high-rise offices and banks, looking something like Amsterdam’s version of Canary Wharf. Indeed, we passed by a bar which was hoaching with bankers and business-types. Anyway, we ate as we walked, and the kebab itself was really rather pleasant. The meat was tasty in spite of its appearance, and the salad was fresh and crispy. There was even some red onion in it, which as I’ve said before, is always a sign of a classy kebab. The only annoyance was the fact that the sauce had been added to the bread first, with the result that most of the filling had no sauce on it until you got to the very bottom, when you were left only with some very saucy bread. It was a messy end to an otherwise enjoyable kebab. Satisfied, I discarded the remains of my saucy bread and, having thus eaten our fill, we mosied into the bar in the hope of spending an equally saucy evening.


Service: 4/5 (very efficient)

Atmosphere: 3/5 (bustling)

Price: 3/5 (standard)

Taste: 4/5 (very nice)

Photographs courtesy of Mr M. Koopmans.

The Origins of Kapsalon

Greetings, Döner Fans. Countless numbers of you have been writing in, begging for more information about kapsalon. ‘Where can I buy a kapsalon?’ ‘What is the best kapsalon in Amsterdam?’ ‘Why is my Dutch hairdresser’s shop also called kapsalon?’ It is the last of these three questions that I would like to address today. The Dutch-speakers among you will no doubt know that the word kapsalon actually means ‘barber shop’. How is it, then, that this seemingly unrelated term is used to refer to the meal that we all know and love? Well, the answer is as follows.

Just one of the many gushing letters I receive from fans

In 2003, hairdresser Nathaniël Gomes entered his local shawarma shop in Rotterdam and, rather than ordering from the menu, he requested that all his favourite ingredients be shoved into an aluminium dish and melted together for his lunch. The craftsman at the El Aviva shawarma shop duly packed the chips, cheese and kebab meat into one receptacle, melted them together in his oven, and then slathered some sauce and salad over the top. The resulting delicacy was then handed over for consumption.

The common or garden kapsalon. One portion contains around 1800 kcal.

This became a regular order for Nathaniël, so much so that El Aviva decided to add it to their menu in order to reach a wider audience. And so the meal was born, and because Nathaniël Gomes was a hairdresser, it was given the name kapsalon in his honour. So there you have it, Döner Fans! I hope that has slaked your thirst for knowledge. Dr Döner will see you next time. In the meantime, keep writing in!

Photographs courtesy of Dr. Döner