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

Bocadillos, Molukkenstraat 157H

Happy New Year, Döner Fans! And what a year this promises to be. A whole twelve months stuffed to overflowing with potential kebabs, lahmacuns and kapsalons all waiting to be eaten. What new food-related surprises, disappointments and delights will 2015 bring to us all? Let me start off with an homage to the passing of 2014, with a report on the last kebab of that illustrious year, which I consumed on the 19th of December. It was a cold, windy Friday and darkness had fallen. There were plans afoot to go a-wassailing in the dive bars of Amsterdam, and hearty sustenance was required before festivities could begin. To this end, I traipsed down Molukkenstraat in Amsterdam’s Southeast in search of some food for the soul. It was there that I happened upon Bocadillos.

The sweaty glow of Bocadillos from across the street

I don’t know exactly why it calls itself Bocadillos, since neither the staff nor the cuisine appear to be Spanish. In any case, the neon light lured me into the restaurant’s plasticky clutches and on perusing the menu I found that many sorts of kapsalon were on offer. Hurray! In broken Dutch I ordered a ‘kapsalon kefta’ for the sum of 5 Euros, and the heavyset man behind the counter began preparing it for me. He sweated in the heat as he crafted the feast. This particular kapsalon was to consist of long fingers of meatball (kefta) rather than standard döner meat, and these spiced fingers of meat were grilled and chopped before my eyes. Then, they were placed in their aluminium vessel upon a bed of fresh chips, then sprinkled with cheese and doused in spicy, garlicky sauces. The whole affair was then put into the oven to melt together into an artery-thickening mess of fatty goodness. Once ready, it was removed from the oven and a layer of salad was added, to give the illusion that this was a balanced meal. Lettuce, tomato, cucumber, more sauces, and finally a few green olives were placed on top to complete the kapsalon. After paying the man, I smuggled it hastily back to Döner HQ to eat.

A thing of rare beauty - the Bocadillos Kapsalon

I have to say, the kapsalon was sinfully delicious. It was one of those meals you have to slow down to enjoy, for fear of eating it too fast and then being left frustrated and unfulfilled. The man at Bocadillos had prepared a meal of true excellence. I forgave him the suspicious glances he’d thrown me while making my kapsalon, and the glistening layer of sweat that covered his head and face as he slaved over the hot grill. I forgave the curt manner with which he had squirted the sauces joylessly onto my chips, and the atmosphere of vague hostility which permeated his shop. I would ride all those rapids again and gladly, for another portion of Señor Bocadillos’ glorious kapsalon. Bravo, Bocadillos! You have upheld the high standard set by Fuat Bey and his Snackwagen. Dr Döner will return again soon to break in the first meal of 2015, and fend off the January chill with a fatty layer of kapsalon!


Service: 2/5 (sweaty and suspicious)

Atmosphere: 2/5 (plasticky and sticky)

Price: 3/5 (standard)

Taste: 5/5 (oh, my god)

Photographs taken by Dr. Döner

Snackwagen, Amsterdam Sciencepark

Hello Döner Fans. Sorry to leave you hanging so long. Dr Döner has finally adjusted to his new home for the year and is now BACK in ACTION. That’s right, Dr Döner is in Amsterdam! Now, let me introduce you to a new delight I have discovered. Every country has its own take on the döner (some better than others) and in the Netherlands they have come up with something quite special, and they call it Kapsalon. Which literally means ‘Barber Shop’ in Dutch. And it is very tasty! It is a layer of Dutch frites covered in a layer of kebab meat covered in a layer of cheese covered in sauce and salad. It’s like a punch in the heart.

The Kapsalon in all its glory. Get me on that!

While exploring my local area near the Amsterdam Sciencepark, I came across a cosy looking little hut on wheels bearing the tempting words ‘Snackwagen’. The Snack-Wagon had caught my attention! I approached and promptly ordered a Kapsalon, about which I had heard great things. A very cheerful man served me and it turned out – lo and behold! – he was from Istanbul! Our friendship was immediately established. In any new city it is expedient to find a friendship group, Döner Fans. And in Mr Fuat of the Snackwagen I had found my first taker. He chatted away about his holiday in Turkey where he had seen many interesting things (it was in Turkish so I filled in the gaps with guesswork) before announcing that just for me he had made an extra big Kapsalon. ‘Yes, you will not want to eat again for two days!’ he said proudly as he handed it over for the sum of 5 Euros. I wasn’t sure if it was a promise or a threat!

The Snackwagen by day, before the meat hits the party fan. Nobody knows where he goes during the day.

I have to say, when I tucked into my Kapsalon back at Döner HQ, I was in seventh heaven. Fuat Bey had crafted a delicious repast to satisfy body and soul, and Dr Döner was indeed satisfied. For 5 Euros I was as stuffed as I have ever been. The only slight disadvantage of the Kapsalon is that it takes so long to make, since the frites have to be deep-fried and the whole thing has to sit in the oven for a while so that the cheese melts. But I will certainly be visiting the Snackwagen again very soon! Well done, Snackwagen – Dr Döner is a convert!


Service: 5/5 (very friendly and warm)

Atmosphere: 3/5 (cosy)

Price: 3/5 (dearer than döner)

Taste: 5/5 (delicious)

Photography taken by Dr Döner.