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Karavan is ready to fully satisfy your Turkish kebab cravings

Updated: Jul 2, 2023

Karavan: Among Malta's top Turkish restaurants. Prepare for an exceptional kebab experience amidst a plethora of options.


If done well, kebabs are so good they have every right to be included in the pantheon of comfort foods. I guess it’s a therefore good thing that kebab outlets have mushroomed in Malta these days. Does someone know when the first kebab shop landed on the Maltese Islands? I’m curious.


Karavan Turkish Restaurant Falafel

Originating from Turkey, kebabs are centuries old. Ottoman travel books from the 18th century describe how soldiers used their swords to cook meat over open fires or vertically on a stick, in what must be the forefather of the doner.


We went to Karavan in Birkirkara (they have another outlet in Fgura) on a late Sunday evening. The location might be problematic in terms of parking, and I’m sure there is a lot of double parking going on here on busy days (which I assume is mostly during lunchtime on weekdays). We found a quiet, unexceptional-looking place.


There was almost no one so we were immediately attended to. The place is clean, with just a series of basic tables and chairs, a food counter preceding two huge lumps of meat rotating in front of their respective grills, and four fridges from which you can help yourself with drinks. Nothing fancy, just soft drinks, juices, and very basic beers. Also, don’t expect any decoration because you’ll find none.


Karavan Turkish Restaurant Doner

Whilst Turkish kebabs are the specialty, the menu includes your usual burgers, pizza, and pasta. Why you would ask for a normal pizza when you can get a kebab here (unless of course, it’s the Turkish Pide or a proper ‘Lahmacun’) is beyond me though. I opted for falafel and a grilled lamb adana, whilst Charlene picked the chicken doner and a grilled chicken shish. All were accompanied by salads and sauces we chose from the counter. We just love this type of food.


Falafel is always a must for me. Its origins are contested, some claiming it is Egyptian, some Indian. It is very popular in Israel, whilst the Lebanese also lay a claim to its invention. In any case, today Falafel is eaten all over the world and Turkey is no exception. Here, the deep-fried chickpea balls presented to me were bursting with flavours from the cumin and coriander.


You would think a portion of six small falafels would not be enough, but trust me, by the fourth I was already starting to get full (and the lamb was still on the way!). The spicy rice accompanying my falafel was well cooked and spicy, very spicy! If you’re not much into spicy things you might want to give it a miss. The potato salad, enhanced by herbs and parsley was nice, soft, and overall enjoyable.


Next came the grilled lamb adana. Consisting of hand-minced meat mounted on a skewer and grilled, these kebabs proved tasty but dry, disappointingly dry. I admit I was totally full halfway through, so decided to take the rest with me at home.


As for Charlene, and her chicken wrap, despite the number of salads in it, we could clearly taste the crisp hem of the chicken. The wrap tasted good, and it was huge. Honestly, you could easily cut it in half and you would still have a decent portion with which to serve the average person. Here, no limit is imposed on how many salad items you can put inside the wrap.


Karavan Turkish Restaurant Wrap

In fact, how they manage to still close the wrap despite all that stuff in it is beyond me. Maybe it has something to do with the actual wrap. Kebabs are traditionally wrapped in ‘lavash’ (like a Turkish tortilla, termed durum kebab), ‘lahmacun’ (the Turkish pizza base) or a ‘tombik’, a thick grilled pita. Here, the pita used is thin, the sort you find in packets. It’s less tasty yes, but functional. It makes the kebab easy to hold, but most importantly explains how they manage to wrap it up so perfectly.


Charlene’s chosen combination consisted of marinated marrows (which I wasn’t too keen on), cabbage, corn, and aubergines (as a sort of caponata) as well as beetroot. By the end though, the moisture and the juices in our kebab had almost disintegrated the pita wrap and made it hard to handle without making a mess.


Having tasted some of Charlene’s wrap, I was almost completely full. Voraciously, though, she was next looking forward to the grilled chicken shish. Basically, the dish consisted of cube-like chicken pieces on a bed of (different) salads. The chicken was very tasty and tender. As for the salads we chose (some of which had accompanied my first dish) the spinach with yoghurt was agreeable, whilst the vegetables were fresh.


Karavan Turkish Restaurant Chicken

The coleslaw came with a lot of mayo and was mostly tasteless. The couscous was regrettably dry, and I suspect the only hint of taste it had was due to the tomato concentrate used for colouring. As for sauces, we limited ourselves to yoghurt or hummus. Traditionally, a kebab is made from meat marinated in spices.


What you want to balance the pungent taste of that spiced meat is something simple (like hummus or yoghurt sauce, preferably with some bits of cucumber to freshen things up). Trust me, anything like ketchup or chili sauce will result in your nearest Turkish person shouting Hayir! Hayir! (no! no!).


There is a huge selection of Turkish restaurants in Malta, so claiming Karavan is one of the best we’ve been to would be quite a statement. Overall though, I think the food there will get you your value for money, so I would suggest the place. In the meantime, keep enjoying your kebab and, as the Turkish would say ‘afiyet olsun’, meaning “may it be good for you”, or their version of ‘bon appétit’.

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