The full wrap on kebabs in Australia

Delicious food is something we can all agree on. Remember Harmony Week in primary school? There’s no doubt about it - harmony tastes good.


To borrow from an old saying: The way to a nation’s heart is through its stomach.

As we celebrate Harmony Day (March 21) it’s a great opportunity to indulge in the amazing variety of foods that make up the modern Australian diet.

And it’s fair to say Australians have embraced food from diverse cultures with enthusiasm.

 While Chinese food remains by far the most popular style, one of the fastest-growing cuisines loved by Aussies is Middle Eastern, according to the most recent Roy Morgan survey of our dining habits.

What do we mean by “Middle Eastern”?

Well, for starters, we mean kebabs. Who hasn’t spent a weekend night chowing down on beautifully sliced meat wrapped in pita with salad and drizzled with a tasty sauce?

The history of kebabs in Australia is complicated. For a start, what do we call them?  Are they kebabs, döner kebabs, shawarma, souvlaki or gyros (pronounced ‘yeeros’ and, in South Australia, spelled yiros)?

It depends on where you are and whether the purveyor of the bread-wrapped meat is of Turkish, Lebanese or Greek extraction.

It also depends on whether the meat is carved from a stack of slices on a rotating spit (gyros, döner kebab, shawarma) or grilled on a skewer in chunks (souvlaki, shish kebab).  Gyro, döner and shawarma all mean the same thing – turning. It just depends whether you’re speaking Greek, Turkish or Arabic.

According to most reliable accounts, the first kebabs were introduced in Sydney by Lebanese immigrant Tony Khater in 1965, although souvlaki had been around in Melbourne before that.

 Origins of Kebabs

Kebabs originated in the Ottoman Empire about 300 years ago, but it wasn’t until the 1930s that they started to spread around the world.

And let’s be thankful they did. Saturday nights wouldn’t be the same without them.

Which kind of kebab do you prefer? And where is your favourite kebab joint?  We want to hear your stories.