Succulent meat slow-roasted on a spit, sliced off in chunks. Drenched in a tangy sauce that has just the right amount of kick and served in a warm pita pocket. In recent years, food stands serving kebabs have started to pop up in some of the bigger cities in Japan, such as Tokyo. But in the more rural areas like Kagoshima, you were pretty much out of luck. Until now.
The word kebab can mean something slightly different depending on your region. In the United States, the word kebab usually refers to shish kebab, where small pieces of meat and seafood are roasted on skewers with vegetables like tomatoes, onions, and bell peppers. But outside of North America, the word kebab is more associated with the Turkish doner kebab—sandwiches consisting of spit-roasted meat served on pita or flatbread. Similar to the Greek gyros or Arabic shawarma.
In larger cities in Japan, it’s become fairly easy to eat non-Japanese food. Kagoshima is not quite there yet. Most foreign food restaurants are limited to the more popular choices, such as Italian, Indian, or Chinese. But slowly, new restaurants are opening up, providing Kagoshima residents with the opportunity to expand their tastebuds.
Maa Kebab (マーのケバブ) is one such restaurant, although food stand would be more accurate. Only opening within the past year, Maa Kebab is in a small location located in Kagoshima City’s Tenmonkan shopping district, near the Yamakataya department store. The restaurant can be difficult to spot, as it’s a small location nestled on the Naya-dori side street, not far from the Izurodori tram stop. A banner with the restaurant’s name printed in katakana serves as the marker to look for.
The basic kebab consists of pork served in one of three different sauces—mild, medium, or spicy. The medium spice is tangy with just the right amount of kick to it and is definitely recommended. The pita is served with thin-sliced cabbage and tomatoes in a pocket pita, all for ¥500. Avocado and/or cheese can be added on for an extra charge of ¥100. If you’d prefer a kebab plate with rice instead of pita, that’s another option, for ¥700. For an extra kick in your kebab, there are extra sauces in front of the counter you can use.
The otsumami set menu is the most expensive option at ¥750, but it gets you a kebab plate in addition to your choice of beer. And their beer selection is far more expansive than you might expect from a small shop. Heineken, Budweiser, Corona, Guinness, Hoegaarden, and more are all available for the same price. And of course, there is the typical assortment of soft drinks if alcohol isn’t your thing.
Maa Kebab is equipped with three benches, so you can have a seat and eat and drink right there in front of the shop. Service is extremely quick and friendly, so it’s the perfect spot to grab some food on the go for a reasonable price.