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Munchies

Turkish Testicles Aren't a Load of Bollocks

I went in search of something a little unknown to the standard London palate: koç yumurtası, or Turkish lamb’s testicles. You'd better believe that these were some creamily flavourful balls.

by Tom Jones
Jan 5 2015, 8:30pm

Since the late 1970s, Stoke Newington in London's East End has been home to a thriving Turkish community. On the high street, there are countless traditional restaurants serving everything from lahmacun (Turkish pizza) to ali nazik (smoked aubergine puree) and lamb kofte kebabs.

Recently, however, I went in search of something a little more unknown to the standard London palate: koç yumurtası, or marinated lamb's testicles.

I never used to be a huge fan of offal, but that changed earlier this year when I tried mannish water—a Jamaican aphrodisiac soup made from a goat's head, intestines, and stomach—for the first time. Since then, I've gone gung ho for organs.

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When I asked some Turkish friends about where I could track down traditionally prepared koç yumurtası, the unanimous answer was Testi, an ocakbaşı (grill) restaurant renowned for its lamb testicles and traditional Turkish kebabs. Oddly enough, the name has nothing to do with the fact that they serve testicles; a testi is actually a kind of clay jug used in Turkey to pour drinking water.

Upon arrival at the restaurant, I was met by Testi's head waiter, Onder. "You've brought us luck," he told me. "Someone just ordered five portions of testicles to takeaway before you arrived!"

Ozkan, the restaurant's chef, walked me me through the preparation of the testicles, which had been soaking in water. Crisscrossed with squiggly purple veins, they didn't look too pleasant at first glance. I wondered whether my new passion for offal was going to be put to the test.

testicles 2_1

Soaking the testicles softens them up and makes them easier to cut; otherwise they can be pretty difficult to deal with. First, the outer membrane of the testicle and the remainder of the epididymis must be sliced off. Then the testicles are cut in half lengthwise. Once the outer layer has been removed, it begins to resemble a kidney or even a chicken fillet, rather than a pair of bollocks.

After they've been prepped, the testicles are then quickly marinated in a bath of olive oil, paprika, oregano, and salt. They are then threaded onto kebab skewers, ready to be cooked over the restaurant's charcoal fire. "It takes longer to cook than a regular chicken or lamb kebab," Ozkan told me. "Testicles don't have any fat on them. Usually we cook them for about 30 to 35 minutes."

Testicles before barbeque_1

As they cook away over the charcoal flames, I grab a glass of sweet black çay tea and chat to Onder about the dish's significance in Turkey. "We love these types of meat," said Onder. "Testicles, livers, heart and kidneys. It's a huge part of our food." Indeed, Testi offers a couple of other offal dishes on its menu, including böbrek (barbecued kidney) and ciğer (barbecued liver).

Koç yumurtası isn't particularly regional, he explained. "You can find the dish anywhere in the country. There might be some differences, though. The marinade changes a little bit here and there."

At one point, a handful of other Turkish restaurants in London served testicles, but most have taken it off their menus. (Offal requires careful cooking and generally isn't a moneymaker with non-Turkish diners.) But that won't be happening at Testi, as long as Onder's around. "I grew up eating this," he said. "It's a very special dish. That's why we serve it here."

After I'd finished a few cups of tea, the testicles were finally ready to eat. They came served with white rice, a barbecued green pepper, grilled tomatoes, and some flatbread. My fork broke through the testicle meat with ease. Its texture reminded me of Quorn, the mushroom-based meat substitute that's popular with vegetarians. Incredibly soft, these were some creamily flavourful balls.

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As I ploughed through the giant plate of food in front of me, Onder wandered over. "You're going to feel great after this meal, man!" he beamed. In many cultures, eating testicles (and offal in general) is believed to give you a kind of boost, sexual or otherwise. "These types of meat—kidneys, liver, and testicles—the culture in Turkey is to eat them in the morning and the early afternoon," said Onder. "They're very good at the start of the day.'

Unfortunately, I didn't feel ready to run a marathon immediately afterward, but you could chalk that up to my massive plate of meat and carbs. Perhaps a smaller meal of gonads is in order next time.

If you're the kind who thinks eating offal is a load of bollocks, grab yourself some balls and change your mind.