It is around midnight, when the büryan ovens are light up in Bitlis. There is only smoke in the dark streets of the city. Bitlis has its own pace, like all the Anatolian cities. The büryan restaurants open at 5.00 a.m and close around 11.00 a.m. It is very hard to find food after a certain time of the day. Even the neighborhood bakeries work on shifts.
Unlike Istanbul, büryan is made of goat rather then lamb in Bitlis. In fact, goat meat is the only meat sold in the butchers and hence consumed by the locals. Meat is preferred very fresh, on the same day, after a couple hours of the slaughter.
The kids, if in season, otherwise whole goats are hung on a hook and let cook in the tandooris, like coal fire lit in a well, for couple of hours, till the meat is succulent, the outer fat is crispy and meat falling of the bone.
Served kemikli -the ribs-, kemiksiz – no bones, just meat, yağlı– with cracklings, yağsız – meat without fat or cracklings. Ordering from every possible bit, and eating with onions, green chilies, tomatoes with the help of tırnaklı ekmek.
There is only one Bitlis büryan restaurant at Fatih district, Kadınlar Pazarı and the rest is all from Siirt. Both Siirt and Bitlis locals fight over büryan, try to claim it to be their own, arguing over centuries, as far as I learned from them. Everyone’s grandfather seems to invent this delicacy, giving them a right to claim it.
We had büryan for breakfast around 6.30am, shared a table with the locals, watch them roll their cigarettes, sip their tea, while talking over food, Bitlis, the migration, old days and büryan!