Sunday, March 18, 2012



One of the most popular & versatile foods of the East, kebab cuisine has become a fine art & the kebabi is an artist in his own right. There are several spellings of this word including “Kebab” “kebob”, but they all mean the same.

Kebabs form a part of Moghlai, Awadhi, Hyderabadi cuisines as these areas were influenced at one time or the other by Middle Eastern culture. The kebab was introduced & popularized in India by Turkish, Afghan, Mughal & Persian armies who invaded India. For soldiers & hunters, the kebab was one of easiest & most convenient ways of cooking a meal. The meat was skewered & roasted immediately after the hunt.

Literally, kebab comes from the Persian word ‘KUM AAB’ which means less water & this term is relevant since kebabs are dry items cooked using very less water & have no sauce or gravy.

There are various factors influencing the preparation of kebabs:

1. Type of meat:

Kebabs are traditionally made from lamb/ mutton, or poultry. Lamb is the most preferred & used most often. All major kebabs are made from lamb mince, or chunks or ribs. The advantage of using chicken is that it is a white meat & takes less time to cook. Beef & pork are used rarely in India due to religious sentiments.

2. Cuts of meat: Different kebabs require different cuts of meat for their preparation.

Eg. sheekh kebabs requires minced meat from shoulder & ribs.

Burra kebabs are made from the ribs.

Boti kebabs require boneless meat from the leg.

Pasanda kebabs require square boneless meat pieces from the upper portion of the hind leg of the lamb.

3. Cooking equipments: Cooking equipments available in the region, determine the cooking method of the kebab.

4. Cooking method: There are basically three ways of cooking kebabs; grilling, frying, roasting, {in the tandoor}. Cooking determines the taste, flavour to a great extent.

Kebabs cooked by grilling on an open charcoal fire, have a distinctive flavour, aroma & taste. There are basically three ways of cooking Kebabs: Grilling; Frying; Roasting {in the tandoor}.

The most popular grilled Kebab is the sheekh Kebab - minced meat wrapped around a skewer & cooked on an open charcoal fire. The fat & the juices of the meat drip onto the coal causing the smoke to rise. This is what gives the Kebabs their distinctive flavour, aroma & taste. Other Kebabs cooked in this way are Boti, Tikka, Tangri, Kakori, Sula, Burra, Pathar ka ghosht.

Kebabs can also be deep fried or fried on a griddle. The most popular is shammi Kebab. Other fried Kebabs are Galavati, Khatai, Malai, Nargisi, Shikumpur.

Then there are Kebabs that are cooked in the tandoor. Here because the flavour of charcoal is combined with the all round radiated heat, tandoori Kebabs get a rather special flavour. Although lamb & fish can be cooked in the tandoor, it is chicken that is most suitable.

Kebabs, being a dry cuisine, a range of accompaniments have developed reflecting regional preferences – onion rings, chunks of tomato, seasonal vegetables like white radish, cucumber. Raitas are also a popular accompaniment. Various types of chutneys are also served; including a sweet & sour one combining dates &tamarind; a coarsely ground one including green coriander, mint, garlic, green chillies. Amongst the breads, parathas & naans are served; but the most popular being “roomali roti”.

Over the years, Kebab has adopted countless varieties. Imaginative cooks will continue to adapt & change the basic cuisine. Given below is a list of basic Kebabs. Use this only as a guide. Variations are bound to occur & opinions will differ.

1 Sheekh Kebab: The most popular Kebab. It is a spicy, cigar shaped minced meat Kebab, cooked on a sheekh / skewer, on an open fire or tandoor.

2 Boti Kebab: Boneless pieces of mutton/ chicken, marinated in a seasoned curd mixture along with a tenderizer like raw papaya, put on sheekh / skewer, cooked on an open flame.

3 Chicken Tikka: Boneless pieces of chicken, marinated in a tandoori masala, skewered & grilled on an open fire or tandoor.

4 Harra or Burra Kebab: These are mutton chops marinated in a mint & coriander mixture, cooked on skewers on an open fire. In Arabic, ‘burra ` means young lamb.

5 Shammi Kebab: Are deep fried patties of well seasoned minced mutton & channadal{ binding agent}

6 Nargisi Kebab: Gets its name from the Nargis flower which it is said to resemble. It is a shammi Kebab mixture covering a hard boiled egg, deep fried. The Kebab is cut into half, lengthwise, after cooking. The yolk, surrounded by the white, set against a dark background, is said to resemble the nargis flower.

7 Malai Kebab & Khatai Kebab: Variations of shammi Kebabs with special masalas & fillings.

8 Kakori Kebab: Coming from a village Kakor, in Lucknow, they consist of finely pounded meat, seasoned with spices like cloves, poppyseeds, etc. wrapped around a skewer & grilled on an open fire.

9 Sula Kebab: These come from Rajasthan. It is a venison Kebab. That could be cooked easily soon after a hunt.

10 Pathar ke Kebab / Pathar ka Ghosht: A most unusual Kebab, introduced by Arab missionaries in India in the 12th century. Cooking stones are heated till they are red hot & strips of marinated meat are cooked on them.

11 Shikumpur Kebab: Come from the Nizams of Hyderabad. The name is derived from the Persian word “Shikam” meaning “stomach”. These Kebabs have a filling of curds, onions coriander leaves, mint.

12 Galoti / Galavati Kebabs: From Lucknow, their speciality is that they are so soft, that they literally melt in the mouth.

13 Kamargarh Kebabs: Means meat from the ribs. This is a Kashmiri preparation in which ribs of lamb are cooked in milk & water before it is grilled.

14 Afghani Kebabs: Boneless pieces of chicken in a curd & white masala marinate, having a predominant flavour of kasuri methi.

15 Kalmi Kebabs / Tangri Kebabs: They are chicken drumsticks, marinated in seasoned curds & cooked in the tandoor. They are called Kalmi Kebabs as they resemble a pen: kalam.

Lamb & chicken are the most common meats used for kabas, but fish & prawns are also used:

Tandoori Pomfret / Prawns: Whole pomfret, / prawns, marinated in curds & spices, skewered & cooked gently in the tandoor.

Fish Tikka: Boneless pieces of firm fleshed fish, { rawas} marinated, skewered & charcoal grilled.


Golaar Kebabs: Made with raw figs & channadal, into a pattie shape & deep fried.

Bhen Kebabs: A mixture of lotus stems & channadal, shaped into patties & deep fried.

1 comment:

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