The kebab route

You’ve heard of the Silk Route and the Incense Road. We take you on an altogether meatier journey of discovery.

Dhiman Chattopadhyay | Print Edition: October 5, 2008

Centuries ago, our ancestors travelled the Silk Route to discover new treasures and cultures. They haven’t built an actual road for this one yet, but that didn’t stop us from taking off on a journey along our imagined “kebab route” from India to Turkey—exploring, the rich variety of mouthwatering kebabs that each of them offered us. India has always been a giant kebab factory with the burra kebab, (a favourite of the Nizams of Hyderabad), the boti kebab and the shami kebab leading a gang of tempting offerings.

But what about sheek kebab from Pakistan, which the Pathan warriors apparently gorge on before going to war? Or the kebab marinovat from the land of the Bamiyan Buddhas— Afghanistan, which we are told is delicious enough to tempt even a reluctant foodie to the war-torn land? The gastric juices are flowing already, aren’t they? Put your seat belts on, for we went a step further, on to Iran to taste the delicious luleh kebabs before finally calling it a day after finishing off every crumb of the scrumptious shrimp kebabs from Turkey. Join us on this gastronomical journey with six quick recipes of famous kebabs from each of these nations on the kebab highway.

Shrimp kebab (Karides kababi)

Large shrimp, as much as you want, frozen or fresh, peeled and deveined
1 red bell pepper, cut in chunks, equal amount as shrimp
medium mushrooms, equal amount as shrimp,
brushed 1 or 2 lemons, cut in 8s, equal amount as shrimp
Marinade: 50ml extra virgin olive oil
2-3 tbsp lemon juice
2-3 garlic cloves, smashed with salt
Red pepper, crushed, optional salt and pepper.

Directions: Arrange lemon, shrimp, red pepper and mushrooms on the skewers. In a bowl, whisk the marinade ingredients Brush the marinade all over the ingredients on the skewers. Leave them in the fridge for an hour. Preheat your barbecue or oven (grill/broil). Place the skewers on the rack and cook for about 3-4 minutes. Flip the other side and cook for another 2-3 minutes. If you have wood skewers, dip them in water first.

Luleh kebab

1lb ground lamb
1 large onion, grated
1 egg
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon cinnamon and wooden skewer.

Directions: Soak wooden skewers in warm water for 20-30 minutes prior to preparing food. Place meat in a large bowl; add the onion, egg, salt, pepper and cinnamon. Beat with a spoon until well mixed and the meat turns lighter in colour.

Take a handful of the mixture and form it around the skewer to approximately 6” long and 1” diametre to make an elongated patty. Set kebabs aside on wax paper on another plate until ready to grill. Grill kebabs over hot coals or under broiler until it’s cooked through, turning once. Serve with lemon wedges, and chelou (rice).

Kebab marinovat (Marinated Lamb Kebab)

2 lb boneless lamb steak, cut into 1” cubes
3 medium onions, quartered
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cuminseed and ¼ tsp pepper.

Directions: Mix everything together and marinate for 90 minutes. This distributes flavours and tenderises the meat. Now put 4 pieces of lamb alternating with onion quarters on each metal skewer. Cook over charcoal for 10 minutes or to taste. Or else you can cook it on gas stoves too.

Sheek kebab

1 kg minced meat
1 medium onion, grounded
1 onion, chopped
4 green chillies
1 tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp green papaya, crushed to a paste along with the skin
1 bunch of fresh coriander leaves, chopped; 8 cardamom pods
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp garam masala powder
4 tbsp chick pea flour
1 egg
2 tbsp milk powder
salt (to taste) and 2 tbsp cooking oil.

Directions: In a bowl, mix the minced meat well with all ingredients, except for the oil. Knead with hands for about 5 to 10 minutes. Set aside for 2 hours. Knead once again. Take a small portion of the mixture in hand and put on a barbecue skewer. These kebabs can also be roasted directly on a flame for a minute and later fried with a little oil in a frying pan. Serve.

Boti kebab
1 lb boneless mutton or chicken, cut into cubes
2 tsp ginger-garlic paste
2 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp roasted cumin powder
¼ tsp black pepper powder
½ cup curd; 1tbsp vinegar
½ tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp garam masala, salt to taste
2 tbsp ghee
6 black pepper
5 green cardamom, coarsely ground and juice of 2 limes.

Directions: Mix ginger and garlic and all spices in curd and marinate the meat. Dip the meat in ghee and arrange the pieces on skewers. Roast, grill or bake for 15-20 minutes, turning from time to time. Now baste with lime juice and sprinkle black pepper, cardamom powder and roast for another 5 minutes. Serve hot with sliced onion.

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