|Place of origin||Middle East|
|Region or state||Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, China, Egypt, Greece, India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, the Levant, Morocco, Nepal, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey|
|Cookbook: Kebab Media: Kebab|
In contemporary American and British English, a kebab is a common dish, consisting of a skewer with small pieces of meat or seafood, together with vegetables such as onions, tomatoes, and bell peppers. Also known as shish kebab or sometimes shashlik, kebabs are customarily prepared in homes and restaurants, and are usually cooked on a grill or barbeque. The word kebab may also be used as a general term in English to describe any similar-looking skewered food, such as brochette, satay, souvlaki, yakitori, or numerous small chunks of any type of food served on a stick. This is different from its use in the Middle East, where shish (Turkish: şiş) is the word for skewer, while kebab comes from the Persian word for grilling.
In the UK, Ireland, Australia, and some other English-speaking countries outside of North America, the word kebab is also used generally to mean döner kebab, or the related shawarma or gyros, or sandwiches made with them, available from kebab shops as fast food and take-away meals. Many layers of meat are stacked onto a large vertical rotating spit; the outer surface is gradually cooked and sliced off, and typically served as a sandwich in pita or flatbread with salad and sauces. In Germany, the highly popular sandwich, introduced by Turkish immigrants, is called a döner, though Arab shops serve shawarma. In other countries in Europe and worldwide, the name used depends on the dish and on local customs.
In American English and also in the languages throughout the cuisine of the Middle East and the Muslim world, kebab is a broad term covering a wide variety of grilled meat dishes in addition to the shish kebab and döner kebab familiar in the West. Although often cooked on a skewer, many types of kebab are not. Kebab dishes can consist of cut up or ground meat or seafood, sometimes with vegetables; cooked on a skewer over a fire, or like a hamburger on a grill, baked in a pan in an oven, or as a stew; and served with various accompaniments according to each recipe.
Etymology and history
The practice of cooking meat on a stick or skewer originates in prehistorical times, possibly as long as a million years ago, when early humans began cooking with fire. Dishes prepared in a similar way to kebab, with various cultural origins, include anticucho, espetada, satay, souvlaki, yakitori, and many others.
Excavations in Santorini, Greece, unearthed stone sets of barbecue for skewers used before the 17th century BC. In each pair of the supports, the receptions for the spits are found in absolute equivalence, while the line of small openings in the base formed a mechanism to supply the coals with oxygen so that they remained alight during its use. Mycenaean Greeks used portable tray as grills. These trays were rectangular ceramic pans that sat underneath skewers of meat but it is not clear whether these trays would have been placed directly over a fire or if the pans would have held hot coals like a portable barbecue pit. Homer in Ilad (1.465) mentions pieces of meat roasted on spits (οβελός). In Classical Greece, a small spit or skewer was known as ὀβελίσκος (obeliskos), and Aristophanes mentions such skewers being used to roast thrushes.
The English word kebab comes from the Arabic: كَبَاب (kabāb), partly through Urdu, Persian and Turkish. According to Sevan Nişanyan, an etymologist of the Turkish language, the word kebab is derived from the Persian word "kabab" meaning "fry". The word was first mentioned in a Turkish script of Kyssa-i Yusuf in 1377, which is the oldest known Turkish source where kebab is mentioned as a food. However, he emphasizes that the word has the equivalent meaning of "frying/burning" with "kabābu" in the old Akkadian language, and "kbabā/כבבא" in Aramaic. The American Heritage Dictionary also gives a probable East Semitic root origin with the meaning of "burn", "char", or "roast", from the Aramaic and Akkadian. These words point to an origin in the prehistoric Proto-Afroasiatic language: *kab-, to burn or roast.
Tradition has it that the dish was invented by medieval soldiers who used their swords to grill meat over open-field fires. Persian kebab was served in the royal houses during various Islamic Empires and even commoners would enjoy it for breakfast with naan or pita.
Kebabs in Armenia are prepared of ground meat spiced with pepper, parsley and other herbs and roasted on skewers.
In the Republic of Azerbaijan, the main varieties include tika kabab, lyula kabab (doyma kabab in some places), tas kababy and tava kabab. The meat for tika kabab is sometimes prepared in basdirma (an onion gravy and thyme) and then goes onto the ramrods. It may be served, wrapped in lavash, with sauce-like pomegranate addon (narsharab) and other condiments.
In Bulgaria, the word кебап (kebap) is a generic term for meat stews with few or no vegetables. The döner kebab is widespread as fast food and is called дюнер (dyuner). Shish kebap / shashlik is also common, and is called шишче (shishche - "small skewer").
Chuanr (Chinese: 串; pinyin: chuàn), often referred to as "chua'r" in Pekingese and throughout the North, or kawap (كاۋاپ) in Uyghur, is a variation of kebab originating from the Uyghurs in the Western province of Xinjiang and a popular dish in Chinese Islamic cuisine. The dish has since spread across the rest of the country and become a popular street food.
Although the most traditional form of chuanr uses lamb or mutton, other types of meat, such as chicken, beef, pork, and seafood, may be used as well. Small pieces of meat are skewered and either roasted or deep-fried. Common spices and condiments include cumin called "ziran", pepper, sesame, and sesame oil.
While the history of street foods in Greece goes back to ancient times, the iconic Greek gyros and souvlaki as it is known today arose only following the Second World War. Introduced to Athens in the 1950s by immigrants from Turkey and the Middle East, gyros was originally known simply as döner kebab. It is typically served as a sandwich rolled in pita bread, or on a plate, with french fries and various salads and sauces such as tzatziki. Later in the 1960s, vendors also began selling dishes in the same style made with souvlaki, which resembles Turkish shish kebab, but is usually made with pork.
In contrast to other areas of Greece, in Athens, both types of sandwich may be called souvlaki, with the skewered meat being called kalamaki.
Although gyros is unquestionably of Middle Eastern origin, the issue of whether modern-day souvlaki came to Greece via Turkish cuisine, and should be considered a Greek styling of shish kebab, or is a contemporary revival of Greek tradition dating as far back as 17th century BC Minoan civilization, is a topic of sometimes heated debate, at least between Greeks and Turks. While English speakers may refer to souvlaki skewers as kebabs, they are not properly called that in Greece.
Ancient Hindu texts, such as Mahabharata, mentions a dish made of marinated game meats roasted on large, open fires. Modern day kebabs in India trace their origin to the influence of the Mughlai cuisine in India, and are associated with India's Muslim community. Some varieties of kebab in India are more or less similar to other kebab preparations along with their distinct taste, which can be credited to the use of the Indian spices. Though there certain distinct versions like Tunde ke kabab, Tikka kebab, Shami kebab, Soovar ki Saanth(Pork belly kebabs from Rajasthan) and Rajpooti soolah, which are native to India. Also, owing to widespread prevalence of vegetarianism in India, there are many local, vegetarian varieties of Kebab, made from Paneer or potatoe.
All the varieties such as sheesh, doner (known as shawarma), shammi, tikka, and other forms of roasted and grilled meats are savoured in India. Some popular kebabs are:
- Kakori kebab
- Shami kebab
- Kalmi kebab
- Kacche gosht ke chapli kebab
- Tunde ke kabab
- Sambhali kebab
- Bihari kebab
- Boti kebab
- Seekh Kebab
- Reshmi kebab
- Lasoni kebab
- Chicken malai kebab
- Tikka kebab
- Tangdi kebab (tangdi meaning "leg of the chicken")
- Kaleji kebab
- Hariali chicken kebab
- Burrah kebab
- Soovar ki saanth (Pork belly kebabs from Rajasthan)
- Rajpooti soolah (Game meat-wild boar, deer & partridge barbecue kebabs made with a special "Kachari" (wild melon) sauce by Rajputs in Rajasthan)
Kabab (Persian: کباب), of which there are several distinct Persian varieties, is a national dish of Iran. Kebab may be served with either steamed, saffroned basmati or Persian rice (chelow kebab; Persian: چلو کباب) or with the various types of bread that are the most commonly eaten in Iran, such as Lavash. Iran has more than seven types of kebab, which form a significant part of the Iranian diet.
It is served with the basic Iranian meal accompaniments, in addition to grilled tomatoes on the side of the rice and butter on top of the rice. It is an old northern tradition (probably originating in Tehran) that a raw egg yolk should be placed on top of the rice as well, though this is strictly optional, and most restaurants will not serve the rice this way unless it is specifically requested. "Somagh", powdered sumac, is also made available and its use varies based on tastes to a small dash on the rice or a heavy sprinkling on both rice and meat, particularly when used with red (beef/veal/lamb) meat.
At Persian restaurants, the combination of one kabab barg and one kabab koobideh is typically called Soltani, meaning "sultan's feast". The traditional beverage of choice to accompany kebab is doogh, a sour yogurt drink with mint and salt.
In the old bazaar tradition, the rice (which is covered with a tin lid) and accompaniments are served first, immediately followed by the kebabs, which are brought to the table by the waiter, who holds several skewers in his left hand, and a piece of flat bread (typically nan-e lavash) in his right. A skewer is placed directly on the rice and while holding the kebab down on the rice with the bread, the skewer is quickly pulled out. With the two most common kebabs, barg and koobideh, two skewers are always served. In general, bazaar kebab restaurants only serve these two varieties, though there are exceptions.
In Iranian Azerbaijan, "Binab (also Bonab) Kebabi" is very famous in Azerbaijani cuisine for its large size. It is named after the city of Binab in East Azerbaijan province. This kebab and other types (e.g., Shishlik, kubide, Berge, Gelin, etc.) can be served alone or with rice and fresh salad on the side. In this region Kebabs come usually with yogurt, hot bread, tomato, onion, parsley and paprika-salt, and tarragon.
Kabab Koobideh contains: ground meat, onion, salt, pepper, turmeric, and seasoning. These ingredients are mixed together until the mixture becomes smooth and sticky. One egg is added to help the mix stick together. The mixture is then pressed around a skewer. Koobideh Kabab is typically 18 to 20 centimeters (7–8 in) long.
Kabāb-e barg (Persian: کباب برگ) is a Persian style barbecued lamb, chicken or beef kebab dish. The main ingredients of Kabab Barg – a short form of this name – are fillets of beef tenderloin, lamb shank or chicken breast, onions and olive oil.
Marinade is prepared by the mixture of half a cup of olive oil, three onions, garlic, half teaspoon saffron, salt and black pepper. One kilogram of lamb is cut into 1 cm thick and 4–5 cm long pieces. It should be marinated overnight in refrigerator, and the container should be covered. The next day, the lamb is threaded on long, thin metal skewers. It is brushed with marinade and is barbecued for 5–10 minutes on each side. Kabab-e Barg
Jūje-kabāb (Persian: جوجهکباب) consists of pieces of chicken first marinated in minced onion and lemon juice with saffron then grilled over a fire. It is sometimes served with grilled tomato and pepper. Jujeh kabab is one of the most popular Persian dishes.
In the Levant
Shawarma and other varieties of kebabs can be found at most restaurants representing this region. The preparation of Shawarma consists of chicken, turkey, beef, veal, or mixed meats being placed on a spit (commonly a vertical spit in restaurants), and being grilled for as long as a day. Shavings are cut off the block of meat for serving, and the remainder of the block of meat is kept heated on the rotating spit. Although it can be served in shavings on a plate (generally with accompaniments), shawarma also refers to a pita bread sandwich or wrap made with shawarma meat.
Mizrahi Jews brought various types of kebab from their native Middle Eastern lands to Israel, where they are an essential part of the Israeli cuisine. Among the most popular are a type of köfte, skewers of spiced ground meat, often simply called kebab.
In Nepal it is a popular dish in Nepalese cuisine as well as Newa cuisine and known as Sekuwa. It is a meat roasted in a natural wood/log fire in a real traditional Nepalese country style. At first while the meat is still in its raw stage is mixed with homemade natural herbs and spices and other necessary ingredients. Sekuwa could be of pork, lamb, goat or chicken, or a mixture. Sekuwa is very popular in Nepal, especially in the Eastern Nepal and Kathmandu. Tarahara, a small town in Sunsari District of Koshi State in the Eastern Nepal could be called as the sekuwa capital of Nepal.
Kebabs in Pakistan trace their origin to the influence of the Mughlai cuisine in South Asia. Pakistani cuisine is rich with different kebabs. Meat including beef, chicken, lamb and fish is used in kebabs. Some popular kebabs are:
In Turkey, shish kebab does not normally contain vegetables, though they may be cooked on a separate skewer. It can be prepared with lamb, beef, chicken, or fish, but pork is not used. In American and other Western shish kebab recipes, any kind of meat may be used; cubes of vegetables are often threaded on the spit as well. Typical vegetables include tomato, bell pepper, onions, and mushrooms.
Before taking its modern form, as mentioned in Ottoman travel books of the 18th century, the doner used to be a horizontal stack of meat rather than vertical, probably sharing common ancestors with the Cağ Kebabı of the Eastern Turkish province of Erzurum.
In his family biography, İskender Efendi of 19th century Bursa writes that "he and his grandfather had the idea of roasting the lamb vertically rather than horizontally, and invented for that purpose a vertical mangal".
Döner kebab, literally "rotating kebab" in Turkish, is sliced lamb, beef, or chicken, slowly roasted on a vertical rotating spit. The Middle Eastern shawarma, Mexican tacos al pastor, and Greek gyros are all derived from the Turkish döner kebab, which was invented in Bursa in the 19th century by a cook named Hacı İskender.
The German-style döner kebab sandwich, sometimes called simply "a kebab" in English, was introduced by Turkish immigrants in Berlin in the 1970s, and has become one of the most popular take-away foods in Germany and much of Europe. It is commonly sold by Turks, and considered a Turkish-German specialty, in Germany.
Adana kebabı (or kıyma kebabı) is a long, hand-minced meat kebab mounted on a wide iron skewer and grilled over charcoal. It is generally "hot" or piquant. The traditional Adana Kebab is made using lamb, with a high fatty content cooked over hot coals. Only three ingredients are used in a proper Adana Kebab, minced lamb, red capsicum (pepper) and salt.
Steam kebab (Turkish: Buğu kebabı) is a Turkish stew which is cooked in a pan or an earthenware casserole. The casserole's lid is sealed in order to cook the meat in its own juices. The dish is prepared with pearl onions, garlic, thyme, and other spices. In Tekirdağ, it is served with cumin; in Izmir, it is served with mastic.
A dish from Central Anatolia and the Mid-Western Black Sea region, consisting of a mixture of meat and vegetables cooked in a clay pot or jug over fire (testi means jug in Turkish). The pot is sealed with bread dough or foil and is broken when serving.
Kebab Kenjeh, also known as Chenjeh (کنجه کباب) is a meat, specifically and traditionally lamb, dish in the Middle East. Originating in Iran, kebab kenjeh is now found worldwide. The meat is cooked with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper and served with rice, grilled tomato, and raw onion.
- Kebab karaz (cherry kebab in Arabic): meatballs (lamb) along with cherries and cherry paste, pine nuts, sugar and pomegranate molasses. It is considered one of Aleppo's main dishes especially among Armenians.
- Kebab khashkhash: rolled lamb or beef with chili pepper paste, parsley, garlic and pine nuts.
- Kebab Hindi: rolled meat with tomato paste, onion, capsicum and pomegranate molasses.
- Kebab kamayeh: soft meat with truffle pieces, onion and various nuts.
- Kebab siniyye (tray kebab in Arabic): lean minced lamb in a tray added with chili pepper, onion and tomato.
Kakori kebab is a South Asian kebab attributed to the city of Kakori in Uttar Pradesh, India. There is much folklore about this famous kebab that takes its name from a hamlet called Kakori on the outskirts of Lucknow.
One such story says that the kakori kebab was created by the Nawab of Kakori, Syed Mohammad Haider Kazmi, who, stung by the remark of a British officer about the coarse texture of the kebabs served at dinner, ordered his rakabdars (gourmet cooks) to evolve a more refined seekh kebab. After ten days of research, they came up with a kebab so soft and so juicy it won the praise of the very British officer who had scorned the Nawab. The winning formula that his rakabdars came upon included mince obtained from no other part but the raan ki machhli (tendon of the leg of mutton), khoya, white pepper and a mix of powdered spices.
Chapli kebab is a patty made from beef mince, onions, tomatoes, green chilies, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, salt, black pepper, lemon juice or promegranate seeds, eggs, cornstarch and coriander leaves. Chapli kebab is a common dish in Pashtun cuisine and popular in Afghanistan, Pakistan and northern parts of India. The kebab originates from north western Pakistan. Mardan is famous for chapli kabab not only locally but also internationally.
The word Chapli comes from the Pashto word Chaprikh, which means "flat".
Burrah kebab is another kebab from Mughlai Cuisine, fairly popular in South Asia. This is usually made of goat or lamb meat, liberally marinated with spices and charcoal grilled. It uses cuts of chops and not other meat cuts
Kalmi kebab a popular snack in Indian cuisine. The dish is made by marinating chicken drumsticks and placing them in a tandoor. Various kinds of freshly ground Indian spices are added to the yogurt used for the marination of the chicken. When prepared, the drumsticks are usually garnished with mint leaves and served with onions and Indian bread.
The Galouti kebab is a dish from South Asia, made of minced goat, gaur or buffalo meat and green papaya, traditionally used to tenderize the meat. After mixing with herbs and spices, the very finely ground meat is shaped into patties and fried in pure ghee until it is browned. Like Lucknowi biryani and Kakori kebab, it is a hallmark of Awadhi cuisine.
Many leading Indian hotel chains have taken to popularising the Awadhi food tradition, with the Galouti kebab being a pièce de résistance. The home of this kebab is Lucknow. It is most famously had at the almost iconic eatery "Tundey Miyan" at Old Lucknow.
Legend has it that the galawati kebab was created for an aging Nawab Wajid Ali Shah of Lucknow who lost his teeth, but not his passion for meat dishes. Galawati means "melt in your mouth" and was perfect for the toothless Nawab who continued savouring this until his last days. The original recipe that brought many a smile on the Nawab's face, albeit toothless, and many a sigh of satisfaction, is supposed to have more than 100 aromatic spices.
In Europe, kebab has become a symbol of immigration from the Muslim world. For example: speaking Norwegian with an Arab accent or with a lot of words and expressions borrowed from the Pakistani, Turkish, Arabic, and Persian languages is sometimes referred to as Kebabnorsk (Kebab Norwegian). In 2009, the Italian city of Lucca banned new ethnic restaurants from opening in its centre, a ruling which had a marked effect on vendors of kebab. Robert Ménard, the mayor of the French city of Béziers, known for his opposition to Islam and immigration, banned new kebab restaurants, claiming that they were threatening French culture.
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