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Feb 21, 2009 07:36 AM

Which Indian cuisine makes Kabobs?

I've been to several different Indian restaurants, and enjoyed them all. Some have had Kabobs on the menu and some not. In which region are they common? Just curious.

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  1. Kabobs are middle eastern, the term being from an Arabic root. Of course, all cultures cook meat on a stick in one form or another. Here is a good site for identifying Indian foods by region and style. I note that the only mention of Kabob is under the muslim category, which would make sense based on the middle eastern roots, but I wasn't doing an in-depth look.

    1. As applehome indicates, the kebab is common in the middle east and eastern Mediterannean - so look also for neighbouring regions further east (in Pakistan and northern India)

      1 Reply
      1. re: Harters

        Kebabs are usually featured in Mughlai cuisine (the muslim empire that emcompassed most of northern India) where they're usually sticks wrapped in some sort of seasoned ground meat or skewered with meat pieces. A couple of variations include sheekh kebab and reshmi kebab.

      2. I've never heard it called a kabob before, just kebab

        3 Replies
        1. re: Soop

          tomayto, tomahto...

          From wiki:
          "Kebab (also transliterated as kebap, kabab, kebob, kabob, kibob, kebhav, kephav) refers to a variety of meat dishes in Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, African, Central Asian, and South Asian cuisines, consisting of grilled or broiled meats on a skewer or stick."

          1. re: applehome

            I'm glad somebody asked. I always thought it was Turkish, after somebody told me that shish was Turkish for lamb.

          2. You'll find kebabs in Muslim areas like the Punjab or Pakistan. As mentioned above, kebabs are not necessarily all served on sticks as is the case with chapli kabab, shami kabab or seekh kabab.

            12 Replies
            1. re: JungMann

              Yes the Muslims of India eat meat so they have the kebabs and such. Hindus tend to be vegetarians...not all are of course

              BTW most "Indian" restaurants in USA are Muslim owned. That's been my experience

              1. re: gafferx

                I haven't found that to be the case, but I grew up in a strongly Gujarati area.

                1. re: gafferx

                  It depends on the area in which you live. Certainly in Chicago Pakistanis and Muslims are well-represented amongst the Devon Avenue restaurateurs, but in Manhattan, Hindu cuisine is ubiquitous. I can get paratha or aloo samosa almost anywhere, but how many places sell paratha kabab or kheema samosa. Throughout the smaller portions of the country, what is served in "Indian" restaurants is generally Punjabi food, but whether those are Punjabi Muslims or Indian ex-pats of any religion attempting to blend into the existing food landscape is anyone's guess.

                  1. re: gafferx

                    Why is "Indian" in quotation marks as if being Muslim negates being Indian? India has some 150 million+ Muslims, about 12% of the Indian population.

                    Also, vegetarianism among Hindus varies a lot from region to region. Hindus do not tend to be strict vegetarians except in specific regions.

                    Anyhow, about the kabaab question...yes it was likely introduced to North India and the regions that became Pakistan after partition by the waves of Muslim invasions from Central Asia (Mughal means Mongol), and kabaabs are most famous in Pakistan and among North Indian Muslim communities (there are certain famous kabaabs from Lucknow or Delhi for example), but the kabaab has definately become part of the fabric of Indian cuisine in every region and there are so many types of kabaabs...even many vegetarian varieties made with lentils, cottage cheese, potatoes, and greens. So I would hesitate to say that any one region really owns the rights to the kabaab.

                    A kabaab can be on or off a skewer, in the shape of a patty or rissole, a small or large morsel of meat, or even just a lump of unbound ground meat. It can be BBQed, tandoored, pan fried, deep fried, or braised. On the bone off the bone, etc.

                    1. re: luckyfatima

                      Given what passes for "Indian" in cities as small as Peoria and as large as New York, I understand the use of quotation marks when describing the restaurant scene stateside. In NYC, the restaurateurs seem to often be Bengali and offer renditions of chicken korma with pineapples and bananas, rogan josh cooked in a sweet cream sauce, vindaloo in what amounts to a sugary ragu. Maybe that's how they like their food in Bangladesh, but dropping grated coconut and spoonfuls of sugar into a pot does not make food Indian as far as I'm concerned.

                      1. re: JungMann

                        It seemed to me that gafferx thought that an Indian restaurant having Muslim owners makes the place less Indian. Considering the large indigenous Muslim population within India, not to mention the huge influence Muslim cultures have had on Indian cuisines, that is fallacious. Perhaps s/he meant to say that the Indian restaurants are owned by Pakistanis or Bangladeshis. That still doesn't mean that they wouldn't serve good Indian food.

                        That isn't Bangladeshi food at all, that sounds like some adaptation to suit the goras. Very disappointing though if you are after some good Indian food. In some parts of the UK some great Indian restaurants are also owned by Bangladeshis.

                        In my hometown most of the Indian restaurants are either owned by Punjabi Sikhs, Pakistanis, or Gujarati Hindus. I think one place is owned by Tamils.

                        I don't think you have to be of any particular background to cook a cuisine, otherwise most of us at chowhound would suck as cooks since people like to learn about and cook from different cuisines. You just have to understand the ingredients of a cuisine and how these ingredients work together and that's about it. So you can definately get great Indian food cooked by Bangladeshis.

                        As a matter of fact, my Pakistani in-laws who are originally from U.P. in India have always had Bangladeshi cooks in their home, as Bengali cooks are renouned to be very good in Indo-Pak culture. I don't believe in racialized perceptions of which nationality/ethnicity are "better" cooks, better accountants, better maids, better bankers, etc., I am just relating a cultural perception that I have observed about North Indians and Pakistanis thinking of Bengalis as being good chefs.

                        1. re: luckyfatima

                          You would likely have been angered by my conversation last week with an ABCD who decided I was not really Indian because of my religious background and politics, even though I have a Marathi name and am more conversant with my culture. I guess I shouldn't have brought up "Slumdog Millionaire!"

                          That said, in my hometown, the restaurants are typically owned by Punjabis, Gujaratis and Pakistanis. Most are Muslim, though some are Hindu. The only way to tell is in their certain extras on the menu: a khichidi here, bun kabab there, someone's special sabzi or chaas to wash it all down. Most of the restaurants offer standard Indian classics without delving too deeply into regional cuisine and offer predictably good renditions of those dishes.

                          In New York, however, I am told that most of the popular restaurants are owned by Bangladeshis. I know next to nothing about Bengali cuisine or their language but when I saw the uniformly odd transliterations of Indian names and the frightening fruit-curry-cream combinations in neon sauce, I simply accepted the common explanation that all these restaurateurs were from the same place. A very dark place for Indian cuisine.

                          1. re: JungMann

                            Well the Bengali cooks in North India and Pakistan don't prepare Bangladeshi food, they prepare the food of the homes they are employed in. I actually lived in Dhaka while on an internship and I can guarantee you that there is no fruit curry cream to be found. Mostly you find Bangladeshi Bengali versions of Indo-Pak type fare, like they eat their haleem with puffed rice (bhel/muri/murmura) instead of naan, they use short fat rice for their birianis and pullao, and of course there were lots of greens and ilish/hilsa and other fish on the daily table, plus typical goat and chicken stews. It was there that I ate a meat kabaab that was just a pile of seasoned tenderized ground meat similar to dum ka queema. Not bad food there, actually.

                            It is the same with the restos in my hometown except the Tamil one and the two Gujju ones have regionally based menus. The handful of PK and Punjabi ones are that typical Indian creamy fare except one of the PK places has pretty typical PK stuff.

                            You have a Marathi Muslim name? Now I am curious, I only know to recognize Maharashtrian Hindus with the -kar suffix. Yep, as a kind of ethnically mixed intercultural intermarried expat diasporic person myself, I know how it feels to be put in a box with people not allowing you to be what you feel you are or know you are. But these types of complex identities do come with more delicious cuisines to have under your belt!

                            1. re: JungMann

                              Which is odd, because I grew up in Woodbridge Township, which is pretty much Gujarati Central, and there is very little Bangla food and no revolting "curry daiquiris" such as you describe.

                        2. re: luckyfatima

                          My simple assumption was that if I go to an Indian restaurant it is owned by a Hindu. My guess is this was just about always true if you went to an Indian restaurant 20-30 years ago. Yes there are many Muslims in India and virtually zero Hindus in Pakistan and Bangladesh. I have learned all this

                          But since I am old school I was kind of surprised to find (a few years ago) that Muslims and Pakistanis own many Indian restaurants in America. Things have changed from a few decades ago. What else can I say?

                          1. re: gafferx

                            That is not true either about virtually zero Hindus in Pakistan or Bangladesh either. Pakistan has about 2 million Hindus, mostly in Sindh province where they make up a good 7% of the population. Various Sindhi Hindu communities are fairly visible in Karachi, but most of them live in rural areas. And Bangladesh has a very large Hindu community and Hindus make up a good 10% of the national population.

                            But you didn't get my point. Why would it be surprising that an Indian owned an Indian restaurant? Islam is a religious identity and being India is a national identity.

                            1. re: luckyfatima

                              "Why would it be surprising that an Indian owned an Indian restaurant?"

                              I wouldnt be surprised but, living in Britain, I would find it unusual as most south asian restaurants are owned by people with a Bangladeshi background.

                    2. if there are so many different types of kebabs**, what is the common denominator?

                      ** per luckyfatima, "A kabaab can be on or off a skewer, in the shape of a patty or rissole, a small or large morsel of meat, or even just a lump of unbound ground meat. It can be BBQed, tandoored, pan fried, deep fried, or braised. On the bone off the bone, etc."

                      16 Replies
                      1. re: alkapal

                        alkapal, I have spent many, many hours pondering this very philosophical query in the depths of my soul! To throw in another confusing element, you have the tikka and the tikkee, the bota, and botee, as well as the kabaab! I guess if it is called a kabaab, it is a kabaab! But a pasanda kabaab, a seekh kabaab, and a hara bhara kabaab look nothing alike!

                        1. re: luckyfatima

                          i like shammi kabob, and tikka and boti!

                          in fact, i made tikka tonight. "i feel like tikka tonight, tikka tonight!"

                          gee, luckyfatima, now i'm really hungry! -- planning my next dinner.....

                          the blessing and the curse of chowhound! ;-).

                          1. re: alkapal

                            That recipe for shaami kabaab looks great...I have a secret for extra silky smooth shaamis though...don't use queema, use a "pasanda" cut, like thin steaks of rump, deboned lamb leg steaks, or whatever. Just boil that all with the channa daal and garam masalas, let it dry out really well, with just a touch of moisture to ease the blending process, and when you grind it in the blender the paste the pasanda cut comes out much smoother than queema! Stuff with your green masalas, shape into patties and shallow fry. Serve with green or tamarind chutney, or... ketchup!

                            1. re: luckyfatima

                              luckyfatima, thanks for that tip. i wonder *why* that works? would lamb shoulder chops work?

                              btw, do you have a recipe for a chutney made with carrots, chilies, celery...? it is bright orange, sharp and vinegary... and quite unusual and tasty. it is served at a little indian place we like, but i've never seen it anywhere else.

                              1. re: alkapal

                                Yep I dunno, but it works. I think cooking the queema toughens the meat into little globules that don't break down as smoothly for blending. I noticed a huge difference in the silkiness factor of my shaami kabaabs once I switched. I hope it works for you, too. I think shoulder chops should work. One can also make shaamis with chicken or fish, so I guess any cut of meat would be okay.

                                Oh and sorry, I haven't ever seen a chutney like that, but it sounds great.

                                1. re: luckyfatima

                                  This might be a bit sidetracked (sorry to hijack the thread), but when I was a kid, my father would occasionally stop at a Pakistani stand to bring us a special treat of shami kababs wrapped in paratha filled with onions, coriander and yogurt. Is there a name for this sandwich? He called them alternatively shami kabab or kabab paratha, but no such item exists in NYC. There are rickies and kathi rolls, but I am not sure if they are the same thing.

                                  1. re: JungMann

                                    I'll ask for you and see if I can come up with a name. Mostly paratha wrapped around meat is called "kabaab roll" but there might me a special name or something for that one.

                                  2. re: luckyfatima

                                    luckyfatima and jungmann, you might like this spice encyclopedia with different languages. not all the hot links are hot, but it is fun to explore a bit:

                                    for example, this is what comes up under "star anise".... cool, huh?

                                    pharmaceutical Fructus Anisi stellati
                                    (Cantonese) 八角 [baat gok
                                    ]Baat gok
                                    (Mandarin) 八角 [bā jiǎo]
                                    Ba jiao
                                    English Indian anise, Chinese anise, Badian anise
                                    French Anis étoilé, Anis de la Chine, Badiane
                                    German Sternanis, Badian
                                    Thai จันทน์แปดกลีบ, โป๊ยกั๊ก
                                    Chan tanat paetklip, Poy kak bua, Dok chan, Chinpaetklip, Poikak
                                    Urdu بادیانی
                                    Vietnamese Bát giác hương, Cái hồi, Hồi, Hồi hương, Đại hồi
                                    Bat giac huong, Cai hoi, Hoi, Hoi huong, Dai hoi

                                    1. re: alkapal

                                      That site kept me well-entertained in the dark days before Wikipedia. I know more about long pepper than anyone post-1492 should.

                                      1. re: alkapal

                                        Wow, I never knew how to say star anise in Urdu. I think I probably called it star masala before!

                              2. re: luckyfatima

                                Here's my theory of what defines a kabab:

                                Kababs are dry (i.e. not in a sauce or gravy) and sort of unit-dosed (i.e. each one is a separate piece no matter what the shape, even if you're eating more than one, and even if they are on a stick or wrapped in a roti; if I am expressing myself clearly). Also, almost all I can think of are flame broiled or pan fried.

                                All kababs, whether veg or not, whether made of lumps of meat or veg, or pureed and shaped, seem to share the above characteristics. Beyond that, there seems no limit to the ingredients, spicing, and shapes.

                                Tikka: whole pieces of meat, paneer, whatever (e.g. chicken tikkas)
                                Tikki: ground and shaped (e.g. aloo tikki)
                                Bota and boti kababs: large and small lumps respectively (e.g.: favourite bloodthirsty threat by tyrant kings to cowering enemies: boti-boti noch ke cheel-kauwon ko khila do - chop him/her into botis and feed them to the kites and crows).

                                1. re: Rasam

                                  What about Afghani tikkay, they not whole, rather they are cubes of meat interlaced with cubes of fat (charbi...YUM) stuck on a skewer.

                                  And pasanda kabaabs are cooked in a gravy, although the end result should be a fairly clinging velvety gravy, not a saalan/taree.

                                  Also there is another dish called muthi kabaabs which are ground meat rissoles shaped roughly by squeezing your hand into a fist with the meat in your palm (hence muthi, which means fist) and this is cooked in a wet tomato based saalan/tari.

                                  See, there are exceptions to this rule!

                                  1. re: luckyfatima

                                    Well, tikkay should be plural of tikka (not of tikki) so that still holds;
                                    though your examples of pasanda kababs and mutthi kababs are indeed challenges to the theory. :)

                                    ps: if 95% or more kabab varieties fit the definition, and only 2-3 don't, then that's an acceptable tolerance, so the theory would still hold.

                                    1. re: Rasam

                                      I don't know if the FDA would approve of your confidence interval!

                                      1. re: JungMann

                                        Why? AFAIK they use the same 95% CI that everyone else does :)

                                        Plus, if they have come up with a Kabab Taxonomy and Classification Protocol I'd love to hear it :)

                                      2. re: Rasam

                                        tikka is to tikkay as tikki is to tikkiyan.

                                        There are probably more exceptions that we don't know about.

                                        But for a generalization I will consider your theoritical proposition.